Officer Joseph Bonkowski was a former police officer in Justice, Illinois who was indicted and sued for violating the civil rights of a woman he arrested for filming him in 2019. He is no longer employed by the Justice Police Department as of 2020.
Incident Involving Officer Bonkowski and Recording
Officer Bonkowski and his partner Officer Michael McNamara responded to a Justice domestic disturbance on June 13, 2019. Sue Stiegler was recording the cops from across the street. Officer Bonkowski urged Stiegler to cease recording because she was obstructing his investigation. He seized her phone, threw her down, and shackled her. He threatened to arrest her kid, who was recording the scene in a neighboring vehicle. Arrest caused wrist, shoulder, and back injuries to Stiegler. She was acquitted of obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest.
Stiegler’s kid and a passerby filmed the event, which went viral on social media and YouTube. The footage indicated Stiegler was not interfering with the authorities or breaking the law by photographing them. Officer Bonkowski used excessive force and violated Stiegler’s First Amendment right to film public officials in public settings.
Indictment and Charges Against Former Police Officer
A federal grand jury indicted Officers Bonkowski and McNamara on two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law on March 27, 2020. The indictment claimed that the cops arrested Stiegler without probable cause, used excessive force, and retaliated against her for recording. The indictment also claimed the cops faked police records to explain their acts. If convicted, the policemen risked 10 years each count.
The US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois issued a third revised general order for the coronavirus pandemic on April 24, 2020. Jury trials were halted and deadlines extended by 60 days. As of July 10, 2023, the case status and officer trial date are unknown.
Lawsuits and Settlements Related to Officer Bonkowski
Stiegler sued Officer Bonkowski and Officer McNamara in the same court as the indictment on March 27, 2020. The case claimed civil rights damages, legal fees, and expenses. The Village of Justice and its police force were also sued for failing to train, oversee, and punish its personnel.
Stiegler settled with Justice and its police department for $125,000 on June 15, 2020. The defendants denied culpability in the settlement. The settlement did not impact Stiegler’s litigation against Bonkowski and McNamara individually.
Officer Joseph Bonkowski was a former police officer who was involved in a controversial arrest of a woman who was filming him in 2019. He was indicted and sued for violating her civil rights. He is no longer employed by the Justice Police Department as of 2020. His criminal case and civil lawsuit are still pending as of July 10, 2023.