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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

A Christmas Horror Story

CHICAGO (CN) - A man answered pounding on his door at 2:30 a.m. Christmas day with an unloaded gun, only to find police on the other side slapping the cuffs on him, he claims in a federal complaint.

All was quiet as Christmas day dawned on Cook County last year, but Vito Scavelli concedes that some creatures had been stirring in his yard.

With the family having returned from a night out at 1:30 a.m., Scavelli let the dogs out in their fenced-in yard for a few minutes, drew them back inside and went to bed.

Cook County Sheriff's Officer Michael Schaffer arrived about an hour later because someone had called the police to report barking, according to a federal complaint filed Friday.

Scavelli says the dogs had quieted down by the time Schaffer opened his storm screen and began loudly banging on the wooden door with a metal flashlight.

"Disoriented by sleep, the dogs' loud barking, and fearful for his and his family's safety, plaintiff rose quickly and made preparations to defend his home," according to the complaint.

He opened the front door with a dog in one hand, and a registered, unloaded handgun in the other.

Officer Schaffer immediately screamed at Scavelli, "Drop that fucking gun!"

"Plaintiff responded by yelling words to the effect, 'I have a right to defend my house!,' after which plaintiff's dog escaped plaintiff's grasp and exited the home, causing further chaos and disorder.

Scavelli says he did comply with the officer's orders, putting his unloaded, registered handgun on a nearby shelf.

Despite his compliance, however, Schaffer arrested Scavelli for aggravated assault on an officer.

He spent Christmas in jail, and the next two days as well, plus tens of thousands of dollars on attorneys' fees until a multiday trial ended with an acquittal on all charges.

Scavelli seeks punitive damages for false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution.

He is represented by Anthony Masciopinto with Kulwin, Masciopinto & Kulwin.

In addition to Schaffer, the complaint names Cook County and Sheriff Thomas Dart as defendants.

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