A former Chicago cop caught up in a “hare-brained” scheme to plant drugs and a gun in a suburban woman’s car — a scheme that led to a $375,000 city payout — may soon get his job back.
Slawomir Plewa could be back on the streets, even though the Chicago Police Department is fighting the fired cop’s efforts in court.
Plewa’s actions “represent a serious breach of the public’s trust,” says Marty Dolan, the lawyer who sued Plewa in federal court on behalf of the suburban woman. “He violated a sworn oath to protect the public and certainly does not deserve a second chance to serve in any capacity whatsoever.”
But Cook County Circuit Court Judge Diane J. Larsen disagreed, ruling in April that the Chicago Police Board went too far when it voted 8-1 to fire Plewa last year. Attorneys for Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy are due back in court later this month, preparing to argue that Larsen got it wrong — that she “usurped” the police board’s authority when she said Plewa deserved a more “lenient” punishment.
“The last couple of years have been a nightmare for me and my family,” Plewa, 35, told the Chicago Sun-Times this week. ““It’s been real tough on us. I’m looking forward to going back to work.”
Plewa was a “highly decorated” tactical officer based on the North Side, when he crossed paths with a desperate Crystal Lake man in the middle of a nasty divorce. Plewa didn’t know that the man, Bogdan Mazur, had an ulterior motive when he called Plewa anonymously in spring 2007, to offer information about a woman with illegal drugs and a gun in her car, according to Plewa’s lawyer, Dan Herbert.
“He had no idea who this Mazur was and what his relationship was with this woman,” Herbert said. “He simply alerted his team to the tip and they acted on it, just as they had hundreds of times in the past.”
Plewa didn’t know, Herbert insists, that Mazur was trying to frame his estranged wife.
The tip came in on April 1, 2007, with Mazur telling Plewa where he could find the illegal drugs, the gun and Mazur’s then-wife, Sylwia Marcinczyk. The woman was arrested and spent about two weeks in jail, but was later acquitted of all charges.
Prosecutors took another look at the case, charging Mazur with four felonies, including delivering drugs. Prosecutors also charged Plewa, alleging he’d been part of the plan to frame Marcinczyk — although they never charged him with trying to profit from the scheme. Mazur pleaded guilty to filing a false police report and agreed to testify against Plewa. Even so, in August 2010, Cook County Judge Michael Brown found Plewa not guilty of all charges, saying the officer was merely guilty of being a “dupe.”
“There was no evidence that you were involved in the planning of this hare-brained scheme,” Brown said from the bench. “There was no benefit that you got.”
But Brown blasted Plewa for allegedly lying during Marcinczyk’s trial that he’d never met Mazur before arresting his wife. Brown said it was clear from the evidence that Mazur had met the officer.
“You did a very horrible thing, Officer Plewa,” Brown said. “You lied in court. That’s not the kind of thing that we can countenance.”
Plewa says Brown’s decision vindicates him, and he denied this week having any part in Mazur’s scheme.
“It’s obviously not true,” he said.
Despite the not-guilty finding, in June 2012, the city agreed to pay $375,000 to Marcinczyk to settle the lawsuit she filed against Plewa and the city, alleging false arrest and malicious prosecution — among other things. In settling the case, one of the city’s lawyers noted the cellphone records showing “numerous calls between Mazur and Plewa” prior to Marcinczyk’s arrest.
“Plewa also allegedly did nothing to identify his informant or verify his information,” the lawyer, Leslie Darling, said at the time.
And it wasn’t the first time the city has paid out in a case involving Plewa. A 26-year-old man accused Plewa and other officers of falsely claiming to have found drugs in his home in 2008. The city paid a $100,000 settlement in that case, said John Holden, a city spokesman. The city settled for $50,000 in another case, in which a man claimed he, too, had been wrongly accused of having drugs when Plewa and another officer arrested him in May 2008, Holden said.
In July 2013, the police board voted to fire Plewa based, in part , on his alleged lie in court in the Marcinczyk case.
“No police officer, even one as highly decorated as Plewa, can be allowed to remain on the job when he gives false testimony under oath in court,” the board wrote, explaining the decision.
Plewa appealed, and earlier this year, Larsen ruled the police board decided to fire Plewa without considering any significant evidence — including not looking at the transcripts from Plewa’s criminal trial.
Lawyers for Supt. Garry McCarthy head back to court on July 31 to ask Larsen to reconsider her ruling.
Plewa said he has “no idea” why his former employer doesn’t want him back on the force.
“I did the best job I could,” he said. “My record of arrests and commendations should speak for itself.”