She stopped to complain about police lights. Now she's facing DUI charges.

  • Ryann Bambach

    Ryann Bambach

Posted3/10/2023 5:30 AM

Nobody likes bright lights from another vehicle in their face while driving in the dark.

But when those lights are coming from a police vehicle that's pulled over for a traffic stop, you might not want to stop in the middle of the road to complain. Especially if you've been drinking.


Authorities say a Wheeling woman made that mistake last month and wound up behind bars facing a felony driving under the influence charge.

It all went down at about 3:47 a.m. Feb. 26 along northbound Route 12 near State Park Road in Fox Lake, police said.

According to Fox Lake Deputy Police Chief Dawn Deservi, officers were involved in a traffic stop when another vehicle passed by uncomfortably close to an officer's squad car. The driver, later identified as Ryann Bambach, 52, of Wheeling, then maneuvered around, stopped in the roadway and began speaking to the officers.

"She stopped in the middle of the road, rolled down her window and complained of the lights," said Sara Avalos, spokeswoman for the Lake County State's Attorney's Office. "The officers noticed that her speech was a little slurred, so they stopped the vehicle and they performed a field sobriety test on her."

That led to Bambach's arrest on two counts of driving under the influence -- one of them a felony because of prior DUI convictions, Avalos said.

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She appeared in Lake County court the next day, when a judge set her bail at $25,000. She posted the $2,500 cash needed to go free on March 1 and is scheduled to return to court March 20.

Frightened or fake?

A state appeals court has thrown out the conviction of a Round Lake man accused of filing a false police report about armed men outside a business in the days after the death of George Floyd.

Tensions were running high after Floyd's May 25, 2020, killing by Minneapolis police, as a handful of otherwise peaceful protests turned violent, leading to vandalism and looting at businesses in the suburbs and elsewhere.

It was in that environment that Casey Purta, a worker at a Mattress Firm store in McHenry, was told by his boss that he should report anything that made him uneasy.


Hours later, Purta did just that, calling a regional manager for the franchise to say he was "frightened" after seeing three men pull up outside the store and get out of a car with weapons, including what appeared to be a military rifle, court documents show.

The call sparked a chain of events that included a police response and the closing of 100 Mattress Firm stores in the Chicago area.

But more than a month later, after police found no evidence of armed men or witnesses to back Purta's account, he was charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false report. He was tried on the felony charge in 2021, convicted by a judge and sentenced to a form of probation, nearly $2,500 in fines and fees, and 100 hours of community service.

Now, in a ruling handed down late last month, the Second District Appellate Court of Illinois reversed the conviction, ruling that prosecutors failed to prove Purta guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In the decision, justices largely ignored whether Purta did or didn't see armed men, and instead focused on whether he knew reporting that to his boss would lead to a police response.

"It is unreasonable to infer that defendant was consciously aware that it was practically certain that his call to (his boss) would result in someone contacting a public safety agency," Justice Mary Schostok wrote. "Because the state failed to prove that defendant knowingly caused the report of armed men to be transmitted to a public safety agency, we must reverse defendant's conviction."

Purta attorney Jed Stone told us he and his client are very satisfied with the decision.

"The Department of Homeland Security tells us, 'If you see something, say something.' They don't say, 'If you see something, say something, and if we think you're wrong you're going to prison,'" Stone said. "I just don't think this case was very well thought out or well planned by the prosecution."

Kane County has hired mental health counselors to help workers at its Juvenile Justice Center in St. Charles.
  Kane County has hired mental health counselors to help workers at its Juvenile Justice Center in St. Charles. - Jim Fuller | Staff Photographer, 2011
Help for the helpers

Kane County has hired mental health counselors to help court-appointed workers at its Juvenile Justice Center in an effort to reduce its nearly 50% staff turnover.

The contract calls for wellness check-ins, and individual and group debriefings after critical incidents or particularly stressful experiences at the St. Charles facility.

The JJC houses juveniles from Kane and several other counties while they await adjudication in juvenile courts or, in the most serious cases, trial in adult courts. Detainees often come from troubled, abusive or chaotic homes, and have significant emotional and mental-health issues, county officials say.

Staff members not only face crisis situations, but also threats and assault.

"It's important to take care of our staff. They take care of the residents every day and help provide a safe and stable environment for them as they go through the court system and face the consequences of their actions," said Lisa Aust, executive director of court services. "Taking care of our staff's mental health helps them to become more resilient and fosters a positive culture that allows our staff to be in a good place to continue to work with the juveniles."

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