CHICAGO — A man who snapped his fingers during a hearing for police officer Jason Van Dyke was sentenced to 12 months probation on Friday.
Moises Bernal, a citizenship teacher and father of three, was held in contempt of court after the May 25 incident during a hearing for Van Dyke, who has been charged with murder in the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Bernal had snapped his fingers to show support for the judge's ruling during the hearing, said his attorney, James Fennerty.
But Cook County Circuit Judge Vincent Gaughan called the snapping an "insult" that "disrupted the administration of justice."
"He thought he was showing his support for the ruling of the judge because he's here, and when he comes to court in the Van Dyke case he's here to support the family and hope that someday there will be a conviction in the Van Dyke case," Fennerty said.
During a sentencing hearing Friday, Gaughan encouraged Bernal to remain enthusiastic about fairness but told him not to interfere with someone's right to a fair trial. Bernal was joined by his family, including his mother and daughter.
Gaughan's sentence of Bernal to a year's probation could be vacated if Bernal fulfills the terms of the punishment. Bernal still will be able to attend future hearings for Van Dyke.
Bernal will have to pay $10 monthly for probation. He won't have to report to a probation officer monthly, meaning he effectively has to stay out of legal trouble and pay the monthly fee for a year to have the conviction vacated, Fennerty said.
Gaughan gently chided Bernal on Friday, saying his finger-snapping came as the courtroom was tense and the action could have caused "chaos" during Van Dyke's hearing. Activists have frequented hearings for Van Dyke, and Gaughan has warned them not to disrupt the proceedings or approach Van Dyke with signs or slurs.
Bernal asked Gaughan for leniency on Friday, saying the "circumstances were incredible" that had led him to that point.
Bernal has said he regrets snapping his fingers during Van Dyke's hearing.
Bernal is a teacher at the Instituto del Progresso Latino, a nonprofit organization at 2520 S. Western Ave. that assists Latino immigrants and their families. Bernal earlier told the judge he was in court to "see a racist murderer on trial."