WICKER PARK — As a man who was brutally beaten while trying to sell his bike at a Wicker Park gas station Tuesday recovers, he said he's baffled by his attackers' claims that the bike was actually theirs.
"I was surprised [by the attack] because I genuinely thought I was selling the bike," Eric Batlle told DNAinfo Chicago on Thursday.
"My ligaments are sprained, and I'm bruised and sore all over," Batlle said.
Meanwhile, lawyers for the men charged in the attack said the accused are honor students for whom the behavior was out of character. Steven Decker, an attorney for 18-year-old Michael Kralis, said the young men accused of beating and robbing the victim believed the bike was stolen.
"This was not a Craigslist burglary, where it's a common scheme to pretend you're buying an item and attack the owner," Decker said, adding that the men charged in the attack knew who the true owner of the bike was, and that "it was not the purported victim."
Batlle, who studies history at Northern Illinois University and will be a junior this year, insisted he's owned the KHS Flite 100 fixed-gear bike for about a year and that it's not stolen. He said he worked as a delivery driver for Jimmy John's until Monday and was selling the bike to make extra cash for school.
He said he posted an ad on Facebook trying to sell his bike for $500 and arranged a meeting with prospective buyers at a Shell gas station, 1950 W. Division St., about 2 p.m. Tuesday, according to police and prosecutors.
But when a group of five people — four 18-year-old men and a 17-year-old boy — arrived in a black Mercedes SUV, they attacked Batlle with mace, baseball bats and a metal pole. Batlle said they started yelling that the bike he had was stolen and belonged to the 17-year-old.
According to Batlle, the 17-year-old brought serial numbers for his missing bike to a police station, and those numbers did not match up with Batlle's model. Police could not confirm the story Thursday.
"I believe there will be evidence that they did seek police assistance in the recovery of the bicycle," Decker said. A motivating factor in the attack could've been "the police indifference in assisting the owner in the return of his bicycle."
The college junior said he recognized the 17-year-old as someone who was a few years behind him at Lincoln Park High School, but he didn't know the other attackers.
Decker wouldn't offer specifics on the case, citing how early it is in the investigation, but he did say the attack, which was captured in its entirety on surveillance camera, "is atypical of the young men's normal conduct."
In court Wednesday, three private attorneys and one public defender described their clients as good students with college and career prospects.
Those charged include: Patrick Moran, 18, who recently graduated from Whitney Young High School with a 3.88 GPA and was slated to attend the University of Michigan Business School this fall; Anthony Carter Coates, 18, who just graduated high school with a 4.3 GPA and would attend California Polytechnic State University on a scholarship; Andrew Patterson, 18, who graduated from Lincoln Park High School and was slated to study at an acting studio this fall; and Kralis, who had been admitted to DePaul University, according to Decker. A spokesman for DePaul University, however, denied that Kralis was accepted to the school.
Each was charged with armed robbery and aggravated battery with use of a deadly weapon — a serious charge considered a Class X felony. Bail was set at $75,000 each.
By Wednesday night, Coates, Moran and Kralis had posted bond, and Patterson posted bond around 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
The 17-year-old boy was charged as a juvenile.
Decker said there are a number of inconsistencies in the case, and he believes the truth will come out at future court dates.
"It doesn't make sense, what they're saying," Decker said. "Here's four healthy, athletic, scholarship-material young men that can't wrestle a bike away from somebody who's allegedly being beaten by baseball bats?"
Kevin Rosner, an attorney for Moran, declined to comment. Those charged could not immediately be reached for comment.
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