DUI lawyer for Ditka sons faces own legal fight
Robert Ritacca (Gurnee Police Department photo)
Attorney Robert Ritacca, 62, of Wadsworth, was pulled over in Gurnee at about 11:15 a.m. Sunday, Police Commander Jay Patrick said.
Ritacca had been found not guilty of a drunken driving charge filed against him in Highland Park on Oct. 27, according to court records. But despite being ultimately cleared of the DUI, Ritacca lost his driver’s license for a year because he declined to take a breathalyzer or field sobriety test.
Ritacca denied he’d been drinking. He said he refused the tests because he was feeling effects of a medical condition from which he suffers called cerebral vasculitis, which has caused him to become “disoriented and lose focus.”
The attorney did have a permit enabling him to drive if he had a breath alcohol ignition interlock device, or BAAID, installed in his vehicle, Patrick said. The BAAID device was not installed in Ritacca’s 2005 Corvette at the time of his arrest, Patrick said.
Ritacca said the Corvette had been in his garage for the past five months because it “doesn’t do good in the snow.” He said he took it out Sunday to get gas, and said that he had an appointment Wednesday to have the BAAID installed.
After being stopped, Ritacca was taken to the Gurnee police station, where he said he was handcuffed to a desk until 3:30 p.m.
“They wouldn’t let me talk to anybody and wouldn’t give me anything to drink,” he said.
Ritacca also said he was “strip searched” and “patted down” five times.
Patrick said Ritacca was cuffed with one wrist to a ring on the booking desk for brief periods during booking but was also given the option of waiting in a cell, which he said Ritacca declined. Patrick said Ritacca was given “at least two, possibly three phone calls” while in custody.
“I believe his claim of being patted down five times and being strip searched is inaccurate. The entire process was video recorded,” Patrick said via email.
According to Patrick, Ritacca was also charged with failure to show valid insurance. His vehicle was impounded under a local ordinance which allows police to seize any vehicles that are driven by someone with a suspended or revoked license, Patrick said.
When charged with the DUI in Highland Park, Ritacca was also charged with aggravated assault of a police officer and resisting a police officer, according to court records. Both charges were later dropped by prosecutors.
Ritacca claims that after declining the sobriety testing, he was taken to the Highland Park station, where an officer “twisted my arm back and I pulled it back.”
Highland Park police referred questions to the police chief, who did not return a call seeking comment.
The Lake County State’s Attorney’s office sent the case to McHenry County because of the potential conflict of interest since Ritacca tries cases in Lake County, Ritacca said. He was found not guilty of the DUI and the other charges were dropped.
Ritacca is due in court on April 11 on the current charges.
He represented Mark Ditka when the son of the former Bears coach pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI in January. Ritacca was also the lawyer for Mark Ditka’s brother, Michael P. Ditka, when a felony DUI case was dropped against him in early 2012.