Let’s say you mouth off to a cop, then walk away, only to have the cop show up in your driveway, asking you what you meant. And you tell the cop, “You know.”
Is that a crime? Sherman police thought so when they arrested Chad Bates, a battalion chief with the Springfield Fire Department, after he reportedly cussed at a cop in his neighborhood, then went home. The handcuffs came out when the cop went to Bates’ house and asked about his intentions. “You know my intentions,” replied the battalion chief, who was hauled to jail on suspicion of intimidation, a felony, and obstructing police, a misdemeanor.
Nearly two months after the encounter, however, prosecutors have yet to charge Bates with anything, and it’s a safe bet they won’t. No prosecutor wants to tell a jury to never-mind the First Amendment and convict someone for speaking his mind in his own driveway, with no one getting hurt and no overt threats made. And Bates, who has a history of bad behavior, may soon be back after spending the better part of the summer on paid leave.
Word is floating that the city has offered Bates a deal: You can come back to work, but as a captain. In return, we won’t try to fire you. If Bates takes the offer, the city would be rid of a mess mostly of its own making. Had the city gotten serious with Bates earlier than it did, he likely never would have been on the promotion list to become a battalion chief. Instead, the city at the eleventh hour tried blocking Bates’ rise after he’d already scored sufficiently high on a test to rank number two on the list. Bates took the test after he was punished for falsely accusing his ex-wife’s husband of slashing his tires, then brought a gun to work, contrary to a ban on firearms in firehouses.
The peace offer comes after the city’s Civil Service Commission lost a lawsuit filed by Bates, who successfully argued that he belonged on the promotion list because any discipline for false reports and packing heat to work was a separate matter. Ordered by Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Madonia to keep Bates on the promotion list, the city, facing command-level vacancies, had made Bates a temporary battalion chief, which prompted a second lawsuit filed by Bates, the firefighters’ union and Gary Self, union president who was made a temporary battalion chief along with Bates. The second lawsuit aims at forcing the city to make the promotions permanent.
While litigation involving the fire department progresses, less movement is evident in the case of former Springfield police office Samuel Rosario, who was fired and charged with battery and official misconduct for whupping Robert Humes, 19, after responding to a call at Humes’ home in February 2017. Fisticuffs began after a flurry of f-bombs dropped by both sides, with Rosario emerging victorious while the neighborhood watched.
It would seem a slam-dunk case, given that police body cameras captured everything. But, according to Sangamon County court records, a trial date of Jan. 29 has come and gone, with no trial currently scheduled. The last scheduled proceeding was a routine hearing in May. There are no scheduled hearings or other proceedings on the docket maintained by Sangamon County Circuit Clerk.
Neither Sangamon County state’s attorney John Milhiser, nor Dan Fultz, Rosario’s lawyer, could be reached for comment. In March, Milhiser was reportedly mulling the possibility of putting Rosario’s case in the hands of the county’s new veterans court, which handles criminal cases filed against veterans with a goal of rehabilitation as opposed to simple punishment.
Contact Bruce Rushton at email@example.com.