Thomas Tansey was possibly being double-teamed and acted in self-defense when he brandished a box cutter that killed Kenneth Paterimos during a fight in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, Cook County Judge Alfredo Maldonado said as he acquitted Tansey on all counts Wednesday.
And other details, previously unknown to the public, were also revealed in Maldonado’s explanation for his ruling, which came after a days-long bench trial.
“The State’s argument was that [Tansey] brought a knife to a fist fight, which is true,” Maldonado said, “except the fist fight was brought to [Tansey] first.”
Tansey and Paterimos started arguing while they were inside Richard’s, 491 North Milwaukee, late on February 21, 2020.
“There was an argument, a fight, altercation was broken up. The bartenders had Mr. Tansey leave the bar,” Maldonado recalled, according to a court transcript. “…There are two exits. There is the Grand Avenue exit and the Milwaukee exit, and that Mr. Tansey was asked to leave the bar, and he went out the Milwaukee exit.”
“Largely, the evidence, the testimony was that Mr. Paterimos was still angry after the fight. He was told to calm down, did calm down, but he was told to leave, if he was going to leave, leave the opposite exit, the opposite one than Mr. Tansey,” Maldonado said.
Instead, Paterimos went out the same door Tansey used.
Tansey “was very intoxicated that evening,” Maldonado said. But two men who were smoking nearby had not had any drinks because they had just left work.
They saw Paterimos hitting Tansey, the judge continued.
“In fact, he got the better of the fat man,” Maldonado said, using the term the witnesses used to describe Tansey, who was much larger than Paterimos and outweighed him by about 100 pounds.
Tansey was on the ground and had his hands up to protect his face when a man named Lee Goss exited the bar and put his arms around Paterimos, who was on top of Tansey and hitting him, according to the judge.
The two men who were smoking could not see exactly what was happening at this point because a row of parked cars blocked their view of the activity unfolding on the sidewalk.
“The three men are on the ground, and then at some point fairly quickly, [Paterimos] pops up” and the two men “saw a large amount of blood just squirt from” him, Maldonado recalled.
Paterimos collapsed in the bar’s doorway and his brother, a trained fighter and football coach, went outside and tackled Tansey, the judge said, citing witness statements.
“Now, the brother is on top of the defendant and hitting the defendant,” said the judge, who concluded that Paterimos’ brother made a “logical inference” that Tansey was responsible for the injuries.
Chicago police recovered a blood-covered box cutter under a car tire near the fight scene, and Maldonado said he believed that was the weapon that caused Paterimos’ fatal wound. Two witnesses said Tansey either flicked the knife toward the car or it was kicked there by a bystander.
Goss “acted quite suspiciously” when police first visited him, Maldonado said. He had injuries on his arm and wrist “consistent with being knife or box cutter wounds,” according to the judge.
And Goss also had a backpack in his apartment that contained another knife and a copy of Paterimos’ résumé, the judge said.
“Then Lee Goss has some strange conversations with the police and doesn’t remember what happened or how he got injured… [Later] Mr. Goss just kind of leaves the picture here, and Mr. Goss is nowhere to be found. “
According to a filing made by Tansey’s lawyers earlier this month, Goss “currently resides in Europe.” The filing also said Goss had “several stab-like wounds” but did not ask to press charges against Tansey.
Maldonado said the evidence presented at trial is “all consistent with Mr. Tansey being the individual who caused Mr. Paterimos’ injuries.”
But the judge said prosecutors failed to show Tansey’s use of force against Paterimos did not qualify as self-defense.
“There was unlawful force that was threatened against Mr. Tansey. Mr. Tansey was not the aggressor. Now, the danger of harm to him was imminent,” Maldonado found.
“The State’s argument was that Mr. Goss was not a suspect but actually he was a good Samaritan. I don’t agree with that. His presence out there is a mystery… [but] I think it becomes a situation where there is now two people out there that are possibly a threat to Mr. Tansey.”
“And with Mr. Tansey, with Mr. Paterimos, and Mr. Goss all on the ground, I do think it was objectively reasonable for Mr. Tansey to have brought out that box cutter,” the judge said.
“What happened out there, it was just a chaotic tragedy, and the fact that Mr. Paterimos is dead is really beyond, you know, it’s beyond words to say the loss that his family and his friends and loved ones feel for him.”
“I agree with the State in how they described that Mr. Paterimos most likely was falling down and his arm was extended and that arm was flailing and that’s how that artery was severed… But it does not undercut the theory that the defense had relied on as far as self-defense.”
Maldonado then found Tansey not guilty on two counts of first-degree murder and released him from custody.