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Lawyer damages Marine’s car

January 14, 2008

by Roz Kohls

This will make you steam. An anti-military lawyer keyed a Marine’s vehicle in Chicago, causing felony-level damage to the Marine’s car. Then, the lawyer tried to file a continuance of the court case past Jan. 2, when the Marine must report to Camp Pendleton before heading to Iraq.

Originally, the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Office said the lawyer is likely to get away with defacing the Marine’s car, because the Marine was about to go to Iraq and wouldn’t be available to appear in court. Also, because the defendant was a lawyer, he will be able to get out of this very easily.

It’s bad enough to get deployed to Iraq the second time. But getting your car damaged because you’re in the military is just too much.

Here is what happened, according to the police report. Marine Sgt. Mike McNulty went to Chicago Dec. 1 to visit a friend. While saying goodbye, because he was on activation orders for a second tour in Iraq, he noticed a man leaning up against his car, and allegedly caught the man keying his car on multiple sides.

After caught in the process, the man allegedly told McNulty, “You think you can do whatever you want with Department of Defense license plates and tags.”

McNulty has Illinois Marine Corps license plates. During the exchange, the lawyer made additional anti-military comments.

The police officer who responded to the incident said the offender’s explanation, statements and responses to his questions were unreasonable.

It turned out the offender was a Chicago lawyer, Jay R. Grodner, who owns a law firm in the city and has offices in the suburbs. No one knows why the man was so hostile to the military.

It’s also a mystery why local officials were so willing to side with Grodner.

The body shop determined there was $2,400 in damage to McNulty’s car, making this a felony. When McNulty went to court to file felony charges, he was told the local prosecutors didn’t have time to pursue felony charges, and that it would be “difficult to recover the damages from the man because he is a lawyer.”

They allegedly tried to coerce McNulty to accept an offer from the lawyer for $100 in what might be auto insurance fraud.

However, when Chicago police officers heard about what happened, they were appalled, and offered to help. So did the Illinois State Attorney General Lisa Madigan. She personally met with McNulty. Several Marines and civilians also showed up in court in support of McNulty.

Grodner “was called before court, and in his absence, the judge issued a warrant for his arrest, effective immediately.” He was late, and “rolled into the courtroom,” right when McNulty was leaving.

“The judge questioned him on his tardiness and he explained that traffic had been busy and he made a wrong turn. The judge chastised him for his tardiness, pathetic excuses, and that he was lucky the warrant had not been executed prior to this arrival,” according to Matthew Burden, a former paratrooper and Army officer, who had offered to help McNulty.

It sounds, though, as if this case will have a happy ending.

“A new and very aggressive state’s attorney general’s office seems to have a genuine interest in pursuing this case to the extent that it warrants,” Burden said.

The lawyer is already in trouble for allegations of forgery, conflict of interest, false billing, and fraud. Maybe this incident will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.