An already-strange sexual assault case from Lakeview has taken two bizarre turns in court and it’s difficult to say which development is more unsettling.
|Kopacz | Cook County Sheriff|
In October 2016, 52-year-old Joseph Kopacz was charged with entering an apartment in the 3800 block of North Kenmore and attempting to sexually assault a 23-year-old man who lived there. Prosecutors say the victim awoke to find Kopacz, a complete stranger, standing over him, attempting to pull down the victim’s boxer shorts.
The victim, his roommates, and a roofing contractor who was working nearby tackled Kopacz in the victim’s backyard where Kopacz allegedly begged them, “Let me go. I’m a good person. I just have a problem. I’ll go to jail for the rest of my life,” according to prosecutors.
Police say they recovered a phone from Kopacz that contained photos of the Kenmore victim and a number of other young men sleeping as well as a “prostate massager” and lubricant.
The victim and his roommates told police that a strange man had been found in their apartment on previous occasions, but that he had escaped each time.
Kopacz was charged with home invasion, residential burglary, aggravated criminal sexual assault and attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault. His case has been working its way through court ever since.
Cook County Judge Thaddeus Wilson last month ruled that prosecutors will be allowed to tell a jury about a string of similar crimes that Kopacz has allegedly committed since 1990:
• In 2004, a then-23-year-old man who fell asleep on a couch at a friend’s Lakeview home awoke to find Kopacz standing over him with the victim’s pants down and Kopacz fondling him, according to prosecutors. Nobody in the apartment knew Kopacz, who was chased from the home and detained by the victim and his friends. Kopacz was convicted of home invasion and criminal sexual abuse. He served four years of a 90-month sentence, according to court records.
• In February 1992, an Eau Claire, Wisconsin man awoke to find his legs tied together, tape over his mouth, and Kopacz fondling him, prosecutors say. Kopacz fled, then allegedly called the victim to tell him what he had done.
• The next day, another Eau Claire man awoke in his apartment to find Kopacz, a complete stranger, tickling his feet, according to court records.
• In September 1991, a Wisconsin man allegedly awoke to find Kopacz standing over him, asking if he could get into bed with him. Kopacz addressed the victim by name even though the victim had never met Kopacz before, prosecutors say. Kopacz fled but he was later caught and admitted to bringing rope with the intention of tying the victim up, according to prosecutors.
• In July 1990, yet another Eau Claire man woke up to find Kopacz fondling him. The victim and his roommates chased Kopacz and cops later tracked Kopacz down based on a license plate number that the victim gave them, according to Wilson’s order.
Wilson said Wisconsin prosecutors filed six charges against Kopacz, of which he was convicted of two: second-degree sexual assault of a sleeping person and burglary, bringing a sentence of ten-years probation.
Nine days after Wilson gave prosecutors the green light to introduce evidence of previous crimes at trial, Kopacz produced a stunner: He gave prosecutors a computer disc containing a collection of images of the Kenmore victim sleeping in the victim’s home on different dates and in different rooms of the house.
And, Kopacz had another zinger: He claimed that he had been in a consensual relationship with the Kenmore victim for nine or ten months before he was chased out of the home and tackled in the backyard. The defense plans to introduce the disc of images at trial as evidence of the relationship, according to court records.
But the victim denies Kopacz’s claims and the state argued that the disc full of images indicates that Kopacz had been in the victim’s home repeatedly before being caught. Prosecutors filed a motion seeking a court order for Kopacz to surrender the devices he used to take the images of his alleged victim so they may be forensically analyzed to determine the dates and times that the images were taken.
Upon learning of the disc of images, Wilson revoked Kopacz’s bail and ordered him jailed. Last week, though, Wilson reduced Kopacz’s bail to $500,000. Kopacz was released after posting a 10% bond.