An employee who was convicted of falsely reporting armed gunmen near a mattress store in McHenry during the 2020 civil unrest had his conviction reversed by an appeals court.
Casey F. Purta, 31, of Round Lake Beach, was charged in November 2020 with one count of false alarm or complaint to 911, a Class 4 felony.
A grand jury indictment said Purta knowingly transmitted or caused to be transmitted a call to the police after Purta reported seeing two men carrying assault rifles and walking in public.
He was convicted of the charge following a bench trial that took place in October 2021.
A McHenry County judge sentenced him to 18 months of conditional discharge, 100 hours of public service and ordered him to pay $2,497 in court fines and fees.
During the trial, a manager at Mattress Firm, which is where Purta worked at the time, reported he received a call from Purda on June 1, 2020.
Purta told the manager that he was “frightened” because a couple of vehicles pulled into the parking lot of the McHenry store, parked erratically and two or three subjects got out of the car.
The subjects were armed with a shotgun and another was armed with an AK-47-type assault rifle, Purta allegedly told the manager.
The manager told Purta to lock the front door of the store, seek shelter in the back and call 911. A Mattress Firm manager later called 911 and the McHenry Police Department responded.
Officers searched the area and were unable to locate any armed subjects.
A witness who was in a nearby parking lot at the time but could see the Mattress Firm testified she did not see any armed subjects.
A police officer testified she attempted multiple times to get Purta to come to the police department following the incident to answer follow-up questions about the incident but he did not come.
The officer eventually went to Purta’s workplace days after the incident but Purta did not provide any additional information or answer any follow-up questions.
Purta testified at his trial that he saw two men holding what he thought were assault rifles walking past the store. He said he got a “clear view” of one of them and described him.
Purta also said at trial that he never called the police and did not think there was an emergency or a crime being committed.
Purta appealed his conviction and maintained that his report to his manager about the armed men was not a sufficient basis to convict him of the offense.
The Appellate Court of Illinois Second District reversed Purta’s conviction in late February after finding prosecutors did not prove Purta’s case beyond a reasonable doubt.
The appeals court said prosecutors failed to provide that Purta “knowingly caused” the report of armed men to be transmitted to a public safety agency.