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Jason Van Dyke's Bid To Skip Court in Laquan McDonald Case Denied By Judge

 Officer Jason Van Dyke, 39, is charged with murdering 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014.
Officer Jason Van Dyke, 39, is charged with murdering 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014.
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Chicago Tribune

COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A Cook County judge Thursday denied Officer Jason Van Dyke's request to skip routine court hearings in the Laquan McDonald case.

Defense attorney Daniel Herbert in a motion filed April 20 argued that Van Dyke, 39, should be allowed to stay home since he believes the officer has been routinely harassed and threatened at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, 2650 S. California Ave., since his November 2015 arrest.

RELATED: Signs, Scowls Jeopardize Officer Jason Van Dyke's Safety At Court, He Says

After a hearing Thursday, Judge Vincent Gaughan denied the request — but said he would work with prosecutors, defense attorneys and the Cook County Sheriff's Office to create a more robust security plan for Van Dyke's upcoming court appearances.

We will "craft some type of order that everybody will proud of," Gaughan said.

Herbert argued Thursday that Van Dyke and his father have been verbally threatened, jostled, chased and "essentially mobbed" at prior court appearances.

The men even had to rent a car on several occasions, Herbert said, because activists had identified and would chase the family's vehicles.

RELATED: Jason Van Dyke Faces 'Coward' Taunts as He Arrives in Court for Laquan Case

Kane County State's Attorney Joseph McMahon, who has overseen Van Dyke's case since former Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez recused herself last year, pointed out that while Van Dyke did face large crowds after his initial arrest, protests quickly dwindled.

Herbert has complained about signs and scowls in recent months, McMahon noted, but did not identify any physical threats.

Several sheriff's office staffers Thursday testified that a special security plan authorizing "additional security above and beyond what other defendants receive" has been in place for Van Dyke since May 2016.

Deputies routinely monitor social-media threats and potential protests, according to Bradley Curry, the Cook County Sheriff's Office's chief operating officer.

Herbert maintained that while "the volume [of threats and protests] had dissipated, the threat level [against Van Dyke] remains constant."

"To suggest that this is just your average case is preposterous," Herbert continued. "Mr. Van Dyke is not some wilting flower who is scared for his life for no reason. His life has been shattered" since his 2015 arrest and indictment.

Herbert said Van Dyke's wife and children have been threatened and that his client's looming murder charges are "enough to worry about."

RELATED: Jason Van Dyke Worried for His Family Amid Death Threats, Attorney Says

Van Dyke faces charges of first-degree murder, official misconduct and aggravated battery with a firearm in the October 2014 slaying of 17-year-old McDonald. Van Dyke is currently free on bond.

According to prosecutors, McDonald was 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.

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