A Cook County judge on Wednesday acquitted an Edgewater man of spitting, slapping and calling a prominent elderly female African-American judge “Rosa Parks” because he was irritated by her cigarette smoke wafting through the air at the Daley Center Plaza.
David Nicosia would never have been charged with felony counts of aggravated battery and a hate crime if Arnette Hubbard had not been a judge, Judge James Obbish suggested.
Obbish went on to say that Hubbard might have thought she had more rights than others that afternoon on July 14, 2014.
She should have moved when Nicosia told her that she was being rude for smoking so close to him while he was on a conference call on a nearby bench, the judge said.
But Obbish also said he wasn’t giving “any medals” to Nicosia for “tossing around” Hubbard after she chased and grabbed him for confronting her.
“He didn’t act in a way that a man should act to a lady,” Obbish said, adding that he was disappointed that two highly successful professionals could get into such a petty skirmish.
Hubbard’s friend, lawyer Larry Rogers Jr., said he was disappointed by Obbish’s decision. The evidence presented by Assistant State’s Attorneys Mary Beth Fahey and Natalie Howse was overwhelming, he said. “Judges are entitled to a fair day in court as well,” Rogers said.
Both 81-year-old Hubbard and Nicosia, 57, took the stand to tell their sides of the story during the one-day bench trial while going over soundless surveillance footage that Obbish said could be used to corroborate either account.
Hubbard said she was on her way back to her chambers when she decided to take a puff outside by a garbage can. Soon, she heard someone grumbling about her smoking in an “aggressive” manner that frightened her. Hubbard said she told Nicosia that she couldn’t smoke indoors. That’s when she said the 6-foot Nicosia — then 240 pounds — came toward her and said: “Rosa Parks, move” and spit in her face.
Nicosia, who is white, said he told Hubbard “it’s not like you’re the Rosa Parks of smoking” and did not mean the comments to be racially insensitive.
“That’s not a crusade. I just smoke,” Hubbard testified earlier, causing some laughter among court spectators.
Nicosia claimed that Hubbard blew smoke in his face and then told him she had “something for him” before lobbing a tobacco-laced “goober” that ended up inside his mouth and on his glasses and shirt.
“It was disgusting. You could taste tobacco and spit,” Nicosia said.
He said he spit toward Hubbard only to get rid of her saliva.
Hubbard, who denied ever spitting on or striking Nicosia, said she was waving toward sheriff’s deputies as she tried to stop Nicosia as he walked away. Nicosia flung her off, she said. When Hubbard tried to grab Nicosia again because she didn’t want him to get away with attacking her, he slapped her, Hubbard said.
Nicosia said at that point he thought he was “dealing with a crazy person” and further surmised that Hubbard could have had a gun in her purse, so he tried to swat her away.
When Nicosia was handcuffed by sheriff deputies, he asked them to take his glasses and shirt as evidence. They snickered and told him “it wasn’t like this was a murder case,” said Nicosia, an IT professional.
Nicosia’s belongings were never tested, Nicosia and his boyfriend, William Kay, testified.
Kay said the couple was planning to get their marriage license the day of the incident. The men never tied the knot. “I don’t want to get married with this hanging over our head. . . . It’s been hell,” Kay said through tears.
While initial tests showed Hubbard was fine, her doctor later diagnosed her with post-concussion disorder, she said. Hubbard, who has filed a civil lawsuit, couldn’t return to work until January of this year. “I couldn’t maintain a consistent line of thought. . . . My head was fuzzy,” she said.
Neither Hubbard nor Nicosia commented after Wednesday’s verdict.
But Nicosia’s attorney, Tom Breen, said his client was “relieved.”
“He had a phenomenal reputation. These allegations did not portray who he was, and he wants his reputation back and he probably will never get it [back],” Breen said.