A Peoria man pleaded guilty rather than go to trial Wednesday on charges he drove his car at a Creve Coeur police officer two years ago.
In that incident, two officers fired gunshots as Michael Cleary drove away, wounding him in his right hand.
Cleary, 33, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault of a police officer in exchange for dismissal of two other charges, an unrelated charge of fleeing from police and a prosecutor’s promise not to seek more than five years in prison, half of his potential maximum sentence.
He could receive as little as probation when Tazewell County Circuit Judge Steven Kouri sentences him on Feb. 15.
The plea deal was finalized as potential jurors waited outside Kouri’s courtroom for jury selection to begin in the case, which has been pending since September 2015.
State’s Attorney Stewart Umholtz reviewed the officers’ use of their service weapons against Cleary but said he would withhold his findings while the case was pending to avoid potentially prejudicing Cleary’s right to a fair trial.
The officers opened fire on Cleary’s SUV after Cleary “drove at” one of them in the parking lot of the Lucky Break Bar at 636 S. Main St. shortly before 4 a.m. on Sept. 15 according to a prosecutor’s court affidavit.
When the officers responded to reports of a possible fight at the bar, they found Cleary sitting in his vehicle. Another man approached it, opened the front passenger door and then opened a rear door and got in as Cleary began to drive away. One of the officers saw a beer bottle on the console next to Cleary, the affidavit stated.
That officer grabbed the still-open front door and repeatedly ordered Cleary to stop and get out. Cleary looked at but ignored the officer, who had to let go of the door to avoid being dragged, the affidavit stated.
Cleary switched gears and drove at the second officer standing about 15 feet from the vehicle. After he dodged to his right to avoid it, both officers fired shots as Cleary sped from the lot, the affidavit stated.
He struck one car from behind to move it from his path as he drove north on Main toward East Peoria. Cleary then crossed the Murray Baker Bridge and exited onto Glen Oak Avenue in Peoria, where his vehicle overturned and he was arrested.
His past criminal record includes a 14-year prison term in 2007 for aggravated discharge of a firearm in Peoria County. He was paroled in 2013.
Cleary remains free on bond pending his sentencing.
Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin
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