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Local News

Joliet police officer's reckless discharge trial concludes

Judge may decided outcome next week

Nick Crowley leaves the Will County Courthouse on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, in Joliet, Ill.
Nick Crowley leaves the Will County Courthouse on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, in Joliet, Ill.

The trial of a Joliet police officer charged with recklessly firing his gun during a domestic dispute concluded Wednesday.

Testimony from police officers and a friend of the alleged victim was heard on the trial’s second and last day.

Will County Judge Daniel Kennedy said he might render his verdict in the case of police officer Nicholas Crowley, 37, on Tuesday.

Crowley has been charged with recklessly firing his gun inside the townhome of his fiancée, Cassandra Socha, 33, after a night of drinking and a heated argument between the two in July.

Crowley had also been charged with domestic battery and criminal damage to property but a grand jury declined to indict him.

In closing arguments, Crowley’s attorney, Jeff Tomczak, said the case rests on the definition of reckless.

He said Socha testified that she thought the alleged gunshot was an accident after her protective pit bull was acting aggressively toward Crowley while the two argued. Otherwise, Tomczak argued, Crowley wouldn’t have asked Socha if she was OK after the shot was fired.

“You might say, ‘Take that!’ ” Tomczak said.

He also argued there was no testimony about how the gun was handled and that there was no sufficient evidence of how the gun discharged.

“Don’t infer, your honor. Don’t fill in the blanks,” he said.

Special prosecutor Lorinda Lamken argued there was no evidence Socha’s dog was agitated before the argument and there was contrary evidence the dog was aggressive toward Crowley. Socha testified her pit bull was very protective of her while she and Crowley argued but bit her face when she tried to calm the dog down.

Lamken argued Socha wanted the police at her townhome after the incident and asked Kennedy why they would have been there.

“Are they there because the dog nipped her in the face?” Lamken asked.

Lamken called Joliet police Sgt. Arthur Vandergrift and Officer Gregory Kazak, both of whom responded to the crime scene, and evidence technician Jeffrey Fornoff, who took pictures of Socha’s body and the townhome, as witnesses.

All told of Socha crying. Vandergrift and Kazak said Socha had marks on her face and her eyes were swollen. They both also said she didn’t appear impaired or intoxicated.

Kazak said he had Socha fill out a domestic violence form but didn’t instruct her on what to say on it. Socha testified Tuesday that she was ordered to fill out the form. In it, she accused Crowley of breaking a TV.

Lamken also called Maria Gatlin, a retired Summit police officer, who said Socha considered her a “second mom.”

Gatlin said she and her husband received calls from Socha after the incident and arrived at the townhome to see Socha crying and shaking. She said Socha was wearing a sweater, which seemed odd to her because it was July.

Gatlin also said she saw broken glass, a shattered TV, a broken dresser, clothes and liquid everywhere.

“It was just in a total disarray where we could barely walk a path in the home,” Gatlin said.

She said she helped clean up the home.

Gatlin also testified she has no relationship with Socha currently. After the court session ended, she said she was no longer friends with Socha because she didn’t want her to cooperate with the case.

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