Don’t even think about protesting at hearings for Chicago cop charged with murder, judge says

Trials & Litigation

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After complaints that murder defendant and Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was being harassed by protesters at the criminal courts building, a Cook County Circuit Court judge said Thursday that individuals who continue such behavior would be held in contempt.

Judge Vincent M. Gaughan’s warning extends to anyone who brings a sign to the courthouse “and starts waving it around,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

“That’s not going to be allowed in this courtroom or outside of my courtroom,” Gaughan reportedly said at a Thursday status hearing for the case. “No matter what anybody’s charged with, no matter what anybody’s done, they should not be compelled to go through some type of harassment.”

Laquan McDonald was 17 when Van Dyke shot him 16 times, and protesters centered on Van Dyke’s case often refer to that number. He was charged with murder after a police dashboard camera video was released, and the footage led to a Department of Justice report that found that officers frequently use excessive force against people of color but are rarely disciplined. Since the indictment, Van Dyke has been suspended without pay.

The officer’s lawyer has asked the court to let his client stay home from hearings or use a courthouse entrance that allows him to avoid protesters, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The judge has not ruled on that motion.

A woman identified as Carolyn Ruff held a small, handwritten sign that read “Sixteen shots and a cover-up” toward Van Dyke as he exited the courtroom Thursday, both the Tribune and the Sun-Times report. She claims to have missed Gaughan’s warning about court protests and was let off with a warning from the judge.

Van Dyke’s family members also think they’ve been unfairly targeted following the police camera footage release. His wife, Tiffany Van Dyke, told the Tribune in March that her 16-year-old daughter had been harassed at school with the “16 shots” wording. Van Dyke also said she recently lost an opportunity to train as a Cook County sheriff’s deputy because of her husband’s murder charges.

A top aide to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart told the Tribune that Tiffany Van Dyke’s tentative start date to enter the training program was delayed because of safety concerns about her working in the jail.

Jason Van Dyke now works part time as a janitor for the Fraternal Order of Police, earning $12 per hour, the Tribune reported.

Marvin Hunter, McDonald’s great-uncle, told the newspaper that he identifies with the officer’s family.

“I feel sorry for his children; I feel sorry for his wife,” Hunter said. “They’re feeling what we feel. We’ve all been dragged into something—a terrible tragedy that happened—that had nothing to do with us.”

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