CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY — When things got out of hand at a party at Nouveau Tavern in October, Kortez Delaney ended up maced, in jail and without a job, he says.
But when a group of community activists stood up at his hearing in Circuit Court Wednesday — and the arresting officer didn't — the 26-year-old man said he began to suspect he was a scapegoat in the ongoing feud between Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), River North residents and Nouveau Tavern.
Tensions between neighbors and the "New Orleans-style" bar at 358 W. Ontario St. have been building since it opened last year. Neighbors say the bar is loud late at night and contributes to an uptick in crime and litter in the neighborhood. Bar owners, however, claim racism is the issue.
Reilly urged River North residents to come out in force to Delaney's hearing in his weekly "Reilly Reports" community newsletter.
"Alderman Reilly is asking you and your neighbors to consider participating in the 'Court Advocacy Program' to ensure the Chicago Police Department's recent enforcement efforts at Nouveau Tavern result in convictions and penalties for these crimes," the newsletter said. It then listed the date and time of Delaney's hearing.
"They made the whole neighborhood come out," said Delaney, who was charged with a misdemeanor offense of aggravated assault of a police officer. "[They're] trying to punish me for the club, and that doesn't have anything to do with me."
Teddy Gilmore, marketing director of Nouveau Tavern, said it's unfortunate the community has dragged Delaney into the feud, and said he also feels like Delaney's case is being unfairly singled out in the ongoing battle between his restaurant and nearby residents.
"I feel like they are using him as a scapegoat and targeting us because we're African-American," Gilmore said, adding that Nouveau did not sponsor the party and had no way of knowing a fight would erupt among patrons.
"The neighbors have been against us since day one."
Associate Judge Anthony Calabrese told Kortez in court Wednesday that typically charges are dropped when arresting officers don't appear in court — except on rare occasions with serious charges, such as this one.
Delaney, who lost his job as a security guard after spending the night in jail, said he's being labeled as a troublemaker and being put on trial for Nouveau Tavern.
"I graduated from Lane Tech. Don't put me on some gang s---," Delaney said. "Why would they stand up [against me]? I grew up in the community. I know the racism over there."
Delaney said he grew up in Cabrini-Green.
The Reilly Reports email included a link to a weekend update published by the alderman's office two days after the incident involving Delaney last month.
Six people were arrested, and six citations were given to the restaurant that weekend.
On Friday night, four people were arrested, including Nouveau security guards, after a fight began inside the bar and ended in the street. Two people were arrested Saturday morning and charged with violating concealed-carry laws during a follow-up check, according to the report.
According to Delaney, he was hosting a party at Nouveau Tavern when he saw one of his friends get punched in the face by a security guard at the restaurant.
Delaney said he tried to intervene calmly at first, but got angry after he also was punched in the face. Soon, police intervened, and he was maced, he said.
"It's unfortunate this guy went out into the streets and got into this incident, but this was in the streets of Chicago. We don't have any control over that. It doesn't really have anything to do with us," Gilmore said.
In August, racist graffiti was spray-painted on the side of the bar and restaurant as tensions between the business and neighbors continued to escalate.
Reilly did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and those who showed up at the hearing to speak out against Delaney wouldn't comment, either.
After Delaney's court date was rescheduled, he addressed the community representatives directly, asking if they were "against me, or the bar."
One man in attendance replied "both."
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