St. Clair County prosecutors on Thursday dropped a DUI charge against Fairview Heights Police Sgt. James Krummrich, a day before he was set to go on trial in a case that the presiding judge has described as a veritable "tsunami" of unusual events.
The dismissal was not completely unexpected. Associate Judge Brian Babka rebuffed the prosecution in May by rescinding the suspension of Krummrich's driver's license based on a hearing where he found there was no credible evidence Krummrich was drunk.
"Defendant did not have bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, erratic driving in this case, and no evidence was presented that his demeanor, appearance or behavior was anything but appropriate," Babka stated.
According to Assistant State's Attorney Julie Elliot's motion to dismiss, her office was left with no other option than to drop the DUI charge following a review of the hearing and the police investigation.
"National ethical standards for prosecutors instruct that a criminal charge should only be brought when there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction based on admissible evidence," Elliot stated.
State's Attorney Brendan Kelly declined to comment on the case because Krummrich still faces a traffic citation for improper merging into traffic.
Krummrich, 47, of Fairview Heights, could not be reached for comment. His attorney Gregory Skinner said the prosecution's decision was the correct one based on the evidence and testimony provided at the May hearing.
Babka had sided with the account provided by Collinsville Police Sgt. Charles Mackin at the hearing.
Mackin was with Krummrich when the latter was arrested for drunk-driving on St. Patrick's Day after he was involved in a two-vehicle accident in the 900 block of North Illinois Street. Both officers were off-duty at the time, and no one was seriously hurt in the crash.
Mackin testified that Krummrich was not intoxicated. He also never heard Krummrich refuse a sobriety test, as Belleville police claimed.
"An officer with 22 years of experience, his testimony was unimpeached," Babka stated in his ruling.
Babka wasn't as satisfied with the testimony of Belleville police officers Anthony Branchini and Dusty Kallal, who claimed Krummrich was under the influence of alcohol because he admitted to having a few drinks, had glassy eyes, smelled of alcohol and refused a field sobriety test.
Babka appeared to take credence in a defense accusation that a Belleville police lieutenant who was not at the scene may have ordered Krummrich's arrest.
That officer, Lt. Ron Sprinz, said he asked the officers whether they had probable cause to arrest Krummrich, to which they said yes.
"So I said, 'Then arrest him,'" Sprinz said.
Babka questioned how Branchini could fail to turn over a video to prosecutors that purportedly showed Krummrich refusing to take a field sobriety test. And Babka was baffled by Branchini putting in his report that Krummrich was "fit to drive" even though he had just arrested him for DUI.
Police refuse to release reports
"Wow," was Belleville Police spokesman Don Sax's response after he was told of the DUI charges being dismissed. "I didn't know anything about it."
Sax denied that police were easy on Krummrich, who has multiple connections to the county and the Democratic Party. He is a Caseyville Township Democratic precinct committeeman, his wife works as the county's chief deputy auditor and he is second cousin to St. Clair County Circuit Chief Judge John Baricevic.
"If we were giving him special treatment, he would not have been arrested at all," Sax said.
Sax would not answer several questions about the case, saying he needed to review the case and talk to Chief William Clay. He also reasserted the department's denial of a public records request seeking any reports, videos and other records related to the case because the traffic ticket is pending.
Krummrich returned to full duty last week pending the outcome of the DUI charge, Fairview Heights Police Chief Nick Gailius said. He had been placed on paid leave following his arrest before returning to desk duty in June.
Gailius said his department's internal investigation found Krummrich did not commit any conduct unbecoming an officer.
"We found nothing in our independent investigation to further the case beyond the criminal case," Gailius said. "So we have nothing discipline him for."
Fairview Heights Police have denied a public records request for their internal affairs report. The Illinois Attorney General's office is reviewing their denial.
Gailius confirmed that Krummrich went to a bar after he bonded out the day of his arrest, but said just going to a bar was not a violation of department policy.
Krummrich, a 15-year police veteran, has been a sergeant since 2008 and is paid $86,136 to be a patrol supervisor. He also has been an instructor at the Southwestern Illinois Police Academy.
As for the Belleville police investigation, Gailius said, "It's not my place to judge their actions."
Contact reporter Kevin Bersett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2535. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/KevinBersett