After three Schaumburg police officers were arrested and charged with aiding — instead of fighting — the street drug trade, authorities portrayed them as a tight-knit unit working closely together to commit crimes without the knowledge of their superiors.
But now, as their criminal cases make their way through court, it’s clear that it’s every officer for himself.
On Friday, one of the former tactical officers, Terrance O’Brien, pleaded guilty to his role in the alleged drug ring and, as part of the plea deal, agreed to testify against the other two officers, Matthew Hudak and John Cichy.Meanwhile, Cichy’s and Hudak’s lawyers have each requested that their client be tried separately from the other.
O’Brien admitted guilt to possession of a controlled substance, official misconduct, burglary and armed violence. The combined prison sentences added up to 38 years, but with some counts merging and potential good-time credit, O’Brien will likely serve about 12 years, his attorney, Robert Irsuto said.
DuPage County Assistant State’s Attorney Audriana Anderson on Friday repeated to the judge something she had said in January 2013, following O’Brien’s arrest: that he had fallen into a life of crime simply for the thrill.
“It’s a cautionary tale for young and old officers alike,” Irsuto said after the hearing, noting that O’Brien was two years away from retirement when he was arrested.
O’Brien, Hudak and Cichy were tactical officers in Schaumburg’s special investigations division, which handles drugs, gangs and undercover work, when they unwittingly became the target of an undercover probe by outside agencies, including federal authorities.
The investigation of the officers began when a man arrested for drugs told Carol Stream police that the Schaumburg cops had forced him to sell narcotics.
Authorities later planted money and drugs at a Roselle storage locker facility with surveillance cameras set up, and had an informant tip the Schaumburg cops about it. According to authorities, days before the officers’ arrests, Cichy and Hudak broke in and took the cash while O’Brien served as a lookout.
Prosecutors alleged that the trio forced drug informants and dealers to buy and sell drugs on their behalf.
The arrests shook the Schaumburg police department, prompting an outside review and the hiring of a new chief. In the fallout, authorities were forced to drop a number of drug investigations involving the officers, and several people who’d had dealings with the officers filed civil suits against them or the department.
All three officers resigned from the force shortly after their arrests.
In response to O’Brien’s plea, the Schaumburg Police Department issued a statement, reiterating its cooperation with the investigation, and noting that numerous reforms have been implemented.
“This unfortunate chapter is closed and behind us,” the statement said in part. “… The Schaumburg Police Department is a strong and vibrant organization, made up of men and women providing quality, professional service to our residents, business and visitors to our community.”
O’Brien, his attorney said, got “caught up in the (drug) culture.”
“I knew he wanted me to say, ‘Let this be a warning to young and old officers alike — at any time your career can careen off the tracks,’” Irsuto said.
Cichy’s attorney, Jay Fuller, said he has also been in negotiations with prosecutors for a possible plea deal, but the parties have not yet been able to come to terms.
“My client wants to go forward with a trial at this point,” he said.