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‘Sort of shocks the conscience,’ judge says of ex-Chicago cop charged in beating

Former Sgt. Eric J. Elkins. | Chicago police

A former Chicago police sergeant who quit under a cloud has been charged with beating two men and leaving them with serious injuries last year outside an Andersonville bar.

The two counts of aggravated battery Eric J. Elkins faces in the Sept. 29 beating came just under three years after the ex-cop pleaded guilty in Michigan to a reduced charge and got probation in a case in which he was accused of drunkenly fondling a teenage boy at a family reunion.

“It sort of shocks the conscience,” Cook County Circuit Judge John F. Lyke Jr. said of the accusations Elkins now faces.

The judge set bail at $250,000 for Elkins, who resigned from the Chicago Police Department in January.

If Elkins is able to post the required 10%, or $25,000, to bond out of the Cook County Jail, Lyke allowed him to go back to Florida, where he now lives in Fort Lauderdale, as long as he wears an electronic monitoring bracelet.

Elkins’ lawyer Joel Brodsky called the bail amount “mind-boggling.”

“That shows me there is an anti-police bias that is flowing,” Brodsky said.

Brodsky said Elkins “vehemently denies” any part in the melee prosecutors say left one man with compound fractures in a leg and another with broken eye sockets outside the @mosphere Bar, 5355 N. Clark St.

Elkins, 45, was off-duty at the bar with friends including another man who was charged with him, 34-year-old Giovanni Rodriguez, when they got into a fight with another group of men around 11 that night, according to Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Angel Essig, who said everyone was thrown out.

Outside, Elkins and Rodriguez hit a man identified by prosecutors only as “J.S.,” then struck two others who tried to intervene, Essig said, leaving one man with a badly broken leg and another with fractured orbital bones and leaving both hospitalized.

Two of the men — John Sherwood and his partner Tom Stacha — later sued Elkins and his companions, which Brodsky said gives them a “financial motivation” to lie.

Elkins and Rodriguez ran away, according to Essig. The prosecutor said the victims identified Rodriguez after he was stopped nearby by police and that they picked out the off-duty cop’s picture from a photo array.

Brodsky said two witnesses who could vindicate Elkins weren’t brought before a grand jury to testify.

At a news conference Tuesday, Sherwood said: “I am happy this is finally moving forward. I’m wondering why it took seven months to move forward with the investigation.”

John Sherwood: “I am happy this is finally moving forward. I’m wondering why it took seven months to move forward with the investigation.” |  Brian Rich / Sun-Times
John Sherwood: “I am happy this is finally moving forward. I’m wondering why it took seven months to move forward with the investigation.” | Brian Rich / Sun-Times

Rodriguez’s lawyer Boris Djulabic said his client acted in self-defense after the other group aimed threats and slurs at him inside the bar.

Rodriguez, a North Side resident who is charged with three counts of aggravated battery, is a nurse practitioner with no criminal record, Djulabic said. The judge set his bail at $50,000.

Giovanni Rodriguez. | Chicago police
Giovanni Rodriguez. | Chicago police

Sherwood said the self-defense claim is “ridiculous,” saying the fight started when Rodriguez’s intoxicated partner fell on him at the bar, and Sherwood pushed that man off of him. Sherwood said the other men broke his leg within a minute after everyone had to leave the bar.

Elkins had been charged with criminal sexual conduct involving a teenager, accused of touching the boy’s penis during a family reunion near Elkins’ boyhood home in rural Michigan in 2015. He pleaded guilty in 2016 to a lesser charge, avoiding prison and sex-offender registration, and completed a year of probation.

That incident landed Elkins on desk duty and prompted one of the 35 internal investigations he faced in his 19-year police career. He resigned, effective Jan. 31, before officials decided what disciplinary action he should face.

Fifteen years ago, Elkins was charged with having sex with a 16-year-old boy he befriended while moonlighting as a security guard at Amundsen High School on the North Side — a case for which he was cleared by a Cook County judge and never faced any punishment by the police department. In a previous interview with the Sun-Times, he denied the charges.

Despite the investigations and criminal charges, Elkins will be eligible to start drawing a yearly, taxpayer-supported pension of more than $61,000 when he turns 50 in 2024, records show.

He would have gotten a much smaller pension, but he got permission from the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund to give him credit for more than four years he spent as a Cook County sheriff’s dispatcher and a Cook County Forest Preserve District cop before becoming a Chicago cop in 1999, the Sun-Times previously reported.


Chicago cop’s pension sweetened while under investigation for molesting teenager, Feb. 24, 2019

Chicago cop resigns amid investigations of sex crime against teen boy, bar fight, Feb. 4, 2019

‘His eyes were just crazy’: Man describes alleged beating by off-duty cop, Nov. 2, 2018

Chicago cop, accused of sex crimes against teenage boys, never been disciplined, Oct. 28, 2018