Daily Law Bulletin: No Relief For Ex-Maywood Cop After Guilty Plea

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Former Maywood Police Officer Brian Black 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 || Originally Published: Chicago Daily Law Bulletin || 4/19/16 || By David Thomas 

A former Maywood police officer convicted of pistol-whipping a teenager had his postconviction appeal denied by a state appeals panel on Monday.

The 1st District Appellate Court dismissed arguments by former Maywood Deputy Police Chief Brian Black that his guilty plea was involuntary and his counsel lied to him during the trial court proceedings.

Black filed a first-stage postconviction petition in December 2013, five months after he pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice and was sentenced to 12 months of non-reporting probation.

Cook County Associate Judge Thomas V. Gainer Jr. rejected his petition, finding it was “frivolous and patently without merit” in March 2014.

In a nine page unpublished order Monday, the 1st District panel upheld Gainer’s ruling.

Black’s guilty plea stemmed from a Nov. 14, 2010, incident where, according to Cook County prosecutors, Black was sitting in his personal car with Cordero Berry, an 18-year-old male with whom he had been on friendly terms.

That night, prosecutors said, Black was driving Berry home after the two waited in a motel room for prostitutes who never arrived. At some point, Black began touching Berry’s leg in a manner that made Berry uncomfortable.

In the car, after rejecting Black’s sexual advances for a third time, Berry began to punch him. Black pulled the car over, retrieved his service weapon from the trunk of his car and hit Berry twice in the head with it.

Berry fled, and both Black and Berry separately called the police. Black hid his service weapon; when Chicago police arrived, Black said Berry had taken it from him.

According to prosecutors, Black initially told Chicago police he was the victim of an attempted carjacking. It wasn’t until later that Black admitted he made false statements to the police.

Black was charged with one count of disorderly conduct and four counts of obstruction of justice.

On July 2, 2013, Black agreed to plead guilty to only one count of obstructing justice in exchange for 12 months of non-reporting probation.

Under the state Supreme Court rules, trial court judges are required to admonish defendants at length before they plead guilty.

As Justice Sheldon A. Harris detailed in the order, Gainer specifically asked Black in the criminal trial whether or not he was promised anything or threatened into pleading guilty. Black said, “No, sir.”

Gainer also asked Black if he was pleading guilty of his own free will. Black responded in the affirmative.

As he sentenced him, Gainer advised Black that if he were to directly appeal, his guilty plea would have to be vacated. Black did not directly appeal his conviction.

In filing his postconviction petition, Black argued his plea was involuntary because he thought new charges — including kidnapping — would have been filed against him if he didn’t. Black alleged he later learned no new charges would have been filed against him had he not pleaded guilty.

He also maintained his attorney at the criminal trial, River Forest-based sole practitioner Earl B. Grinbarg, told him to plead guilty based upon “false threats of new charges.” If he had known those charges were not pending, he would not have pleaded guilty, Black said.

Grinbarg, who is not involved in the current proceedings, said in an interview that Black’s assertions are “absolute garbage.”

“I best be polite and not respond, but that assertion is just garbage,” Grinbarg said. “That assertion is garbage, and I believe the circuit court and the appellate court handled it properly and accordingly.”

In denying Black’s postconviction petition in March 2014, Gainer noted Black did not withdraw his plea, and he was sufficiently warned what would happen if he pleaded guilty.

Gainer also found Black failed to establish Grinbarg provided ineffective assistance by failing to establish that Grinbarg’s purported remarks were not true and for not arguing he was actually innocent.

On appeal, Black reiterated those same arguments. He also contended Gainer used the wrong standard of review in rejecting his claim.

In a first-stage postconviction petition proceeding, a defendant only has to argue the “gist” of a constitutional claim. The trial court can reject a petition if its found to be frivolous or without merit, which Gainer did.

Black argued Gainer examined his petition using the standard of review for an evidentiary hearing, which is a higher burden. But the panel took note of Gainer’s finding that Black’s petition was “frivolous and patently without merit.”

To read more, click here. VFP

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