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Charges quietly dropped against suburban police chief accused of DUI

Jose Maldonado (center) puts his arms around his attorneys after he was cleared of charges for impersonating a peace officer last year. | Instagram/goldbergcriminaldefense

Jose Maldonado was suspended without pay from his job as Chief of the Chicago Heights Park District Police Department in March 2016 after he was arrested in Pilsen on charges of DUI, aggravated fleeing and carrying a concealed firearm while under the influence.

But last month — nearly three years after his arrest by the Illinois State Police — the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office opted to drop the charges against the 34-year-old Maldonado, who had already been fired from the police department.

“After discussing the case with my supervisors, we have determined that the appropriate disposition is to dismiss the criminal charges against your client,” Kenneth Goff, of the state’s attorney’s office’s Law Enforcement Accountability Division, wrote in a March 13 letter to Maldonado’s attorney. “Please be advised that our decision is based solely on a review of the merits of the pending case.”

A spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office did not respond when asked what prompted prosecutors to drop the charges. A representative for the Illinois State Police — the agency that arrested Maldonado — also did not respond to request for comment.

Frank Avila, one of Maldonado’s attorneys in the case, noted that Maldonado did not reach a plea deal with prosecutors and stressed that the charges were dropped “on the merits” of the evidence in the case.

“Mr. Maldonado had to go through this process, this nightmare, for three years, affecting his time, his money and his reputation,” Avila said. “It was very, very unfortunate but we’re glad the nightmare’s over and we’re glad the state’s attorney did the right thing and they looked for justice and truth.”

Records of Maldonado’s arrest were not immediately available, but ABC7 previously reported that around 2 a.m. on March 7, 2016, Illinois State Police troopers were investigating an accident on the Dan Ryan Expressway near 18th Street.

The ISP said at the time that Maldonado tried to drive in reverse down a closed expressway entrance ramp in his personal car, nearly striking another vehicle. Maldonado’s fiancee was with him in the car at the time.

After he was pulled over, Maldonado was the subject of personal attacks by one of the arresting ISP troopers, said Avila, who added that there were a host of “procedural problems” during the arrest.

After Maldonado was arrested and charged, he was placed on unpaid leave from the Chicago Heights Park District Police Department. During his time away, Christian Daigre was named chief of the department.

Last October, Daigre was charged with two felony counts of non-consensual dissemination of a private sexual image, two counts of intimidation and one count of possession of a controlled substance. Prosecutors allege Daigre had sex with two women in a South Loop apartment and then allegedly shared those photos without the women’s consent — then threatened witnesses who planned to report the situation to police.

In 2018, Maldonado was arrested near his home in Midlothian and charged with false personation of a peace officer. A grand jury indicted him after he “knowingly and falsely represented himself to be a peace officer, to wit: the chief of police for the Chicago Heights Park District Police Department.”

In an Instagram post, Stuart Goldberg, another one of Maldonado’s attorneys, wrote: “Considering the fact he had been allegedly terminated from the police department well before the arrest — it got sticky. There was video evidence of him flashing a badge but it was ruled inconclusive.”

Maldonado was found not guilty last January.

Avila said Maldonado is planning on filing a lawsuit against the state police and city of Chicago Heights.