Robert Rialmo not guilty in criminal battery case

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Chicago police officer Robert Rialmo,| Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Chicago Police officer Robert Rialmo was found not guilty in his criminal battery case Tuesday.

Rialmo, 29, had been charged with two counts of misdemeanor battery stemming from two punches that he threw in a restaurant on the Northwest Side last December, striking two men and knocking one of them unconscious.

Saying that the state had not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt in the two-day bench trial at 5555 W. Grand, Cook County Judge Daniel Gallagher found Rialmo not guilty.

“He was not the aggressor,” Rialmo’s attorney Joel Brodsky said during closing arguments. “They instigated it. They were the aggressors.”

After the verdict was read, Rialmo exited the courthouse and took questions from reporters for the first time since he was thrust into the public sphere after he shot Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones more than 2 ½ years ago.

“I feel that people have the wrong idea of myself,” Rialmo said. “I’m glad this worked out in my situation.

“It’s been a tough road, I’ll be honest,” he added. “It’s been a long couple years.”

The punches that landed Rialmo back in court came after one man, 23-year-old Atmiya Patel had lost his coat at Moretti’s Pizzeria and Ristorante in the Edison Park neighborhood in the early hours of Dec. 17, 2017.

Patel had testified that he was looking for his coat as he and his friend, Brandon Stassen, 23, were getting ready to leave for their homes in the northwest suburbs.

Patel — who said he had four drinks over the course of several hours that night — mistook Rialmo’s flannel jacket for his own and tried to take it.

Rialmo testified Tuesday that Patel was “aggressive and agitated” and wouldn’t listen when Rialmo told him the coat was actually his. Rialmo said he shoved Patel away with one arm to “create distance” between the two.

Patel was knocked into nearby tables and chairs and fell to the ground.

Rialmo testified that he then punched Stassen after he reached up and touched Rialmo’s neck and shoulder area. Stassen said he was knocked unconscious and later diagnosed with a concussion. Rialmo said that, on a scale from one to 10, the force he used in the Stassen punch was a four.

After the Stassen punch, Rialmo then punched Patel in the jaw as he was getting to his feet. Rialmo said that he believed Patel was going to charge at him after he called Rialmo a “motherf—–.”

Brodsky — who cited two Illinois laws that, he said, entitled Rialmo to use force to defend himself and his property — argued that Rialmo “used the least amount of force necessary.”

Assistant State’s Attorney Maureen McCurry called that argument “absurd.”

Several of Rialmo’s friends who were with him the night of the fight testified that they believe he acted reasonably when he punched Patel and Stassen.

McCurry rejected their testimony in her closing arguments.

“They have a bias,” she said. “They’re here for their friend.”

As he did in the LeGrier civil trial that recently concluded, Brodsky maintained that Rialmo was the target of political pressure from outside entities.

“I just would hope that people would now realize not to jump to conclusions and decide cases based on the facts and not what you’d like them to be, but what they actually are,” Brodsky said after the verdict was read.

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