Ex-cop who pinned suspected bike thief sues Kim Foxx and other officials for wrongful prosecution

A frame from the viral video shows Michael Vitellaro pinning “J.N.” Kim Foxx is inset. (Twitter, YouTube)

CHICAGO — A former Chicago police sergeant is suing Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and other officials for wrongful prosecution, saying they ignored the law and caved to public pressure by criminally charging him with detaining a teenager who was with his son’s recently stolen bike.

Michael Vitellaro was found not guilty on all charges during a bench trial one year ago.

Vitellaro’s lawsuit claims he was off-duty when he drove to Park Ridge on July 1, 2022, to help his son, whose bike had been stolen from outside the town library. The two reported the bike stolen to Park Ridge police and proceeded to drive through the city, looking for the bike, according to the complaint. 

They found and saw a 14-year-old identified only as J.N. “take possession and control” of the bike, the lawsuit states. At that point, Vitellaro moved in, announced his position as a police officer, detained the boy, and called Park Ridge police, according to the suit.

Several Park Ridge cops responded. They gathered information but did not make any arrests pending further investigation.

But a video showing Vitellaro pinning the 14-year-old went viral, and officials started to feel the heat.

“Many hundreds of symbolic orange colored ribbons were placed on village trees and other locations throughout the Village of Park Ridge in support of a ‘paint the town orange’ campaign demanding that Michael Vitellaro be arrested,” the lawsuit states. 

“Scores” of community members appeared at Park Ridge Village Board Meetings, “all proclaiming their anger at the Park Ridge Police Department for having failed to arrest and charge Michael Vitellaro,” said the lawsuit.

Ultimately, Park Ridge officials and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office caved to the pressure, even though they knew that Vitellaro acted within his authority as a law enforcement officer to detain someone suspected of committing a crime, the suit contends. The alleged crime in this case was possession of stolen property.

Vitellaro accuses then-Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski of proceeding with criminal charges, even though he was aware of evidence that was favorable to Vitellaro.

The suit accuses Assistant State’s Attorney Lynn McCarthy of being “deliberately indifferent” to Vitellaro’s rights by failing to terminate the criminal case when she knew he was “authorized to perform the acts for which he was criminally charged.”

The suit claims that McCarthy, Kaminski, and the City of Park Ridge initiated the charges “for the improper purpose of satisfying the desires of the community” despite the lack of probable cause for Vitellaro’s arrest.

Vitellaro, seeking judgment in excess of $75,000, alleges malicious prosecution, deprivation of liberty without probable cause, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

The parents of “J.N.” sued Vitellaro less than two weeks after he was acquitted.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated Vitellaro resigned in May 2023. In fact, it was Kaminski, the former Park Ridge police chief, who retired at that time.

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About Tim Hecke 374 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