In 2015, a Cook County judge acquitted Dante Servin in the deadly shooting of Rekia Boyd.
But the fine print of that ruling prevented another judge from wiping the case from the former Chicago Police detective’s criminal record.
Chief Criminal Courts Judge LeRoy Martin Jr. Tuesday refused to expunge Servin’s record, citing details of the controversial ruling by Judge Dennis Porter four years ago .
While Porter found Servin not guilty of involuntary manslaughter, his ruling noted that prosecutors had not proved that Servin acted recklessly when he opened fire on a group of people, including Boyd, who had gathered in an alley near Servin’s house near Douglas Park in 2012. But Porter reasoned prosecutors built a case supporting the more serious charge of first-degree murder, Martin said.
“The court may consider, and I do when I hear these kinds of cases... the strength of the evidence, and Judge Porter’s findings here are very compelling,” Martin said, in prelude to a ruling that drew applause from Boyd’s relatives who were in the courtroom. “The fact that one is found not guilty does not make one innocent.”
Servin told investigators he fired his handgun over his shoulder, from inside his car, because a man who had been standing with 22-year-old Boyd came at his car with what appeared to be a gun. No weapon was found.
Martin Tuesday noted that Servin, who never presented a defense at his bench trial, likely would have argued that he acted in self-defense in the off-duty shooting.
Porter had issued his ruling on a motion for directed verdict, immediately after the state rested its case.
Martin Tuesday also denied a request from Servin’s lawyer to seal the case records, which would leave files accessible to law enforcement and other government agencies, but not the general public. Sealing the files would make it easier for Servin to find work, in spite of news about the case available on the internet, attorney Matt Fakhoury said.
“This is a tragedy that’s so deep, just one issue compounds and piles on the other...,” Martin said. “Candidly, it seems to me, that Mr. Servin has benefitted from the state’s...failure to file a murder indictment against Mr. Servin and to go forward on involuntary manslaughter.”
Wearing a dark suit and a glum expression, Servin left the Leighton Criminal Courthouse without speaking to reporters.
Boyd’s brother, Martinez Sutton, said Tuesday’s and last week’s hearing on Servin’s expungement request, had been “emotional.” Sutton also said he wasn’t confident that Martin would block Servin’s request.
“With what I went through with the court system… we all know that it was a not guilty verdict” because of prosecutors’ failure to pursue murder charges, Sutton said, flanked by supporters. “You go through those experiences, and the person who murdered your sister still gets to walk around and still collect a pension from the city then why would anybody have faith in the court system?”
At last week’s hearing, Servin’s lawyer pointed to the former officer’s many decorations for meritorious service, and his lifelong desire to be a police officer. Fellow officers and neighbors testified to Servin’s good character. Servin also testified, asking Martin — the son of a former CPD superintendent and a former public defender — to clear his record to provide “closure” for him and his family.
Illinois law allows for the expungement or sealing of records in criminal cases where a defendant is acquitted or charges are dropped, and even in some cases to clear convictions from the permanent record. Prosecutors opposed Servin’s petition for expungement on “public policy” grounds, with Assistant State’s Attorney Christa Bowden arguing that the charges against Servin should remain in the public record in case he were ever to seek another job in law enforcement.
Servin told Martin last week that he resigned from the CPD in 2016 “under extreme duress” on the eve of a Chicago Police Board hearing that could have led to his firing. The move allowed him to keep his pension, and the 51-year-old has been drawing monthly $4,700 checks since 2018.