Judge tosses charge against fired Will County sheriff’s deputy, but it’s not over

Andrew Schwartz

Joliet court — A judge dismissed a charge against a fired Will County sheriff’s deputy that accused him of aggravated reckless driving that ended in a crash with a driver he was chasing. But the prosecutor said he would refile the charges.

The chase and crash in Joliet last year injured several people, including two minors.

Judge Dave Carlson delivered his ruling on Monday following a motion from Jeff Tomczak, attorney for Andrew Schwartz, 38, that contended Special Prosecutor Bill Elward committed prosecutorial misconduct by misleading the grand jury that indicted Schwartz on a charge of aggravated reckless driving.

Elward told Carlson he will refile charges against Schwartz.

The indictment alleged Schwartz, while off duty, chased after another driver, George Kou-Kou, 21, of Plainfield, on April 4, 2021, across Joliet following an altercation between both drivers.

The scene of a two-vehicle crash on Sunday, April 4, 2021, on Plainfield Road in Joliet

The chase resulted in Kou-Kou crashing his vehicle into another vehicle on Plainfield Road, according to Joliet police. Philip Juarez, his wife and their two children, were inside the vehicle that Kou-Kou crashed into and they were hospitalized for serious injuries.

Kou-Kou remains charged with aggravated reckless driving in the incident.

George Kou-Kou

Schwartz was fired by Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley on April 21 after an internal investigation of Schwartz’s actions during the chase.

Carlson said he had concerns about what he read in the transcript of the grand jury proceedings.

“The record is replete with statements from a witness that included assumptions,” Carlson said.

Carlson said he didn’t believe Elward did anything wrong but he was going to grant Tomczak’s motion.

On May 16, Tomczak argued the grand jury should have been told what “recklessness” means as defined under state law. He said nothing in the grand jury transcript showed Schwartz’s actions were reckless by disregarding the safety of others.

Tomczak said the grand jury should have been told that Schwartz had a right to pursue someone who commits a crime against him and also make a citizen’s arrest. He said a person in Kou-Kou’s vehicle tossed liquid into his vehicle, hit Schwartz’s vehicle and then took off.

“He had the right to pursue,” Tomczak said.

Tomczak said Schwartz also saved Kou-Kou’s life by rescuing him from his burning vehicle, following the crash on Plainfield Road.

Elward said prosecutors do not have to present exculpatory information in grand jury proceedings because that would turn those proceedings into preliminary trials.

Elward said there is no case in the U.S. that allows a person like Schwartz to engage in a high-speed chase for over 10 miles into oncoming lanes of traffic, following a fender bender.

Elward said Tomczak accusing him of prosecutorial misconduct “rises above advocacy” and amounted to an attack on him.

“This isn’t a citizen’s arrest,” Elward said of the Schwartz case.