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01-18-08, 06:19 AM #1
Anti-Military Lawyer In Court Tomorrow
Anti-Military Lawyer In Court Tomorrow
Posted By Blackfive
See this post for background - Anti-Military Lawyer Damages Marine's Car on Eve of Deployment
The court date is set for tomorrow, January 18th, at 1330 hours at the District 29 Court House on Belmont and Western. Unfortunately, I can't be there, but I will post updates when I get them.
Chicago Tribune's John Kass has two editorials on the case here and here.
This whole incident started and will end with one man - Jay Grodner. I hope he does the right thing by the Marine. This could all be over tomorrow...or not.
In case you were wondering, this case was brought to my attention and I tried, TRIED, to get anyone in the media to take the ball and run with it. Offered exclusivity, contacts, photos, reports, etc.
For a variety of reasons, no one wanted it.
So, as a resort of last measure, I posted it here at Blackfive (in the Bust Their Chops category) and emailed it to a few Marines I knew who would get the story out on their networks (thank you, Seamus, Jay and Joe). After thousands of emails, hundreds of comments, many offers of support (financial and moral), a few threats, and finally media interest, this story was one of the first big blogosphere efforts of 2008.
It got noticed everywhere.
Thank you to John Kass for covering the story. If you are so inclined, send him a thank you message for covering the story fairly.
In the end, though, it was the military family that brought this story to national attention. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines - us doggies, squids, zoomies, and jarheads - that refused to let this abuse go unnoticed. This is one of those times where we dropped the inter-service rivalry and stepped up for one of our own.
Civilian America rallied to our cause, too. I can't tell you how many emails I received from civilians in support of Sergeant McNulty. The reaction of Chicago Police and Firemen backing the Sergeant was astounding. Tons, and I mean tons, of lawyers sent offers to work pro bono and messages of support and advice for the Sergeant. I almost take back every negative thing I've said about their profession.
And, last...the most magnificent reaction was from the Viet Nam veterans. It was the most intense response from them that I've witnessed in a long time. I received more email - full of emotion and commitment - from Viet Nam vets that essentially said in various ways:
"We will not let what happened to us, happen to you, Marine."
I do not pretend to know what will happen tomorrow in court. Attorney Jay Grodner had asked for a continuance so that he could bring in some hired guns.
But I do know that my brothers that fought in Viet Nam are right.
We won't let this happen to you, Sergeant McNulty.
Marine has vocal fans, but lawyer mum
January 11, 2008
Many readers -- including just about every active and retired member of the U.S. Marine Corps -- have demanded an update about the case of the Chicago lawyer accused of keying a Marine sergeant's black and shiny BMW.
So here goes.
Lawyer Jay R. Grodner, 55, is set to appear in court next week to answer the criminal charges against him, and those charges could be upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony.
And sources told me Thursday that the state agency that researches complaints against lawyers has opened another investigation of Grodner.
The young Marine, Sgt. Michael McNulty, 26, is not expected to show in court because he has been called up for his second tour of duty in Iraq.
Marines, retired Marines, other active and retired U.S. Armed Forces personnel and their families -- those who support the war as well as those who are opposed -- have e-mailed their support to McNulty.
On a Saturday morning in early December, McNulty was driving to meet a friend for breakfast before leaving town for his second tour. He missed a turn, backed up his car and parked in the driveway of his friend's building on the North Side.
As he stood at the front door -- telling his friend to come downstairs -- his car was being defaced, with a long scratch, and Jay Grodner was standing there with his dog, allegedly with his hands on the car, while making anti-Marine and anti-military comments before police arrived.
Then police showed up, and Grodner allegedly kept yakking about his negative feelings toward the military. In an earlier court appearance, Grodner is reported to have said he wouldn't make things easy for McNulty, who was leaving town.
It's not the case of the century, but it has captured the hearts of many readers.
Some want to fix McNulty's car for free, so he can sell it. Others offered to purchase the vehicle. Several BMW dealers -- not wanting their names in the paper -- have offered to make McNulty happy in any way possible, from fixing the car to buying it. And other lawyers are offering their legal services, if McNulty wants to pursue a civil suit.
Grodner is now under investigation by the state's Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, sources said. Commission officials declined to comment Thursday.
More than two decades ago, according to public records, Grodner received a censure by the Illinois Supreme Court after an unrelated investigation by the disciplinary commission into allegations he participated in producing phony signatures on a tax ballot initiative.
I'm told Grodner became a divorce lawyer, a career path which, if you do your job properly, angers half the people you know. In this, it's sort of like being a newspaper columnist, but I don't have to deal with who gets the dog or the CD collection, the plasma TV or that priceless Bavarian percolator (made in China) that she picked up on the honeymoon.
Unfortunately, Grodner continues to avoid my phone calls. I'm sure he's not as terrible as some blogs portray him to be. Perhaps he's completely innocent, or a fellow who made a mistake. Or perhaps he is an angry anti-war lawyer who protested by ruining the finish of the Marine's car. I don't know. Either way, he's not calling to explain.
Not many folks defend Grodner, but a few readers have called, saying he's not some ogre, but a man with passionate feelings who has recently run into some difficult circumstances, including filing for bankruptcy in 2004.
Even attorneys need attorneys, so we called one. I heard that former Chicago Police Supt. Richard Brzeczek had been retained by Grodner. We reached Brzeczek at his Florida condo, enjoying the weather, a fact that suggests at least one lawyer in this story is doing OK.
