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City Defends Indefensible Red-Light Camera Network At Administrative Hearing

By Chuck Sudo in News on Aug 13, 2014 2:05PM

Photo credit: Joseph R. Palmer
The city’s maligned red-light camera network had another embarrassing revelation this week after a judge said he’s thrown out a majority of red-light camera tickets because of short yellow light transfer times.

Administrative judge Robert A. Sussman said Monday he’s tossed anywhere between 60 to 70 percent of the red light tickets he’s had to rule on recently. The city says it uses state and federal guidelines for yellow lights, where they display for a minimum of three seconds at intersections. Sussman said he’s seen evidence that yellow light display times at intersections with red-light cameras are shorter.

Sussman’s comments came after the city sent four representatives, including three lawyers, to defend five red-light tickets being challenged by video forensic specialist Barnet Fagel, who has made a cottage industry out of helping motorists beat the tickets. Fagel’s expertise and his ability to testify in red-light ticket challenges was questioned by City attorneys during the early moments of Monday’s hearing. Sussman wound up tossing two of the five tickets after Fagel presented video evidence showing the yellow light transfer times were less than three seconds.

Sussman told Mike Brockway of The Expired Meter and DNAInfo Chicago he would continue to toss any red-light ticket with evidence of fast amber light transfer times until the city fixes the problem.

This is the latest black eye to the red-light camera program and comes on the heels of a Tribune investigation that revealed up to 13,000 tickets were issued as a result of sudden spikes in a number of cameras in the network. Both the mayor’s office and City Transportation Department have requested an audit of the program.