Weber facing federal lawsuit trial

Trial of a lawsuit is pending in federal district court in Rockford against Jo Daviess County State’s Attorney Glen Weber and members of the county sheriff’s department and Galena city police.

The action was brought by Mathew Karberg as the result of an incident in February 2001. Karberg also is suing Galena Stauss Hospital as part of this litigation. A hospital spokesman said the hospital has been dismissed from the lawsuit.

Karberg’s lawsuit alleges the following scenario took place on Feb. 23, 2001, at approximately 3 a.m.

Karberg and his infant daughter were driving on a rural road just outside Galena when they were involved in an accident involving only their vehicle.

Neither Karberg nor his daughter sustained any serious injuries. Deputies took the two to the hospital to be examined.

While at the hospital, the officers repeatedly asked Karberg to give a blood sample for testing for alcohol content. He refused each time. Karberg also refused all treatment by Galena Stauss Hospital.

The lawsuit alleges that early that morning, sometime between 3:50 a.m. and 5:45 a.m., a deputy contacted Weber and told him of Karberg’s refusal to submit to a blood draw. He asked Weber what should be done.

Karberg alleges that Weber told deputies to forcibly restrain him and have the blood drawn. Karberg’s attorney, Joseph Nack, arrived at the hospital around that time. He talked with Karberg and then advised Weber that his client, Karberg, was not a patient at the hospital.

The suit says Weber again instructed officers to get the blood sample by force, if necessary. Attorney Nack told them that would amount to illegal search and seizure. Weber did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Despite that, Karberg says he was restrained and a hospital employee drew the blood sample. The suit states none of the officers ever initiated implied consent procedures according to Illinois law.

Judge Victor Sprengelmeyer on July 9, 2001, suppressed the blood sample taken from Karberg. Judge Sprengelmeyer said: “The forcible extraction of blood from a person is an extreme action, when its sole and only purpose is to gather evidence of a statute violation from that person.

“There ought to be strict compliance with any statute which authorizes such extreme action, Sprengelmeyer continued. Here there was not, as the officer directing the test had not probable cause to believe that the defendant ‘caused the death or personal injury to another’ within the meaning of the statute.”

Karberg alleges his constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments were violated by the officers’ actions. He seeks compensatory damages amounting to $500,000 and asks punitive damages against Weber and the others in the amount of $500,000 plus court costs.

Karberg also asks the court to levy such penalties against the hospital as it shall determine are fair and proper according to the circumstances and the law.

Weber recently drew a strong rebuke from a Justice of the Second District Appellate Court at Elgin for his behavior in some other trials.

One was a case against Nathaniel Slabaugh, who was convicted of mob action, aggravated battery and obstructing a peace officer. Those charges resulted from a bar fight in June 1997.

Slabaugh later appealed his conviction. In handing down its ruling, the appeals court said Weber had improperly impeached a witness during trial. The court added: “In addition to the improper impeachment, the prosecution’s numerous improper arguments deprived defendant of a fair trial. For these reasons, his conviction must be reversed.”

Attorney Dan Cain represented Slabaugh on his appeal. Cain’s brief to the appeals court stated with regard to Weber: “…he made repeated statements that the defense was concocted, that defense witnesses conspired to commit perjury, he repeatedly demanded that the jurors send a message to society by their verdict, appealed to fears of jurors regarding crime and police protection, referred to the defendant as an ‘animal’ and a ‘maniac’ and otherwise made comments designed solely to prejudice the jury against the defendant.”

Cain’s brief said Weber’s arguments in this case “exceeded any reasonable definition of proper argument, were not confined to the evidence, and injected irrelevant and prejudicial matters into the case.”

The court agreed and reversed the conviction and sent the case back to the trial court for a new trial.

Weber did not return phone calls concerning this story.

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