"Mr. Grodner has called. We talked once," said Brzeczek, who clearly understands the criminal justice system based on his tenure as a top cop.
"But he has not taken the proper steps to secure my counsel," Brzeczek said.
Brzeczek wouldn't elaborate on just how many "proper steps" Grodner must take, or what those "proper steps" might be.
I figure that "proper steps" involve zeros on a personal check that must clear before any legal brainstorming is done on Grodner's behalf. The case is a heater, which is odd for a misdemeanor, except that misdemeanors involving the keying of a Marine's car before he goes to Iraq are quite rare and capture the attention of military people, and their families, and their loved ones. So this thing is mushrooming on Grodner, even though he hasn't even been tried.
It also could mushroom from a misdemeanor to a felony.
McNulty's car has an estimated $2,400 in damage, well within the statutory range for felony criminal damage to property. The Cook County state's attorney's office declined any comment on whether the case will be upgraded. But they are pursuing the matter in preparation for the Jan. 18 hearing at Belmont and Western.
What's missing is Grodner's side of the story.
I hope he can start providing one.
01-18-08, 06:20 AM #2
For Marine's sendoff, his car is keyed
January 3, 2008
Marine Sgt. Michael McNulty -- now on his way to Iraq for his second tour of duty in the war -- took meticulous care of his car.
It is a black two-door BMW, an expensive ride for a young Marine from Chicago, but then, McNulty didn't exactly join up for the big paycheck and luxury vacations.
The 26-year-old McNulty was a trader at the exchange and enlisted in the Reserves after 9/11. He babied his car so much that he had military vanity plates along with a sticker in his window that let people know that a Marine or a Marine supporter drove that car.
But someone didn't like the Marine sticker, or the pro-military plates, and decided to stage an anti-war protest, with a key or hard piece of metal, on the shiny black finish of Sgt. McNulty's car that caused $2,400 in damage.
"It's a really nice car. It's in perfect condition. He keeps it meticulous. And he was going to sell it," said Sgt. McNulty's friend, Tom Sullivan, a college buddy from Loyola University.
The last time Sgt. McNulty was in Iraq, he worked a .50-caliber machine gun from a Humvee. Now that he's going back, he really doesn't need a shiny black BMW that shows dust.
"There wasn't a scratch on his car," Sullivan said.
But there is one now.
It is a big scratch, a particularly long scratch in that black paint, a scratch stretching from the rear driver's side around the back, across the trunk, then up to the passenger's side.
If you have a car, and parked it on the street, surely you've thought about what an angry key could do to it.
According to the Cook County state's attorney's office, it wasn't an accident, but a deliberate key job, not done by some kid or street thug, but by a Chicago lawyer who apparently can't stand the military.
Private attorney Jay R. Grodner, 55, of Chicago has been charged with a class A misdemeanor -- criminal damage to property -- punishable by up to one year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine, said Andy Conklin, spokesman for the state's attorney's office.
Late Wednesday, I reached Sgt. McNulty, who declined to comment for the paper but confirmed the facts in the police report.
And I wanted to get Grodner's side of it because he's been accused but not convicted of anything. So we called all the Grodner numbers we could find -- home and business -- including those on the police report and others in the suburbs and Chicago. Many were disconnected, and his cell phone voice mail was full.
I'd like to ask him two questions:
And, are you proud?
"McNulty was just coming to pick me up for breakfast, because he was going to training just before deployment," Sullivan said of that morning on Dec. 1 in Rogers Park.
There are several one-way streets near Sullivan's home, but McNulty missed the turn, and rather than drive two or three blocks around, he put the car in reverse and backed up a hundred or so feet. He pulled up in front of his friend's house, rang the bell and Sullivan came downstairs. McNulty then turned around and saw Grodner's hands on his black car.
"Mike says, 'Hey, what are you doing to my car? Open up your hand!'" Sullivan told us. "And [Grodner] goes, '[Blank] you! Just because you're in the military you don't run the roost!'"
There were allegedly many more epithets and cuss words, some allegedly applied to the United States Marine Corps, to the U.S. armed forces and to Sgt. McNulty himself.
"Quite frankly, you don't even look like a soldier. You're a small little [blank]," Grodner said according to Sullivan.
This last bit really bothers William McNulty, who is Sgt. McNulty's brother, and he called me.
"My brother should be commended for not just smashing that guy's windpipe right there for all the stuff he said about our military, and the insults," William McNulty said. "Instead, my brother called the police, as he should have."
According to the police report I read, other investigative accounts and interviews, Grodner was upset to have been accused of purposely scratching the car. So upset, that he accused his accusers of being anti-Semitic.
The Chicago police officer responding to the call didn't take the accusation seriously, according to the report, because he couldn't justify it. And Sgt. McNulty's brother and Sullivan say it is outrageous and nonsensical.
"The officer wasn't going to hear this kind of talk. He put the kibosh on the whole thing," Sullivan said. "So [Grodner] became apologetic."
According to the police report, "The offender denied scratching the victim's vehicle, but did admit to rubbing past it."
Rubbing past it? I guess it all depends on what the definition of "rubbing" is.
That's where it is now, awaiting another court date, set for Jan. 18, after Sgt. McNulty refused to back off and drop the charges in earlier court appearances.
Lawyers know how to drag things out, with continuance after continuance, stalling until complaining witnesses get tired and move on.
But Marines on their way to war don't seek continuances.
And all Sgt. McNulty wanted was a little respect, and the chance to sell that car of his, without a scratch.
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