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Red Line Signal Jammer Charges Will Be Dropped, Prosecutors Confirm

By Erica Demarest | March 31, 2016 10:42am
 Dennis Nicholl, 63, was 
Dennis Nicholl, 63, was "irritated by people constantly on their phones," his attorney said.
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Chicago Police Department

COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — Prosecutors will drop charges against the Rogers Park man who used a signal jammer on the Red Line if he completes a one-year diversion program, officials confirmed Thursday.

The deferred-prosecution program, as it's known, could include counseling. It's available for people who committed nonviolent crimes and don't have prior felony convictions.

Dennis Nicholl, 63, was arrested earlier this month after police caught him using "a signal-jamming device" on the "L" to disrupt communication for the CTA and its passengers, police said.

According to his attorney, Charles Lauer, Nicholl "was irritated by people constantly on their phones" and hoped to get some peace and quiet during his daily commute.

"I don't think he had any malicious intent," Lauer said.

RELATED: Man Used Cellphone Jammer on Train To Get Some Peace and Quiet, Attorney Says

Nicholl was arrested about 7:20 a.m. March 8 after a Chicago Police Department investigation into spotty cellphone reception on the Red Line, according to Assistant State's Attorney Erin Antonietti.

Undercover officers who boarded a train that morning saw Nicholl using the jammer, which includes includes five antennas, Antonietti said. When one of the officers tried to place a call, it was dropped.

The jammer also disrupted CTA radio signals, prosecutors noted.

Passengers had been complaining of a man using a "cellphone 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, works as a financial analyst/planner supervisor for the University of Illinois Hospital on the Near West Side, according to UIC's website.

He previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor jamming charge in 2009, the Tribune reported.

RELATED: Hero or Villain: CTA Phone Jammer Just Wanted Quiet - Can You Blame Him?

Lauer said his client was "in shock" at the new charges. He said it was Nicholl's understanding that the jammer only interrupted calls in a 15-foot vicinity, enough to afford him some peace and quiet.

He had no idea that the 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."

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