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Steinys Lied to Police To Spare Campaign From Embarrassment: Lawyer

A Will County Judge is set to rule in the case on Oct. 8.

Testimony in Plainfield Park District board member Peter Steinys' battery case wrapped up on Monday, nearly three months after his bench trial began.

After several delays, the trial resumed with Steinys finally taking the stand to give his side of events on Nov. 5, 2012, the eve of the general election.


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  • That’s the night Steinys is accused of hitting an off-duty Joliet firefighter with a car door following a spat over the placement of campaign signs at Route 59 and Fraser Road.

    Michael Carlin, a campaign volunteer for Sen. Jennifer-Bertino Tarrant, said he was checking on campaign signs placed in a field Route 59 and Fraser Road the night before the election when he noticed they had been removed and replaced with signs for her opponent, village trustee Garrett Peck. 

    Carlin said he spotted a man dressed in black, lying in the grass near the field. He said he confronted the man, then went back to his truck to call another campaign volunteer to make sure only the Bertino-Tarrant campaign had permission to put signs in that field. Meanwhile, Carlin said, the man in black got into a vehicle with another man, whom he later identified as Steinys. Carlin claims he was struck with the car door after approaching the vehicle to talk to the two men.

    On Monday, Steinys acknowledged he was at the scene of the disagreement between Carlin and the man, whom he called a “campaign observer” but identified in court only as “Drew.” Denying that he and Drew were active volunteers with Peck’s campaign, Steinys said Drew had called him and asked for a ride home from Route 59 and Fraser.

    Two Plainfield police officers who testified Monday said that’s not what Steinys told them following the incident. Officer Jeff Kaminsky said he was able to reach Steinys on the phone the night of the alleged battery. 

    “He claimed he had been home since at least 10:30 p.m. and maybe left to walk the dog,” Kaminsky said. “[Steinys said] he had been home all night.” 

    Detective Matt Lehmann said he interviewed Steinys several days after the incident. “He denied being in the area of Route 59 and Fraser that evening … [and] denied any involvement.”

    Paul Napolski, Steiny’s attorney, pointed out that Steinys told the truth in court. “That goes to his credibility,” Napolski said, adding his client had hoped to spare the Peck campaign any embarrassment stemming from the incident. 

    “I would submit that lying to a police officer does not go to anybody’s credibility,” village attorney Joan Meyers, pointing out that the incident happened late the night before the election, and was not likely to have been reported by the media in time to affect the outcome of the race.

    Steinys also admitted he also opened his car door, hitting Carlin, but said it was in self-defense — and happened only after Carlin tried to push the door closed and force him back into the vehicle.

    “[Carlin] was the aggressor,” Napolski said, scoffing at Carlin’s claims that he approached the vehicle with caution, telling Steinys and “Drew” that he had a shoulder injury and wasn’t looking for trouble.

    “This is a guy that runs into burning buildings,” Napolski said of the Joliet firefighter. “He’s going to try to convince you that he’s afraid to approach a vehicle?"

    Steinys testifies

    Steinys, who was the only witness to testify for the defense, said he drove to the scene and parked near Feeney Drive and McMullin Circle to wait for Drew. 

    “He jumped in the car and right behind him was someone following him at a fast pace,” Steinys said, describing Carlin as “aggressive.” According to Steinys, Carlin came up to the driver’s side of the vehicle, smacking a side window with his hand and gesturing for Steinys to roll his window down.

    “I said, ‘What do you want?’” Steinys said. Then, he said, Carlin stood in front of the vehicle — blocking him from driving away — while he made a phone call.

    “He was … so close I could not pull away without possibly catching him and dragging him,” Steinys said.

    “He comes up to the car again and hits the car again super hard,” Steinys said, adding he worried Carlin would damage his brand-new car. “I step out of the car … He’s pushing the door back at me, trying to push me back into the car. He was closing the door on my shin. I was able to push the door open wide enough to step out.” 

    After getting out of the car and telling Carlin to move out of the way, Steinys said he got back into the vehicle and left. He denied striking Carlin, and said other than pushing the car door back open, he did not make any other physical contact with his accuser. In his testimony, Carlin claimed Steinys chased him, grabbing him with both hands and making several unsuccessful attempts to punch him.

    Asked why he did not call the police, despite having a cell phone in his pocket, Steinys told Meyers, “I’m a big boy,” adding that campaigns “do get crazy. I didn’t want to get involved with any escalation of the matter.”

    Steinys was not asked about Carlin’s claim that he made a death threat, allegedly saying, “I’m sick of this, I’m going to f--- you up, I’m going to f-----g kill you.” 

    Since the 2012 incident, Steinys has been elected to the Plainfield Park District Board of Commissioners. Peck, meanwhile, was hired as the park district's executive director.

    Judge will decide

    Will County Judge Joseph Polito is scheduled to make a ruling in the case at 8:45 a.m. Oct. 8 at the Plainfield branch court, located at the Plainfield Police Department, 14300 Coil Plus Dr.

    Because Steinys is charged with a local ordinance violation, as opposed to a state misdemeanor or felony charge, he could face a fine but no jail time if Polito finds him guilty.


