GENEVA – A former restaurant owner convicted last year of squeezing a waitress’s breast against her will has won a new trial after a judge ruled Monday that he had not been properly apprised of his right to a jury trial.
“Waiver of a jury trial should not be left to presumption,” Kane County Judge Katherine Moran said after a more than two-hour hearing.
Moran had convicted Dimitrios V. Lolis, 54, of St. Charles – who had owned the now-closed The Copper Fox Cafe in St. Charles – in a bench trial last year on a misdemeanor charge of battery. The charge stemmed from an Aug. 20, 2011, complaint alleged by Katy Green, 24, of Geneva, then a waitress at the Copper Fox.
Lolis’ previous attorney, Glenn Sowa, sought a new trial, asserting in court papers it was Moran’s responsibility to admonish Lolis in open court of his right to a jury trial, even though he had signed a waiver of a jury trial and was accepting a bench trial.
The trial was held at the Kane County Branch Court on Randall Road, where there is no court reporter, and hence no record of what is said in open court. The only records are what is filed on paper. Monday’s hearing was held at the courthouse in Geneva. Jury trials are not held at branch court.
Lolis’ new attorney, James Casement, questioned Sowa and Lolis about how he came to sign the waiver of a jury trial.
Both said Sowa gave Lolis a paper to sign that waived his right to a jury trial, and that the lawyer promised he would explain it later. Sowa testified he did not recall if he ever did explain it; Lolis said the attorney did not.
Kane County Assistant State’s Attorney Bianca Camargo argued against a new trial, saying that Lolis, a restaurant owner for 25 years, knew to read papers before he signed them.
“You would never sign anything without reading it,” Camargo said. “And this was dealing with your liberty.”
Casement argued the Constitution allows Lolis to have a jury trial and it can only be waived knowingly in open court.
In ruling for a new trial, Moran said Lolis’s signature on a paper to waive his right to a jury trial was not enough to assume he understood his rights.
Casement said Lolis’ case will start over April 29 at branch court, where it is expected to be transferred to the judicial center.