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Van Dyke Shouldn't Have To Appear In Court Amid Violent Threats: Attorney

By Erica Demarest | March 23, 2016 9:32am | Updated on March 23, 2016 1:59pm
 Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, 37, appeared in court for a routine status hearing Wednesday.
Jason Van Dyke
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COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — If a motion filed in court this week is approved, Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke won't have to appear in court for routine status hearings.

"He's been threatened every single time he's walked in and out of the building," defense attorney Dan Herbert said Wednesday following a brief hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, 2600 S. California Ave.

Activists have chased Van Dyke following previous court appearances, shouting "coward" and "murderer." Herbert said people told the officer "they hoped he would be raped and killed in prison," and that Van Dyke's father has been shoved.

Van Dyke left the courthouse with no incident Wednesday.

Herbert filed a motion this week asking Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughn to allow Van Dyke to stay home for routine status hearings. The judge has previously given the press permission to photograph and record such hearings.

"We're still amazed at the appetite and the venom toward my client in this case," Herbert said. "It's truly amazing. He remains Public Enemy No. 1. .... The violence toward my client is really affecting him."

In the motion, Herbert says Van Dyke has been chased and shoved by activists and press, and been called a "white devil" and "racist" before and after prior court appearances. Herbert claims an activist damaged Van Dyke's father's truck, and that Van Dyke's father was shoved by a news crew.

No decision was made Wednesday, and the next court date is slated for May 5.

Defense attorney Dan Herbert and Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke appeared in court Wednesday. Photo: Chicago Tribune

Van Dyke, 37, pleaded not guilty in December to six counts of first-degree murder and one count of official misconduct in the October 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

McDonald had been stealing car radios and was armed with a 3-inch blade when Chicago Police officers in Archer Heights called in a radio request for a Taser on Oct. 20, 2014, prosecutors have said.

Van Dyke and his partner responded to the call, but never specified whether they had a Taser. Within seconds of arriving on the scene, Van Dyke pulled his gun and emptied his clip into McDonald, shooting the teen 16 times, according to authorities.

Video of the shooting, which was released via a court order in November 2015, sparked citywide protests that shut down the Mag Mile.

Last month, a coalition of activists filed a petition asking for a special prosecutor in Van Dyke's case. The group alleged that Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez couldn't be trusted because she has a "political alliance with the police union."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson later filed a similar petition.

Attorneys behind each petition appeared in court Wednesday, but Judge Gaughn did not make any decisions. He will address the petitions once more on May 5.

Alvarez lost her bid for re-election last week, garnering only 33 percent of the vote, compared to Kim Foxx's 52 percent, according to the Cook County Clerk's website.

Many attribute the heavy loss to Alvarez's handling of the McDonald case, including her nearly 400-day delay in filing charges against Van Dyke. Anti-Alvarez activists campaigned for Foxx, and the hashtag #byeanita took off on social media on election night.

G. Flint Taylor, one of the attorneys behind the petition asking for a special prosecutor, said the election results didn't alter his goals since Alvarez will still be in officer through the end of the year.

"There's a lot of water to come under the bridge from now until December," Taylor said. "We're not of the mind that we'll wait those nine months. We think justice needs to be served now."

Herbert has previously said he may try to move Van Dyke's trial out of Cook County, where it could be hard to find an impartial jury.

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