WOODSTOCK – Attorneys from either side had different ways of describing the arrest of a Woodstock man during which he said he was beaten by officers, but prosecutors said it could have turned deadly for police.
Jeffrey M. Phen, of 515 1/2 Park Drive, was arrested June 2 stemming from an early morning scuffle with Woodstock Police officers. He was charged with aggravated battery to a police officer and criminal damage to property, both felonies, and resisting a peace officer, a misdemeanor.
He appeared Tuesday before McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather and testified that officers were unprovoked when they repeatedly punched him in the face.
Phen asked the judge for a reduction in his bond, which she granted over a prosecutor's objection.
After his arrest, Phen suffered a cut to his ear and cheek, and two black eyes, and said police denied his medical care. The black eyes and cuts appear light in his booking photo, which was taken at least seven hours after the alleged incident.
Police have said they first stopped 35-year-old Phen for driving without a registration light, which later proved to be working. After that, they believed there was a warrant for his arrest, but testimony showed that officers were mistaken and that there was no outstanding warrant for Phen.
Then they said he was pulled over as a suspicious vehicle for reportedly driving excessively slow in an area near the train station, where there had been criminal damage and drug complaints recently, Assistant State's Attorney Kate Lenhard said.
Phen's testified that arresting officers – who were on bike patrol at the time – began to punch him first, but it was the state's position that the officer began punching only because Phen was holding onto his bike helmet as he attempted to drive away, Lenhard said.
"Simply put, the defendant's story doesn't make sense," Lenhard said, adding that the incident "very easily could have been deadly for the officers."
When asked why he tried to drive away from officers, Phen said: "I was being assaulted by two officers at 2 o'clock in the morning, I was scared. I've never been in a situation like that."
"Mr. Phen had no reason to flee," his attorney Assistant Public Defender Kim Messer said. "The only reason he had to flee … was if he was being assaulted by police officers without reason."
Prather reduced Phen's bond to $20,000, meaning he needs to post $2,000 to be released.