Free Speech in DuPage? Almost

(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Cross Posted at Kos:…

Yesterday there was supposed to be a trial in DuPage County.

Two anti-war protestors were promised their day in court after 15 months of appearances and continuances and postponements.

They were ready.

The prosecution had the witness and the arresting police officer.

Jeff Zurawski and Sara Hartfield had truth and about 48 supporters on their side.

Judge Sutter was ready.

First you may need a little background.

Jeff and Sara, kids in their 40’s, decided to make a statement of Protest aainst the War in Iraq on May 6th, 2007. They chose an overpass on I-355 in Lombard (DuPage County), IL. There they hung a large sign that said “IMPEACH BUSH & CHENEY – LIARS” along the railing of the overpass. They also hung the American Flag upside down as a symbol of protest.

Three DuPage County Sheriff’s Police arrive and demanded the signs be removed and Sara and Jeff complied. However, that was not enough for one officer who claimed he was a veteran and his son was in Afghanistan and felt that the protest was disrespectful of the troops. Further he asserted that they had been endangering life by “throwing things” onto the Expressway.

The Deputies took their information and let Jeff and Sara go.

Three weeks later Jeff was arrested, at his home and taken to jail in handcuffs. He was charged with “disorderly conduct” for breaching the peace. He had no permit to have an anti-war protest. And he was charged with creating a traffic disturbance by throwing things onto the highway.

Sara discovered there was a warrant out for her arrest and turned herself in.

Later, during a court appearance, additional charges of reckless conduct and unauthorized display of a sign were added. Each of those comes with a mandatory sentence of a year in jail and $2500 fine. Since Sara and Jeff were not guilty of throwing anything, especially not onto the Expressway, they demanded a jury trial.

Both the Sheriff’s Deputy and the truck Driver who called in the report of their “alleged” tossing things onto the Expressway were subpoenaed.

However, the Deputy has since retired and moved to Florida where people don’t disrespect the troops.

Attorney Shawn Collins agreed to represent both Jeff and Sara pro bono.

What is unspoken in this whole mess is that this case could not have even proceed without the support and “push” of DuPage States Attorney Joe Birkett. Joe Birkett perceived “easy pickings’ with a “slam dunk” case in Republican DuPage. (However, DuPage is not as Republican as it used to be.) And everyone knows that States Attorneys have reputations to uphold…especially if they plan to run for higher office. You may recall a previous Republican States Attorney named Ryan who claimed an 80% plus conviction rate! A Very Important statistic if you plan to run for Governor or something.

Sara and Jeff looked easy.

Gathering proof was not. There were no photos. The Truck driver, a Mr. Hardin, never appeared. In fact he changed his testimony from seeing youths throwing things onto the Expressway to a person making a “throwing motion”! The Sheriff’s Deputy has not returned for his part.

For more check out: Grateful Dissident

Back to the trial:

The Prosecuting Attorney amended the charges: the Defense protested; the Judge allowed the amendments.

Then the Prosecution asked for a short recess because their “star” witness had not yet arrived. Judge Sutter smiled and allowed them a ten minute recess.

As ten minutes became 15, 20, then 30….the Prosecuting Attorneys (there appeared to be three of them) made a big show of going into the hallway to check if Mr. Hardin had arrived. Other “official” looking types….ie. a person who was let in with a cell phone that had a camera capability(not allowed) peeked in a few times while talking on the phone and checking out the pro-Jeff and Sara crowd. There were also 4 policemen in the courtroom(baliffs) giving us stern looks.

Finally, the Judge returned. No witness. Charges dropped and case dismissed. The gallery stood and clapped for Sara and Jeff and their Attorney!

Not quite the result we were hoping for, but the ordeal was over. Relief.

I am so happy for Sara and Jeff. Poor Sara was taking it very hard…she was so nervous and was trying so hard to regain her “center”. I am glad this ordeal is over.

However, this never should have gone this far….the cost to the taxpayers of DuPage must have been considerable with all the court appearances over the last 15 months….not to mention States Attorney fees.

Joe Birkett should be ashamed of himself.

I can scold him, not only am I older than him, I used to live next door to his family. I played with his sister Bernadette(now married to George Wendt) and his older twin brothers. He was not born yet. We all lived in “the Projects” of Southern Cook County. Old wooden townhouses build for the Ford Motor Plant workers and then promoted as Veterans’ housing after the War. Finally torn down and made into a huge Shopping Center called Ford City. He is obviously a “climber” who does not have anything to do with his brothers and sisters, and whose own son has a drug problem that he has tried to hush up. Birkett bio and Birkett’s son

Check out their YouTube videos at: Jeff and Sara

Thanks for reading.


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    • Temmoku on August 21, 2008 at 17:58

    I remember that his Dad took my dog out to the field and killed it. I still haven’t gotten over it after all these years! (50+) Muffin was a cute little dog…my first.

    • Edger on August 21, 2008 at 19:32

    would print this if you sent it to them as a letter to he editor.

    Including your tip jar comment….


  1. posting a comment at GOS saying in words or substance that the charges were (pardon my french) horse shit.  So I am happy that this turned out as it should have.

    And I’m also really sorry to hear about your dog.  That’s just disgraceful.  

    • RUKind on August 24, 2008 at 07:49

    I see them all the time in SE MA. No one has a problem with those signs. But I’d bet a dollar that if I hung up a “Who Would Jesus Torture?” banner over the highway that the answer would be me.

    What a country!

      • Temmoku on August 21, 2008 at 20:42

      Well, the twins….boys, were really wild. They used to light caps on each other’s stomachs and show off the burns….this is the 50s remember…and the Birketts had a lot of kids and lots of diapers. The twins used to flick diapers at my dog’s face and it would bite them. They would play “tug-of-war” and the diapers would rip. Times being what they were, it was expensive buying new diapers all the time. It was easier eliminating the dog than the kids.

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