The American Civil Liberties Union is questioning a contempt charge leveled against a teacher by the Cook County judge presiding over the murder case against the Chicago police officer who fatally shot Laquan McDonald.
The charge stems from a pretrial hearing last Thursday in which Judge Vincent Gaughan denied motions to dismiss charges against the officer, Jason Van Dyke. After that ruling, Gaughan called for a recess in the hearing. That’s when a spectator, Moises Bernal, started snapping his fingers.
Rebecca Glenberg, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Illinois, says it is “not clear that [Van Dyke’s] right to a fair trial was affected when there were no proceedings taking place and certainly when there was no jury in the courtroom.”
Gaughan ordered Bernal to the bench and asked him, “What was your purpose here today?”
Bernal, 51, replied to the judge, “To see a racist murderer on trial.”
“He apparently answered the question truthfully, he didn’t use profanity and he didn’t speak in a disruptive way,” Glenberg says.
But Gaughan said Bernal was in “direct contempt” and ordered him jailed on a $40,000 bail.
Bernal, an adult-education teacher who lives on Chicago’s North Side, spent about 11 hours in custody before $4,000 was posted for his release, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
Gaughan set a June 21 hearing on the contempt charge.