Suit: Berwyn officials protected political allies from criminal charges

SHARE Suit: Berwyn officials protected political allies from criminal charges

Two men who allege they were beaten in a west suburban Berwyn bar in 2012 were dissuaded by city officials from pressing charges against their attackers because the suspects were political allies and friends of the mayor, according to a federal lawsuit.

Loren Buchmeier, of Maywood, and his cousin Christopher Erffmeyer, of Highland, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court, claiming police engaged in a cover up and abused power following a Sept. 2, 2012 altercation at James Joyce Irish Pub, 7138 Windsor Ave. in Berwyn.

During the evening hours, Buchmeier, an off-duty police officer at the time, and Erffmeyer were “severely beaten by known assailants,” which constituted aggravated assault and aggravated battery, according to the lawsuit.

One of the suspects was yelling that she was the niece of Berwyn Mayor Robert Lovero, the suit claims.

“This is nothing more than a shakedown of the taxpayers, it’s pure and simple,” said David Ormsby, spokesman for the city of Berwyn. “The mayor doesn’t even have a niece.”

Buchmeier had a broken nose, and injuries to his eye, neck and back, while Erffmeyer had a fat lip and various bruises, their attorney Joseph Ponsetto said.

Both men were taken to MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn, according to the lawsuit. Buchmeier subsequently called in sick for five days, was placed on medical leave for 33 days and was assigned to light duty for 102 days.

When police arrived at the scene, the two men identified seven attackers, who were subsequently taken into custody, the suit claims.

During the investigation, Berwyn Police Commander James Sassetti informed officers “that the subjects who had been arrested for this incident were political allies and friends with Mayor Lovero,” the suit alleges. Lovero and Sassetti are both named as defendants in the suit.

While the men were at the hospital, one officer visited Buchmeier and told him that Sassetti did not want criminal complaints signed and wanted to pay the men off because “the offenders were all politically connected,” according to the suit.

Sassetti then also visited Buchmeier at the hospital, and pressured Buchmeier and Erffmeyer to sign criminal refusal forms, according to the suit.

Although Buchmeier initially told officers he was not interested in being paid off and wanted the suspects prosecuted, he and Erffmeyer eventually agreed “under duress” to sign releases, the suit claims.

While awaiting the results of an internal investigation, the suit alleges Lovero also offered monetary compensation for Buchmeier and his cousin in exchange for “not going forward criminally.”

Buchmeier and Erffmeyer continued to refuse and, following the internal investigation, no one was charged in connection with the beating, the suit claims.

When the men requested an independent investigative agency, the city “refused to relinquish control,” but nonetheless rescinded the refusals Buchmeier and Erffmeyer signed while they were in the hospital, according to the suit.

Buchmeier, who is still a Berwyn police officer, has since met with the FBI, the suit claims.

The suit alleges city officials and the city’s police department engaged in a conspiracy by “intimidating the plaintiffs into giving up their right as victims of crime, making false statements, making false promises and fabricating false and misleading evidence.”

The five-count lawsuit claims deprivation of right of access to the courts; intentional infliction of severe emotional distress; and, among other things, seeks to hold the city responsible. Buchmeier and Erffmeyer are seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

The city has not yet been served with the suit, Ormsby said.

Sassetti declined to comment on the suit when reached Wednesday evening.

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