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Local News

Prosecutors plan to retry former Joliet councilman's DUI case after mistrial

Jim McFarland.
Jim McFarland.

JOLIET – County prosecutors plan to retry a former Joliet city councilman’s driving under the influence case.

The prosecution of former City Councilman Jim McFarland ended in a mistrial Wednesday. Jurors deliberated for nearly five hours, but were unable to reach a verdict. A pretrial date was set for Nov. 3.

“We are moving forward with plans to try this case once again,” said Charles B. Pelkie, Will County State’s Attorney’s Office.

When asked about the outcome of Wednesday’s trial, McFarland’s attorney, George Lenard, said all he knew was that the jury couldn’t reach a verdict.

Attempts to reach McFarland were unsuccessful Thursday.

McFarland was arrested on July 10, 2016, on Interstate 80 in the New Lenox area. He was charged with driving under the influence, improper lane usage and driving between 15 to 20 mph over the speed limit. He refused to submit to breathalyzer testing.

Jurors heard arguments from prosecutors Amanda Tasker and Jaclyn Sopcic, as well as Lenard about the case. They also heard testimony from State Trooper Brian Apostal, who performed the field sobriety test, viewed a video of the traffic stop and requested to watch it again during deliberations.

Apostal alleged in his testimony McFarland showed physical signs of being under the influence and performed poorly in field sobriety tests.

After he pulled McFarland over, Apostal said, McFarland claimed he had not been drinking but later said he had three drinks. When asked for his driver’s license and insurance, McFarland produced a Joliet city identification card, Apostal said.

Lenard argued that the case was a “perfect example of reasonable doubt” because it involved two lawyers giving their “spin on the facts.” He noted that an intern who was with Apostal and a second Trooper who assisted in McFarland’s arrest were not called to testify.

Lenard also noted all the ways McFarland drove well in the video shown to jurors, including how he “parked perfectly” when he pulled over to the shoulder of the road.

However, prosecutors argued McFarland pulling over before Apostal turned on his emergency lights was one of several indicators of “consciousness of guilt.”

Lenard argued that McFarland not performing perfectly on field sobriety tests was not an indicator of guilt or that traffic violations meant he was driving under the influence.

Sopcic attested to how field sobriety tests are used nationally and standardized, as well as Apostal’s experience with making DUI arrests, of which he testified he made between 80 to 100 during his career.

McFarland resigned from Joliet City Council roughly three months after he was arrested on the DUI charge. He said at the time he resigned because his family was moving out of town.

In his resignation letter, McFarland listed 15 accomplishments, including the adoption of the “Cupcake Law” to allow home baking for profit, creating and passing a “local purchasing” ordinance to stimulate the local economy, and initiating a citywide testing program for fire hydrants.

McFarland ran into trouble in the past when he crashed into a parked truck in 2008 and was investigated for his use of city envelopes and county postage for mailings considered political.

At the time of the 2008 car crash, he said he swerved to avoid an oncoming van and hit the truck. He was cited for improper lane usage.

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