    Related:

    joe October 01, 2013 at 09:01 AM
    I think is order to become involved in politics, one has to have flunked their G.E.D. at least five times. I give you Washington DC as a prime example.
    Vicky Polito October 01, 2013 at 11:35 AM
    Well, "big BOY" sounds about right. I’d say that Steinys couldn't be more childish but that’s an insult to children. I’m pretty close to feeling sorry for this new lawyer that Dan Rippy hooked him up with, this Napolski character (to do his job of providing a good defense to his client, as we all know is one cornerstone of our great society, he has to stand up in front of everyone and act the fool). Also HILARIOUS is the notion that "embarrassment" wasn’t already a hallmark of the Peck campaign, because it was . . . well, a political campaign! A grown man should know that most campaigns would not be happy about the embarrassment that comes from someone lying to cops investigating an assault only to claim "but, I did it to PROTECT you, to spare you, because I LOVE yooooouuuuu!" Here’s a good rule of thumb: DON’T LIE TO THE POLICE, EVER, BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT CRIMINALS DO. This “saving the Peck campaign embarrassment” nonsense excuse isn’t exactly something anyone would cut you slack on because who cares about a politician’s embarrassment risk? Particularly if it’s over something that the key players deny was at the direction of the campaign. And, as pointed out, this was the night before the election—there was NO risk of negative impact from manning up (not being “a big boy” but being a man) and telling the truth. And, I am still astounded that "Drew Who" wasn't questioned by the investigating police officers and then in court. It's just puzzling and probably not a good thing. And the attorney for the village is right: it doesn’t say anything good for you that your attitude is “well, I lied for as long as I could get away with it, and now I’ll tell the truth (maybe?) because I’m afraid of what will happen if you catch me lying under oath, and I’m being told odds are high I’d get caught lying if I stick to my old story”. That’s not a credibility builder, that’s “oh-oh, I might not be able to get away with this and what I’m being charged with now is a cake-walk compared to perjury”.
    Stella Reese October 02, 2013 at 03:55 PM
    Ethics, schmethics. Never has such a small number of buffoons - between Steinys and his Park District cohorts - caused more humiliation for a community whose best interests they have vowed to protect. It's just mind-blowing.
    Vicky Polito October 02, 2013 at 05:18 PM
    Just read another report on this whole thing over on The Enterprise site and the following was included there: 1) Steinys claimed that this Drew guy, whom Steinys had only met a couple of times, called him out of the blue that night for a ride and that he was a “campaign observer from out of town” (exactly what is that, anyhow?). REALLY? The guy is just this side of a total stranger to Steinys, but he calls Steinys at 11p on a Monday night for a ride? 2) Garrett Peck was called by the police that night and told them he couldn’t recall anyone named Steinys in his campaign (kills the idea that Drew contacted Steinys because Steinys was a key Peck campaign figure and, yet, simultaneously sounds like a ridiculous lie given evidence to the contrary—I’m pretty sure there are campaign photos, some taken at Peck campaign headquarters, with both Peck and Steinys in them from last fall). 3) Steinys says he waited for 15 minutes (nice try at adding a time lag into the story!) in the dark, for a virtual stranger, at a corner near the intersection of 59 and Feeney, actually on McMullin Circle—who else is familiar with that area? There is some big open field space there, but McMullin has townhomes all around it. So, no one saw or heard all of this on that residential block? And, by the way, how did Drew get there, lacking a ride, to begin with? Why would he be out at that hour, “observing”, without a transportation plan or means of getting around? And, remember, he wasn’t spotted by Carlin hanging around watching for Steinys’ car—he was spotted on the ground wishing he hadn’t forgotten his invisibility cloak. 4) Steinys was worried about his car, but didn’t use his phone to call the police, didn’t hand Drew the phone to call the police, or didn’t lay on the horn to alert residents on the block where he was parked that there was trouble? Not to mention that if you are unconcerned—big boy that you are—about getting out of your car to confront someone who’s on the attack, why would you be concerned about driving off away from them? Wouldn’t someone attacking your car, threatening you, have only themselves to blame if they got hurt because you had to escape? And, could Steinys have used the REVERSE gear to get away if Carlin was in front of the car making his phone call? 5) Steinys dropped Drew, who doesn’t have a last name, off before going home but no mention is made of where. I read, edit, and write a lot of fiction for a living and that lack of detail makes for a lousy story. Now I feel less sorry for defense counsel Napolski because he apparently said that the case was “nonsensical from soup to nuts” and that “everybody out there is acting stupid”. I just love it when attorneys say that their clients must be innocent by reason of the whole case just being too gosh-darn silly! You know what would have done wonders for the Steinys defense? A real person named “Drew” testifying. Napolski didn’t have that, but going with how it’s just a silly fight over silly campaign silliness was wrong. This is actually about one guy completely losing it, flying into a screaming and threatening rage, and then trying to beat to injury another guy over political allegiance and animus. And, the guy having the fit lied to the police more than once and had a witness who was maybe an accomplice who is—still—being protected. That’s not silly, but I’ll agree it’s pretty damn stupid. And, disgusting.

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