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Sean Cerami

Other Cook County Exonerations with Official Misconduct
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In the spring of 2011, Terrance O’Brien, a police officer in Schaumburg, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, stopped a car driven by 47-year-old Sean Cerami, who had been paroled after serving a prison term for a narcotics conviction.

O’Brien, according to Cerami, demanded that Cerami give the officer the name of someone who was dealing drugs. When Cerami refused and said he was trying to straighten out his life while on parole, O’Brien threatened to plant drugs on Cerami and send him back to prison unless he cooperated with O’Brien.

Cerami did not provide any names to O’Brien, and they parted ways.

On May 11, 2011, O’Brien and a fellow Schaumburg officer, Matthew Hudak, obtained a search warrant for Cerami’s home. The officers arrested Cerami and filed a report saying they found narcotics. Cerami was charged with possession of a controlled substance.

Cerami claimed the drugs were planted. His defense attorney requested a hearing to challenge the search warrant in an attempt to suppress the evidence. In the warrant, the officers said under oath that a confidential informant had provided them with information that Cerami had drugs in his home. In January 2012, after hearing testimony from the officers, a Cook County Circuit Court judge denied the motion to suppress the evidence.

On February 28, 2012, Cerami, fearing a lengthy prison term if he went to trial, pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

In January 2013, Hudak, O’Brien and another Schaumburg police officer, John Cichy, were indicted on corruption charges alleging they stole drugs and money from drug dealers and then funneled the drugs back onto the street. The investigation of the officers began after nine ounces of cocaine were found in a storage shed in Carol Stream, Illinois, a Chicago suburb near Schaumburg. The investigation led to an informant who told authorities he was selling cocaine that the officers had supplied to him. All three officers immediately resigned.

Hudak pled guilty and was sentenced to 26 years in prison. O'Brien pled guilty and was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Cichy was still awaiting trial in May 2016.

On May 17, 2013, Cerami filed a petition to vacate his guilty plea based on the newly discovered evidence of the officers’ corruption. On July 19, 2013, the petition was granted and Cerami was released from prison. On August 16, 2013, the prosecution dismissed the charge.

Cerami filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Schaumburg police department. In 2016, the lawsuit was settled for $37,501

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 6/8/2016
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2011
Convicted:2012
Exonerated:2013
Sentence:4 years
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:47
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No