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2 men cleared, 1 gets probation in Trump Tower flooding

Had Donald Trump been at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on Wednesday, he might have bellowed two words to a pair of suburban men accused of drunkenly flooding his Trump International Hotel & Tower: “You’re free.”

Criminal damage to property charges against Carl Koenemann and Daniel Maradei were thrown out. Their friend Benjamin Nitch was sentenced to two years of probation after pleading guilty in the flooding on Feb. 15, 2014.

Minutes after Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Barbara Bailey gave her opening statements outlining how the men flooded the luxury hotel as payback for being refused service at the 16th floor bar, Nitch decided to plead guilty.

Koenemann and Maradei told police they thought Nitch had opened the stairwell water valve on the hotel’s fifth floor, which Trump Tower officials said caused $700,000 in water damage to two elevators, stairwells and swaths of porous Italian marble flooring.

Nitch, 26, of Barrington, also has to perform 480 hours of community service and submit to random urine tests as part of his probation.

Judge Thaddeus Wilson also barred Nitch from the Trump Tower, at 401 N. Wabash Avenue.

During the remainder of Koenemann and Maradei’s bench trial Wednesday, prosecutors presented surveillance video that captured the trio going up in an elevator, exiting a stairwell and then leaving the hotel.

There was no footage of any of the men tampering with the standpipe, which a fire official said gushes 250 gallons of water a minute.

When he gave his ruling, Wilson said there was no direct evidence that showed Koenemann, 26, and Maradei, 25, did anything illegal in the stairwell.

The three men were arrested after authorities were able to track Koenemann down with the credit card he used to pay a $43.10 bill for a round of drinks he purchased for himself and his friends at Sixteen, the Michelin two-star rated restaurant at the Trump Tower.

Hostess Bryce Gangel said one of the men made a sexual comment to her and another hostess after they quickly left the bar, where they were playing loud music on a phone.

Chicago Police Detective James Rider said Koenemann told him that he and the others had been drinking since noon at the Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery and Public House before making their way to the Trump Tower, where they were refused additional drinks because they were overserved.

Koenemann, of Des Plaines, said he never saw Nitch turn on the water valve but said Nitch may have fallen against the turn wheel, Rider said.

But prosecutor Marina Para said it was likely two of the men used forceful turns to open the water valve, which firefighters usually tend to with a wrench.

Merely being present isn’t enough proof that Maradei, of Hanover Park, was guilty, defense attorney Michael Ettinger argued.

Koenemann’s attorney, Tom Breen, similarly maintained, “There is not a scintilla of evidence to suggest that Carl Koenemann was principally involved or aiding and abetting whoever opened the valve.”

Maradei and Koenemann, who was featured as a “hot” bachelor in Cosmo magazine in 2010, declined to comment after the trial.

But one of their mothers said she was “relieved” by the judge’s decision and glad the men could go back to focusing on work and the rest of their lives.

“It was a horrible, horrible situation,” she said.