Prosecutors Move To Revoke Or Increase Van Dyke’s Bail After Interview With WBEZ, Tribune
Updated 2:40 p.m.
The special prosecutor handling the murder trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke is asking a judge to revoke or increase Van Dyke’s bond as punishment for speaking to the media.
Van Dyke is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery and official misconduct in his on-duty shooting of Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald.
Van Dyke fired 16 times at McDonald the night of October 20, 2014.
On Tuesday, the officer sat down for a tightly controlled interview with WBEZ and the Chicago Tribune, his first public comments outside the courtroom since the shooting.
In one motion filed Wednesday, prosecutor Joseph McMahon argues that the interview violated a “decorum order” from Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan that bars parties in the case from speaking publicly about it. The motion asks for the officer to be found in contempt of court.
In another motion, McMahon argues that the interview violated the terms of Van Dyke’s bond.
The interview with Van Dyke was conducted at the office of his attorney, Dan Herbert. The reporter was barred from asking about the shooting or its aftermath.
But Van Dyke did talk about the night he killed McDonald and his work as a Chicago officer.
In his motions, McMahon points to Van Dyke’s claim in the interview that he was charged criminally for political reasons and to the officer’s assertion he was a “great police officer” and “not a racist.”
“I never would have fired my gun if I didn’t think my life was in jeopardy or another citizen’s life was,” Van Dyke said in the interview. “It’s something you have to live with forever.”
In the contempt motion, McMahon argues that those statements and others violated the judge’s order and were “calculated to embarrass, hinder, or obstruct the court.”
Van Dyke’s attorney, Dan Herbert, called the motions “an egregious abuse of power” by McMahon.
In a statement, Herbert defended the interview, saying his client was “very careful” not to discuss the case or the shooting, but rather “expressed his personal feelings.”
“During the past four years, there have been thousands of news stories portraying Mr. Van Dyke in an extremely negative light in this case.
Many have contained false information. Not one has included Mr. Van Dyke's voice,” Herbert said in the statement. “He has a constitutional right to express his feelings as well.”
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Sam Adam, Jr., a longtime Chicago defense attorney, agreed that Van Dyke has a right to speak while he awaits trial.
“You cannot stop a defendant from saying he’s innocent. He has a right to go out here and defend himself,” Adam said.
Adam is not involved in the Van Dyke case, but he has tried multiple cases before Gaughan.
“I don’t believe that Judge Gaughan will hold him in contempt or raise his bond in any matter because [Van Dyke] does have that First Amendment right,” Adam said. “And the state, in my humble opinion, should be very careful trying to limit the first amendment rights of a defendant.”
This story was updated with a statement from Van Dyke's attorneys and comments from Sam Adam, Jr.
Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow him @pksmid.