By Frank Main, Eric Herman and Lisa donovan
The Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago off-duty officer accused of beating up female bartender
CHICAGO, Ill. - He wanted one more drink.
And when Karolina the bartender refused, the off-duty Chicago cop punched and kicked the 115-pound woman in a sickening display of violence caught on videotape, prosecutors say.
"Nobody tells me what to do," the 25-year-old bartender recalled Officer Anthony G. Abbate telling her before the attack at Jesse's Shortstop Inn at 5425 W. Belmont on Feb. 19.
Video of the vicious beating was played on newscasts across the nation Wednesday as Abbate, 38, dressed in an orange Bears sweat shirt, appeared in court on an aggravated battery charge.
Abbate — the son of a retired Chicago cop — also is suspected of trying to bribe and threaten Karolina to keep her quiet, sources said. A friend of Abbate allegedly warned the owner of Jesse's that police might find drugs in his car and Karolina's car if they spoke to authorities about the beating, sources said.
"Another individual came in moments after the attack and attempted to offer the victim money in order for her not to prosecute the defendant," Assistant Cook County State's Attorney David Navarro said in court.
Still, Karolina reported the crime to police two days after the attack, authorities said.
Freed on 10% of $70,000 bail
Abbate was not arrested until March 14 — almost a month after the attack — because he checked in to a substance abuse program at Resurrection Medical Center and police did not have access to him, sources said. He was charged with misdemeanor battery and released.
Tuesday, prosecutors upgraded the charge to a felony and arrested Abbate at his Northwest Side home. Internal Affairs investigators are looking into whether officers improperly failed to handcuff Abbate during his arrest, sources said.
Prosecutors urged Judge Raymond Myles to set bond at no less than $100,000 because of the "savage nature of the attack," but the judge ordered Abbate held in lieu of $70,000 bail and ordered him to surrender his guns. Abbate, a 12-year veteran in the Foster District, was freed after posting 10 percent.
The beating was captured on a surveillance camera the bar owner installed just four days earlier, said Terry Ekl, an attorney for Karolina, who did not want her last name used.
"It was absolutely reprehensible what he did," Ekl said. "This is the kind of guy walking the streets of Chicago with a badge and gun?"
On Feb. 19, Abbate drank at the bar earlier in the day before Karolina showed up for work, Ekl said.
He came back and ordered a drink from her about 9:30 p.m. Then he ordered another, but Abbate appeared drunk and Karolina refused to serve him, Ekl said.
Soon after, Abbate grew increasingly obnoxious and got into a fight with a customer, Navarro said. "He placed the customer in a headlock and punched him repeatedly," the prosecutor said.
Karolina interceded to stop the fight. Moments later, Abbate "grabbed her and threw her savagely to the ground. . . . He began to punch her again and again and again," Navarro said.
Abbate is 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds. Karolina is 5-foot-4 and 115 pounds.
Other men in the bar watched passively as Abbate kicked Karolina, grabbed her hair, slammed her against the bar, threw her on the floor and punched her repeatedly as she tried to get up, the videotape shows. One man appeared to make a cell phone call.
'Train wreck waiting to happen'
Karolina suffered bruises on her arms, shoulders, legs and head. She is suffering headaches and nausea because of her injuries, said Ekl, who plans to file a lawsuit in the next few weeks.
Karolina said the attack felt like it lasted 15 minutes — even though the video shows it lasted about half a minute.
"She wasn't thinking about the fact that nobody was coming to my assistance," Ekl said. "She was just trying to protect herself."
Karolina, a Polish immigrant with a 16-month-old son and a husband who works construction, bartended at Jesse's Shortstop Inn for about three months and held a second job at another bar. Patrons knew Abbate was a cop, but Karolina didn't until after the beating, Ekl said.
On Wednesday night, as patrons watched the video on TV news of Abbate's arrest, they fell silent, and one exclaimed, "I can't believe this. It happened right here!"
Abbate liked to drink pints of beer with a shot. He often griped about the volume of the TV — more vocally the more he drank, patrons said.
One man said he told Abbate to relax during one of his rants about the volume on July Fourth last year. Abbate pulled out his badge and said, "You're not old enough to be in here" and threw a plastic bowl of pretzels at him, said the man, who said he feared giving his name.
Howard Zmijewski, who grew up in the neighborhood but lives in Cicero, recalls Abbate shoving a homeless man who came into the bar looking for bus change. Abbate berated him, Zmijewski said.
A patron named Michael defended Abbate: "Look, he's a good kid, a good guy." But Michael was shouted down by others, including one man who called Abbate a "train wreck waiting to happen."
Abbate graduated from Gordon Tech and earned a bachelor's degree from Northeastern Illinois University, said his attorney, Will Fahy. "He has never been suspended or disciplined by the Chicago Police Department," Fahy said.
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