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Crime & Courts

NIU police sergeants defend department on eve of court ruling

Judge: Jurors will hear about withheld information in Rifkin caseNicklas named acting NIU Police head

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University officials called police sergeants' statements publicly defending their lieutenant inappropriate just hours before an expected circuit court ruling on police mishandling of two witness statements in a rape case.

Judge Robbin Stuckert ruled last week that NIU police intentionally withheld witness statements favorable to Andrew Rifkin, a former NIU police officer accused of raping a college student off campus. Rifkin’s attorney asked Stuckert to dismiss the sexual assault charge against the 24-year-old Northbrook man, who was fired Oct. 28, 2011, the same day the victim reported the incident to NIU police.

Lt. Kartik Ramakrishnan has said he mistakenly placed two witness statements in Rifkin’s personnel file, rather than giving them to prosecutors. Those witness statements show the victim told other NIU students that she had an ongoing consensual sexual relationship with Rifkin.

NIU officials themselves issued a statement Friday morning calling the sergeants' comments inappropriate.

"If anyone should respect the law and the judiciary, it should be law enforcement," the statement read. "Comment related to matters before the Court are not only inappropriate generally but especially when raised by law enforcement officials without authorization and without justification."

In their statement, NIU’s 13 police sergeants said Ramakrishnan passed a polygraph test asserting that the incident was a mistake and that he did not intentionally hide evidence.

The sergeants also said that Ramakrishnan and Chief Don Grady have “incontrovertible integrity and commitment” and that DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell used the case for political gain.

“It was an unfortunate but unintentional oversight,” the sergeants said in the statement, which was emailed to the Daily Chronicle by Sgt. Alan Smith. “This oversight is entirely inconsistent with the high standards set by this agency. Lt. Ramakrishnan’s inaction was unintentional. He made a mistake and accepts responsibility for failing to provide the statements in a timely manner.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Illinois State Police said Campbell has not formally asked the agency to investigate Grady and his department. Campbell announced he had requested such an investigation Monday, the day before he lost his re-election bid.

Efforts to reach Campbell for comment Thursday afternoon were not successful.

“Based on [Ramakrishnan’s] mistake, Clay Campbell chose to further his own political agenda by casting aspersions on the integrity of the NIU Chief of Police and the entire NIU Department of Police and Public Safety,” the NIU sergeants’ statement read.

Smith said the department’s sergeants met after-hours to discuss their response to media coverage of Rifkin’s case. They circulated the draft among themselves and decided to issue it as a collective statement, Smith said.

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