COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A Chicago police officer was acquitted Friday of felony charges that he hit a bicyclist with his truck and left the scene while he was off-duty in Logan Square.
Officer Michael Bergeson faced multiple charges in the Aug. 3, 2012, accident that sent Nina Pilacoutas flying onto and over the hood of his pickup truck at California and Wabansia.
The artist, then 25, landed head first in the street in the 3 a.m. accident, suffering head and facial injuries as her boyfriend, Clayton Meyer, looked on. They were reportedly returning from Pilacoutas' workplace after she had finished a bartending shift.
Bergeson, 34, was charged with two felonies: leaving the scene of an accident and falsifying a police report. The license plate from his truck was left behind at the scene, authorities said.
But at the end of his bench trial, Cook County Judge James Linn acquitted Bergeson of the two felonies. The judge did convict him of misdemeanor failing to provide aid and information at an accident involving injury.
Bergeson and his attorney, Tom Breen, did not comment after the verdict was announced. Bergeson faces up to a year in jail. Breen argued that prosecutors never proved it was Bergeson driving that night.
During trial, prosecutors alleged Bergeson was drunk at the time of the crash, but he was not charged with that. The defense said Bergeson called 911 after the accident, and those tapes were played in court. On the calls, the caller does not give his name and repeatedly hangs up on the dispatcher.
"Do not cut this guy a break because he called 911 in his drunken, cryptic manner," Assistant State's Attorney Lauren Freeman said in closing statements Friday.
Bergeson's defense said he tried to help Pilacoutas, and stressed there's no evidence it was Bergeson driving.
"How many cases are brought by police only to be lost for [insufficient] evidence?" Breen said.
After the verdict, Pilacoutas said she was disappointed.
"I was pretty shocked that somebody trained to help in a scenario like would turn his back so readily," Pilacoutas said. "He did leave me in the street with a really messed up head and face."