ATTORNEY MASTANTUONO LITIGATES RACINE COUNTY CASE INVOLVING POLICE ABUSE ALLEGATION
By Janine Anderson
The Journal Times (Racine, WI)
Posted: Monday, September 22, 2008 12:00 am
RACINE – A missing front license plate and baby shoes hanging from the rearview mirror were enough to warrant a traffic stop, a judge ruled Monday.
Defense attorney Craig Mastantuono argued that those violations of the traffic code were not enough for Officer Chad Stillman to have stopped his client, Bilal Gilleylen, who claimed that police used excessive force during the Jan. 22 arrest that followed the traffic stop.
Gilleylen allegedly resisted officers and tried to grab Stillman’s gun during the arrest. Stillman testified Monday about the stop and subsequent fight between three officers and the defendant. Gilleylen has filed a notice of claim with the city, asking for $150,000 for the violation of Gilleylen’s rights when officers allegedly used unlawful excessive force.
Stillman said that Gilleylen initially pulled over, but then continued around a corner before coming to a stop. He testified that Gilleylen became nervous after he took a plastic bag out of his pocket along with his driver’s license, and that Gilleylen made several lunges toward the cluttered front seat after he requested that Gilleylen exit his vehicle.
After the second lunge, Stillman said he and another officer forcibly removed Gilleylen from the car. “We immediately grabbed hold of him and pulled him away,” Stillman said. “Officer (Robert) Thilleman and I tugged for quite a while. It felt like forever. I remember the vehicle shaking back and forth as we tried to get him out.”
Stillman said that at one point he said “Please stop resisting,” to try to get Gilleylen to comply with their requests.
Assistant District Attorney Sharon Riek said she believed Stillman had reasonable suspicion to stop Gilleylen’s car, and that officers reacted appropriately to what they saw the defendant doing.
Mastantuono said the stop was not enough to warrant the arrest. Gilleylen had a rear plate on his vehicle and that there was no “smoking gun” evidence that the baby shoes hanging from the mirror obscured his view.
Judge Faye Flancher sided with the state. “The stop was appropriate,” she said. “Unfortunately, things go downhill rather quickly.” Flancher said, taken in context with suspicious behavior during a traffic stop in a high-crime area, the officers’ actions were appropriate.
“Officers had every right to fear for their safety and officers had to use force to get Mr. Gilleylen out of the car,” she said. “They’re telling him to show his hands, to comply, and he wasn’t having none of it.”