With a fresh haircut and an anxious bounce in his step, former Chicago Police Detective Dante Servin stepped in front of a Cook County judge Thursday and asked to have his record cleared of the charges he once faced for killing a 22-year-old woman in an off-duty shooting.
Servin was acquitted at a bench trial in 2015, when Judge Dennis Porter made the controversial ruling, saying that prosecutors had not proved Servin was guilty of reckless homicide because Servin should have been charged with the more serious charge of first-degree murder in the death of Rekia Boyd. Based on the acquittal, Servin is eligible to have the criminal case wiped from his otherwise spotless record.
“I’m looking for employment... I have young kids at home, a son in college,” Servin told Chief Criminal Courts Judge LeRoy K. Martin Jr. “More importantly, there has to be some kind of closure, for my wife, my kids, my family. I want to put this behind me.”
During Servin’s 45-minute hearing, multiple character witnesses testified, offering up a lengthy history of commendations and awards from a 25-year career that was effectively ended by the Boyd shooting.
Prosecutors are opposing the expungement, citing “public policy.” Servin — who said he wanted to be a police officer since he was 12, going to school just a few blocks from the Leighton Criminal Courthouse — might be drawn to seek another law enforcement job, Assistant State’s Attorney Christa Bowden said, “and those type of employers have a need to have access to this information.”
Martin said he wanted time to review transcripts from the trial and Porter’s ruling before he announces his decision on the expungement on Tuesday.
“I believe it is appropriate to look at the strength of the state’s case,” Martin said. “A finding of not guilty does not [mean] one is innocent. It is a finding of not guilty.”
Following Thursday’s hearing, Boyd’s brother, Martinez Sutton, and Servin spoke outside Martin’s courtroom for a half-hour.
“We just talked about forgiveness, and how the case impacted him and his family... and maybe some of the things he could do to show how sorry he is,” Sutton told reporters.
Sutton said he hopes the charges in his sister’s death will stay on Servin’s record, but came to the hearing expecting they would be expunged.
Servin was off-duty when he returned to his home late on March 21, 2012 and exchanged words with a group of young people who had gathered in an alley near his house near Douglas Park. Servin told investigators a man in the group moved aggressively at his car, holding what Servin feared was a gun. Servin fired his gun from inside his car, aiming across his body. The bullet struck Boyd, who was standing about 30 feet away, in the back of the head. It was the only time, Servin said, that he fired his weapon in 25 years on the police force.
Servin quit the CPD in 2016, on the eve of hearings before the Chicago Police Board — a move that allowed him to keep his pension.
“I resigned under extreme duress, against my wishes,” Servin said Thursday. “It was my childhood dream to be police office, and I never imagined that scenario unfolding.”
Servin has collected monthly $4,700 pension checks since September 2018.
Expungements are routinely granted in criminal cases after a not-guilty verdict or dismissal of charges, under state laws that were updated in 2017 to make it easier for people to clear their criminal record. Charges, or even an arrest, can mar background checks needed to get a job or housing, defense lawyer Sarah Garber said. In cases where there is a not guilty verdict or charges were dismissed, prosecutors rarely oppose expungement.
“Dante Servin’s case is not an example of the expungement laws failing,” she said. “The fact that he was acquitted in the first place is an example of how our system favors particular individuals.”