Lawsuit accuses cop of fake DUI arrests
October 4, 2009 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- ABC7 Chicago has learned that a veteran Chicago police officer is under investigation for allegedly making dozens of false DUI arrests, and criminal charges may be coming soon.
Surveillance video has been obtained from one of those arrests showing Officer Richard Fiorito in action on the night shift.
Because of all the complaints against him, Chicago police ordered Fiorito to use a surveillance system in his squad car back in March. The video obtained by ABC7 Chicago is from his squad car and will be used as evidence in a federal civil case against him.
To date, 21 people are part of the lawsuit. All say they were victims of a DUI scheme.
Dash cam video from Officer Fiorito's squad car was taken June 21 at 2:25 a.m.
"Been drinking tonight?," Frioto asks in the video. "I had a cocktail earlier in the night maybe," the person responds. "I didn't ask you that. Have you been drinking?" Fiorito said.
Other officers first came upon a man and his girlfriend sitting in their car after hours by the lakefront. They called in Fiorito because he'd had advanced training in making DUI arrests.
"Whatever you've got in your mouth, get rid of it. That's the third time I told you. You understand me now?" Frioto says in the video.
What Officer Fiorito wrote in his own police report was that the driver was so intoxicated, he was unable to perform any of the standard field sobriety tests.
In the video, the driver is told to walk a straight line and next, to touch his finger to his nose with eyes closed. Finally, he's told to stand on one leg for 30 seconds, eyes closed.
"I've been doing DUIs since 1992, and I've never seen a subject do the one-leg stand this well," said Jon Erickson, the attorney for plaintiffs.
Erickson represents the man in the video and 21 others who are part of a federal civil suit against Officer Fiorito. Most, like Oscar Faezell and Lex Leaks, claim Fiorito targeted them in the Boystown neighborhood along North Halsted, following them after leaving gay bars.
"I feel like I was targeted because I was walking out of a bar, and he needed to make a DUI arrest," Faezell said.
"And then, he goes, 'Oh wow, two strikes. You're black and you're a [expletive]' and told me, basically, my life was going to be ruined because of this DUI," Leaks told ABC7 Chicago.
However, both Faezell and Leaks were found not guilty of DUI.
The civil case charges that Officer Fiorito engages in a pattern of false arrests, then perjures himself in court testimony in order to rack up more than 300 DUI arrests per year.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving(MADD) awarded Fiorito for being the state's highest writer of DUI tickets.
ABC7 Chicago found Officer Fiorito after he had just testified in another DUI case at the criminal courthouse. That's a place he spends a lot of time, according to the lawsuit, being paid time-and-a-half.
When asked if he was proud of the DUI arrests he's made during his career, the officer responded, "I'm proud of everything I've done."
"The more DUI arrests that he makes, the more times that he has to go to court, more times he goes to court, the more money he makes," said Erickson.
ABC7 Chicago has learned that Fiorito is also being investigated by the Cook County state's attorney's office.
A grand jury has been hearing from witnesses like Susan Kolinek, who is deaf and says Fiorito ignored her requests for a sign language interpreter. Nonetheless, he still ordered her to perform field sobriety tests.
"Close my eyes, tilt my head back and listen to verbal commentary. And I told him, 'I'm deaf. I can't do that.' And he laughed," Kolinek said. "Later, he said, 'You're not deaf. You're just drunk.'"
But Kolinek's DUI charge was dismissed.
In a statement, Fiorito's attorney says:
"The allegations are false, unfounded and patently frivolous...and the allegations of targeting a group of individuals will be shown to be unsubstantiated."
To accusations that, perhaps, he was targeting a single group of people, Fiorito said, "No, I'm not."
Two other Chicago cops have been accused of similar DUI schemes in recent years. One was stripped of his police powers during his investigation. The other decided to retire and collect his pension rather than face impending charges.
Despite dozens of complaints against him, Officer Fiorito is still out on the streets making DUI arrests. A Chicago Police Department spokesperson wouldn't say much about Fiorito, telling ABC7 Chicago only that he was under investigation by the internal affairs division.
Sources tell ABC7 that criminal charges against Fiorito are expected to be handed down soon from the state's attorney's office.
local, kevin roy
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