Rockford, Illinois News

Charges dropped against Rockford officer accused of battering protester

ROCKFORD — Charges against a Rockford Police officer accused of battering a local protester last year have been dropped, Winnebago County State’s Attorney J. Hanley announced Friday.

Officer Frank Fabiani was accused of battering 22-year-old William “Sage” Gettings during a June 27 traffic stop.

Gettings was initially charged with battery after Fabiani claimed he spat on him and resisted arrest. Days after the incident, former State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross announced that charges against Gettings were being dismissed because dash-cam footage showed that Fabiani was the aggressor. The officer was then charged with misdemeanor battery.

Hanley, who took over for Hite Ross last December, had a different take on the case.

“Applying the facts of the incident to the law, I do not believe that there is sufficient evidence to support a criminal charge against Frank Fabiani,” Hanley wrote in a statement.

According to court records, on June 27, Gettings motioned to Fabiani through his sunroof near East State Street and Alpine Road. Fabiani then followed Gettings and pulled him over at the corner of Turner Street and Dawn Avenue for failing to use a turn signal.

Gettings captured a portion of the stop on video and shared it on Facebook.

“I am being stopped for failure to use a turn signal–apparently twice,” Gettings says, laughingly, shortly after being pulled over. “I didn’t know it was illegal to not use a turn signal.”

Police say as officers were checking his license and registration, Gettings exited his vehicle and disobeyed Fabiani’s commands to get back in. According to the complaint, Gettings became combative, struggled with officers, spat at Fabiani and said, “I’m grabbing your gun.”

Gettings allegedly put his hand on Fabiani’s service weapon and admitted during a recorded conversation with his parents that he attempted to disarm the officer.

“I didn’t get [the gun] out of the strap,” Gettings allegedly said. “It was locked in.”

Hanley said although there is evidence Gettings committed a crime, he does not plan to refile charges.

“He failed to get back into his car, failed to put his hands behind his back, spit on officers, and reached for and grabbed Officer Fabiani’s gun,” Hanley said. Nevertheless, and after much reflection, I have chosen to use my prosecutorial discretion and not reinstate the criminal charges against Gettings.”

Dash-cam footage of the incident will be released Friday.

Gettings took part in several police-brutality protests last summer. After his arrest, approximately 40 demonstrators gathered outside the Winnebago County Jail, holding signs bearing Gettings’ mugshot and chanting, “Free Sage.”

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