Former NIU police officer Rifkin’s case dismissed

By Felix Sarver

The case against Andrew Rifkin, a former NIU police officer who was accused of sexual assault, was dismissed during a hearing on Tuesday.

In recent weeks, Rifkin’s attorney, Bruce Brandwein, argued the NIU police failed to provide the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office with two key witness statements. The missing witness statements, according to a motion filed by the defense, are from two people who claim the actions between Rifkin and the alleged victim were consensual and no assault had taken place.

On Nov. 2, Judge Robbin Stuckert said there was a clear case of purposefully hiding information from the defense.

NIU Police Lt. Kartik Ramakrishnan said he mistakenly placed the witness statements in the wrong folder and did not notice the mistake until called upon by the state’s attorney’s office. As a result of Stuckert’s Nov. 2 finding, Ramakrishnan has been notified he will be discharged and NIU Police Chief Donald Grady has been put on paid administrative leave.

In a Nov. 9 court hearing, Stuckert dismissed Brandwein’s request for Rifkin’s case to be dropped in light of the NIU police mishandling evidence in the case.

However, at a court hearing on Tuesday, Stuckert dismissed the case after Clay Campbell, DeKalb County state’s attorney, and Brandwein recommended the charges be dropped after hearing testimony from two NIU employees.

Haider Thahab, an Information Technology (IT) specialist for the NIU Police Department, testified he met with Grady at 10 p.m. on Nov. 9 to help transfer personal data from Grady’s laptop to his flash drive.

Thahab said he moved about 60 to 70 files from Grady’s laptop onto a flash drive and handed the flash drive to Grady. He said he didn’t know the contents of the files with the exception of one for Grady’s book, The Injustice of Justice.

Thahab also said he met with Ramakrishnan at around 8 a.m. on Nov. 11 at the NIU Police Department. Ramakrishnan wanted his help accessing his computer, Thahab said.

“I think he mentioned he wanted a copy of his personal data,” Thahab said.

Thahab sought approval of this from acting NIU Police Chief Darren Mitchell, who denied the request. Thahab said he didn’t know Ramakrishnan was barred from entering the Police Department at the time.

Brandwein made an emergency order on Nov. 15 for Grady’s and Ramakrishnan’s computers to not to be tampered with. Stuckert approved of the order, and the order was delivered to the NIU Police Department on the same day.

Brandwein said he filed the order because he was afraid information related to the Rifkin case might be deleted.

Jim Fatz, director of Information Security and Operations, also testified in court on Tuesday. He said on Nov. 12 he met with Thahab and Bill Nicklas, acting director of Public Safety. Fatz said he heard from Thahab that Grady wanted a copy of his personal information from his laptop. Thahab had also talked with Fatz on the status of Ramakrishnan’s computer. Fatz said he didn’t know the contents of Ramakrishnan’s hard drive, but a copy of it was made and sent to the Illinois State Police (ISP).

After the testimony, Brandwein said he believed evidence of an exculpatory nature was still missing. He said he found it ironic Thahab was meeting with Grady and Ramakrishnan on the day the court ordered police to sign affidavits on the evidence they submitted.

“I believe that a forensic examination of the computers, judge, either through the state police or the university is in order at this point,” Brandwein said.

Brandwein said if the case was not going to be dismissed by the prosecution then he would like to know if something was deleted on Grady’s and Ramakrishnan’s computers. If something was deleted, he said he would like to know what it was, he said.

Campbell said he personally requested the ISP conduct an investigation into the NIU Police Department’s handling of the case.

“I’m completely appalled at the complete disregard of the Supreme Court’s mandate Brady v. Maryland,” Campbell said.

He said as a state’s attorney he could not continue to put Rifkin’s liberty at jeopardy, considering the lack of integrity from the NIU police’s investigation.