Man spent 20 hours in jail after alderman signed a criminal complaint without reading it (body cam video)

Ald. Brendan Reilly (left) prepares to shake hands with the first Chicago police officer at the scene. The video was blurred by CPD before releasing it to CWBChicago. | Chicago Police Department

CHICAGO — Newly-acquired Chicago police body camera video shows an Albany Park man being arrested for battering a Chicago alderman at a River North bar, even though the alderman says that’s not what happened.

Ulises Ortiz, 33, of Albany Park, spent 20 hours in police custody after Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) signed complaints against him outside Boss Bar, 420 North Clark, on October 7.

The CPD arrest report and criminal complaint in the case court file identify Reilly as the victim who was struck with a belt during a dispute over a game of pool.

“A city alderman was struck in the face and refused medical attention on the scene,” said a preliminary notification to CPD’s Crime Prevention and Information Center shortly after Ortiz’s arrest. “It is not believed the alderman was targeted due to the alderman’s position with the city.”

Reilly has consistently denied that he was battered since we first asked him about the incident two months ago. He called the allegations made in the police report and criminal complaint “totally inaccurate.”

So, we requested CPD body cam footage from the incident on October 13. But the police department failed to provide it—a violation of the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Yesterday, after we asked the Illinois attorney general’s office to intervene, CPD delivered the videos.

Around 9:45 p.m., a Chicago police officer stationed near Boss Bar got out of his squad car and walked across the street because someone had Ortiz pinned in Hubbard Street.

In the video, a man says Ortiz hit “security” with something.

Another says, “He hit Jose with a belt.”

A third person who walks up to the officer mentions the alderman, but the full conversation cannot be understood.

After receiving confirmation that someone wanted to sign complaints, the officer puts Ortiz in the back of his squad car.

Less than a minute later, Reilly and another man walk across Clark Street to speak with the cop. Here’s what happened:

“Hey, alderman,” the officer says.

“It’s a felony, by the way, and, uh, I’ll sign it,” Reilly begins, shaking the cop’s hand.

“No problem,” replies the cop.

“So what do I gotta do?” asks Reilly.

As a backup officer arrives, the first cop briefs him: “He threw a belt at the alderman. He wants to sign a complaint…”

“How are ya?” Reilly asks the backup officer, extending his hand for a shake.

“I’ll show up to court, too,” Reilly says moments later, as he signs two complaint forms against Ortiz.

Asked about the situation on Thursday, Reilly said he signed the complaints without reading them.

“I signed the report having not read it,” the alderman said today. “I signed it quickly because the guy was belligerent, violent and needed to be removed from the neighborhood so he wouldn’t try to hurt anyone else.”

He added that he learned “after the fact” that there were “a few inaccuracies” in Ortiz’s arrest report and the criminal complaint.

“Like the claim the incident stemmed from a dispute over a pool game (I don’t play pool) and getting hit with a belt—I wasn’t hit with a belt. He tried to hit the bar manager and security staff with his belt—not me—the offender said he was going to kill me and tried to punch me but didn’t connect,” Reilly explained.

Police records show CPD officers pursued the matter as a felony charge of aggravated battery in a public place. Ortiz remained in police custody for 20 hours as investigators tried to contact Reilly, according to the arrest report.

At 5 p.m. the next day, some 19 hours after Ortiz was arrested, a detective determined that they could not pursue felony charges because they could not get in touch with the alderman, the report said. Ortiz, who had never been arrested before, was released about an hour later, charged only with a misdemeanor.

His first court date is slated for December 20. We’ll let you know how it goes.

Reilly, 51, was battered by a man outside Boss Bar in February 2021. He did not immediately file a police report, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot “instructed police to investigate” after the press picked up the story, Block Club Chicago reported.

“These guys came out of the middle of the street, out of Hubbard Street and were yelling unintelligibly,” Reilly said at the time, according to the Block Club report. “I had no idea what they were trying to say, I was trying to hear what they were saying. I said ‘What are you saying’ and kind of walked away because it looked like they were getting aggressive.”

Police later determined that only one person was involved in the 2021 attack, a CPD spokesperson said at the time.

Antonio Palazzi, 35, turned himself in to police more than a month later to face a misdemeanor battery charge. He pleaded guilty in December 2021 and received a sentence of six months of court supervision, according to court records.

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About Tim Hecke 326 Articles
Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is tim@cwbchicago.com