A suburban Chicago cop and his brother’s wife were convicted Thursday of charges stemming from an attack that he started by mocking a man’s headwear in Huntington Beach.
Arthur Edward Roman, 30, of Tinley Park, was convicted of felony assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury and misdemeanor battery. His sister-in-law, Jessica Monique Roman, 30, of Lake Forest, was acquitted of felony assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, but was convicted of misdemeanor assault and battery.
Sentencing is set for April 16.
Roman’s younger brother pleaded guilty Aug. 25 to felony assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury with a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a deadly weapon and misdemeanor battery. Martin Mario Roman, 28, of Lake Forest, was placed on three years of formal probation and ordered to participate in a program overseen by a special court for veterans. His plea deal came over the objections of prosecutors, according to court records.
The attack happened about 4:15 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2016, as Karam Aljarrah and Aseem Dghem were walking down Third Street in Huntington Beach. At a preliminary hearing for the three defendants, Huntington Beach Officer Eric Esparza testified that Arthur Roman started the conflict when he insulted a “straw hat” that one of the victims was wearing as “stupid.”
The Romans were in a red Volkswagen Jetta parked near a 24-Hour Fitness gym at the time. Deputy District Attorney Angela Hong told jurors that the victims were not immediately aware they were the target of the jeers, but “the shouting continued” and one of them replied, “Excuse me, are you talking to us?”
That apparently “aggravated” the elder Roman, who got out of the car to confront the two men, Hong said, and then “his brother Martin had to get out (of the car), and then Martin’s wife, Jessica, had to get out.”
Arthur Roman, who is a police officer in south suburban Chicago’s Oak Forest, pushed one of the men, the prosecutor said.
Dghem pushed back, escalating the fight, with Jessica Roman pushing Dghem down, Hong said.
“Arthur then turned his attention to Karam, who is in a fetal position, trying to protect himself,” she said, telling jurors that a witness riding by on a bicycle heard the shouting and then saw the “Romans get out of the car, and it was on.”
Jessica Roman kicked Aljarrah twice in the head, and her husband whipped out a switchblade and stabbed Aljarrah in the buttocks twice, Hong said.
A witness took a photo of the Jetta’s license plate, allowing police to quickly catch up with the brothers about a half-mile away, Hong said. Jessica Roman got out of the car at some point after they drove off and was arrested on foot nearby.
Jessica Roman’s attorney, Stephen Miller, told jurors it was not a “whodunit” case, but claimed there were “conflicting accounts” of what happened. He said his client tried to stop the conflict, telling her husband and his brother “don’t fight” as they got out of the car.
After the three left the scene of the conflict, Jessica Roman got out of the car to call the friends they had planned to meet that day and was returning to tend to her husband, who was injured in the melee, when she was arrested, Miller said.