COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — The Rogers Park accountant caught using a cellphone jammer on a CTA train did it because he was annoyed by the chattering of people on their phones, his attorney said Wednesday.
"He was irritated by people constantly on their phones," said Charles Lauer, attorney for Dennis Nicholl, 63.
Lauer said Nicholl used the jammer to get some peace and quiet during his daily commute.
"I don't think he had any malicious intent," Lauer said.
Nicholl, a Rogers Park resident who takes the Red Line to work each day, was arrested Tuesday morning after he was identified as the man who has been using a "signal-jamming device" on the train to disrupt communication for the CTA and its passengers, police said.
Nicholl works as a financial analyst/planner supervisor for the University of Illinois Hospital on the Near West Side, according to the university's website. Jamming cellphone signals was a likely part of his daily commute, Lauer said.
"Mr. Nicholl is a lifelong contributing member of the community, except for this unfortunate incident," Lauer said.
Assistant State's Attorney Erin Antonietti said Nicholl was arrested at 7:20 a.m. Tuesday after an investigation into spotty cell phone reception experienced by some Red Line passengers.
Undercover officers boarded a Red Line train Tuesday morning and spotted Nicholl with his jammer, which includes five antennas, Antonietti said at his bond hearing.
An officer tried placing a call on his cell phone, and when the call dropped, Nicholls was arrested, Antonietti said.
CTA radio signals also were disrupted due to Nicholl's actions, Antonietti said.
Antonietti said Nicholl told officers that he used the jammer because he was annoyed about phone use on trains.
"He's the cellphone police," Judge James Brown remarked during the bond hearing.
Brown held Nicholl on $10,000 bond, meaning Nicholl had to pay $1,000 to bond out of jail.
Passengers have been complaining of a man using a "cell phone jammer" on the L since at least October. A lengthy Reddit thread from October shows commuters reporting the man's presence in several areas, including Brown Line trains.
Nicholl, of the 1000 block of West Loyola Avenue, is facing one felony count of unlawful interference with a public utility.
Lauer said his client is "in shock" at the charges. He said it was Nicholl's understanding that the jammer only interrupted calls in about a 15-foot vicinity, enough to afford him some peace and quiet.
He had no idea that his device was causing problems beyond his immediate surroundings.
"I don't think he was trying to mess with FCC communications," Lauer said. "He's pretty much in shock. This would be a serious blemish on his life."
Four of Nicholls family members, include a few brothers, were at court Wednesday, but all said they had no comment on their brother's case.
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