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Chicago police officer charged in gambling case destroyed phone: Feds

A judge also ruled that Nicholas Stella should remain behind bars for allegations that he “violently assaulted his girlfriend” this month.

Dirksen Federal Courthouse
Sun-Times file

A Chicago police officer charged in a federal sports gambling case allegedly destroyed his phone when investigators sought to search it, a detail revealed Tuesday as a prosecutor tried to keep the officer behind bars for an alleged violent attack on the officer’s girlfriend.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall last week ordered the officer, Nicholas Stella, into Chicago’s federal lockup after prosecutors said Stella “violently assaulted his girlfriend” Jan. 16. The judge confirmed her ruling at the end of a hearing Tuesday, during which the prosecutor played a recorded 911 call placed by the girlfriend after the alleged attack at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Rosemont.

During the call, the woman sounded distraught and out of breath. She said her boyfriend tried or threatened to kill her, choked her, stole her phone and ripped her clothes. She told the 911 operator, “he’s a cop,” and identified Stella by name.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Terry Kinney told the judge that Stella, 43, has “committed repeated domestic batteries,” including one in which he allegedly pulled out his gun in his girlfriend’s presence. After the alleged assault in Rosemont, Kinney said Stella took his girlfriend’s phone, accessed her text messages and posted them online so people could read them.

Stella was among 10 people charged in the sports gambling case last year. Also charged was Casey Urlacher, mayor of north suburban Mettawa and brother of Chicago Bears great Brian Urlacher. In the final hours of his presidency last week, Donald Trump pardoned Casey Urlacher.

Meanwhile, records show Stella has been held in Chicago’s downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center since the judge ordered him into custody Friday. A Chicago police spokesman said last week that Stella’s status with CPD was “inactive.”

Kinney on Tuesday told Kendall that, when another judge issued a search warrant for Stella’s phone in the gambling investigation, Stella destroyed it “before we were able to execute the search warrant.”

“He was the only (defendant) who destroyed his phone and did not surrender it,” Kinney said.

A defense attorney argued that Stella’s girlfriend was drinking and on medication at the time of the alleged attack, but Kendall pushed back. She called the allegations against Stella “illegal,” “horrible” and “inappropriate,” and she said authorities had laid out to her “a pattern of three incidents of violence over a very short period of time by someone who has power and control over a vulnerable woman.”

The judge also said that Stella had threatened to kill the woman if she left him, and she ruled Stella should remain behind bars.

“You are a danger to the community,” the judge said. “You’re a danger to her.”