Suburban firefighter acquitted in sex abuse case

SHARE Suburban firefighter acquitted in sex abuse case

A former Merrionette Park firefighter was acquitted Wednesday of attacking an intoxicated woman during a party on the Southwest Side.

A teary Marvin Buhle hugged his family members who, moments before, gasped loudly when Cook County Judge William Hooks cleared Buhle of attempted criminal sexual assault and criminal sexual abuse charges.

Hooks noted that the prosecution’s evidence, including forensic data, fell short of proving that Buhle attacked the woman in June 2013.

But Hooks also had a message for Buhle, 27.

“I have no idea what transpired in the room on the night in question, but you have to realize that you are responsible for your actions. . . . Conduct yourself accordingly, or you’ll end up in another courtroom,” the judge said.

“Yes, sir,” Buhle said.

Charges against Michael Haas, 23, also a Merrionette Park firefighter in 2013, were dropped, according to court records.

At the time the men were arrested, prosecutors had said that Haas had stood outside the bedroom door and acted as a lookout while Buhle removed the woman’s pants and fondled her at the party in the 3900 block of West 109th.

The woman took the stand during the bench trial earlier Wednesday and admitted she could not identify Buhle as her attacker.

The night of the party, her boyfriend had escorted her to a bedroom after she fell ill from drinking too much at the gathering, Assistant State’s Attorney Tracy Senica said.

The woman remembered waking up from the commotion after her boyfriend saw Buhle on top of her, Senica said.

“She drank too much and woke up with her pants off,” Senica said.

The boyfriend screamed “rape” and he and others chased Buhle and Haas outside.

Buhle later told a detective the woman had looked at him “flirtatiously” and admitted he went into the room, according to court testimony.

Defense attorneys Martin Quintana and Mark Sutter did not know what Buhle’s current status was with the Merrionette Park Fire Department on Wednesday.

But Quintana said it was unjust that his client was charged.

Merrionette Park Fire Chief Leonard Edling Thursday said Buhle was no longer affiliated with the south suburban fire department.

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