By Don Babwin
CHICAGO — An off-duty Chicago police officer convicted of pummeling a female bartender half his size was sentenced Tuesday to two years probation and anger management classes for the videotaped attack that appeared worldwide on the Internet and cable news channels.
Cook County Circuit Judge John Fleming also gave Anthony Abbate, 40, a home curfew of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. and ordered him to perform 130 hours of community service.
"No one in recent memory ... has done more to tarnish the reputation of the Chicago Police Department than Anthony Abbate," Cook County Assistant State's Attorney LuAnn Snow said Tuesday.
Prosecutors had asked for prison for Abbate - he could have been sentenced to up to five years behind bars - but the judge said he didn't see aggravating factors to justify a prison term. The judge said Abbate had a clean record before the incident, did not seriously injure the bartender, and underwent alcohol rehab "and has not had a relapse."
"If I believed sentencing Anthony Abbate to prison would stop people from getting drunk and hitting people, I'd give him the maximum sentence," Fleming said.
Earlier this month, the judge rejected Abbate's claim he acted in self-defense and convicted him of aggravated battery. A tavern security video shows a drunken, 250-pound Abbate punching and kicking the 125-pound Karolina Obrycka as she tended bar in February 2007. The altercation happened after she refused to serve him more drinks.
The video captured a lot of attention as another example of misconduct by Chicago police. Then-Superintendent Phil Cline suddenly announced his retirement shortly after the video surfaced and former FBI official Jody Weis was appointed to the spot with an order to clean up the department's image.
Abbate acknowledged during the trial that he was drunk during the incident. But he said Obrycka pushed him first as she tried to remove him from behind the bar. Obrycka said during the hearing that she continues to suffer psychological wounds, often has nightmares and has trouble trusting people, including her husband.
Prosecutors and Obrycka said they were disappointed with the sentence. Her attorney, Terry Ekl, said he expected the lawsuit Obrycka filed against Abbate and city to go to trial this year.
Abbate declined comment as he walked out of the courtroom holding his girlfriend's hand.
"He's not a bad man, he did something bad," said his defense attorney, Peter Hickey. He characterized the incident at "one silly, stupid act."
Abbate has been relieved of his duties and pay, Chicago Police Department spokesman Officer Robert Perez said.
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The department is looking into "separation proceedings," Perez said. Weis has said he wants Abbate fired.