Originally published on Advocate.com July 22 2004 12:00 AM ET
A Chicago judge on Tuesday acquitted Gov. Rod Blagojevich's lesbian sister-in-law of a misdemeanor battery charge for allegedly knocking down a police officer during a rally in support of same-sex marriage. Cook County judge Mark Ballard found Deborah Mell, 35, not guilty after a one-day bench trial, according to county state's attorney spokesman Tom Stanton. Mell, the daughter of a Chicago alderman, was the only person arrested among 300 protesters who rallied outside downtown Cook County offices March 4, demanding that the county clerk issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Police alleged that Deborah Mell lowered her head and shoulders "like a football player" and charged into a female lieutenant, causing the lieutenant to fall down as police were trying to keep demonstrators off the street.
Mell said she testified that she never intentionally charged the lieutenant. "I never knocked her down," Mell said in a telephone interview. "The judge basically said that none of the [witnesses'] stories added up perfectly and said it was chaotic down there, so he couldn't beyond a reasonable doubt find me
guilty." She would have faced up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine if convicted. Stanton said witnesses provided trial testimony, but he gave no details. Mell's public stance on same-sex marriage has put her at odds with Blagojevich, a Democrat. The governor has said he respects Mell's right to express her views but that does not support gay marriage.