When New Orleans lawyer Richard V. “Rick” Kohnke and his two sons showed up at Soldier Field to cheer for the Saints against the Bears on Dec. 15, their 40-yard-line, club-level seats were occupied by Chicago fans, he said.
But thousands of other seats were unoccupied that rainy Monday night, so Kohnke said he and his sons moved to a nearby empty row, where they watched the game in peace until after halftime.
Then, in the third quarter, a man appeared and asked to see Kohnke’s tickets. Not realizing he was speaking to the chairman of the Bears’ organization and the owner of those seats, Kohnke replied by asking to see the man’s tickets.
Before Kohnke was ejected from Soldier Field that night, he shoved George Halas McCaskey, according to Chicago authorities. A judge on Tuesday found Kohnke guilty of misdemeanor battery by insulting or provoking after a brief bench trial and sentenced him to six months of court supervision.
Kohnke, 58, said afterward that he was disappointed by — but could understand — the decision handed down by Cook County Judge Anthony Calabrese, which would allow the New Orleanian to eventually take the conviction off his record.
Kohnke added that he was glad the ordeal was over and he could finally set the record straight on an incident he insisted was totally different from what has been reported in the media.
It was around the time the Bears had fallen behind 21-0 in a game they would lose 31-15 that McCaskey, now 59, confronted Kohnke and his sons and essentially told them they were in his seats, the New Orleanian recalled.
Kohnke said he was annoyed because there were thousands of empty seats around them, noting that he and his sons were there only because the places they had purchased months earlier had been taken by Bears fans.
Kohnke and Chicago authorities differ on what happened next.
Kohnke said he and his sons relocated to watch the rest of the game after being informed by fellow football fans that he was arguing with someone of importance — McCaskey is the son of the Bears’ owner and the grandson of the team’s founder — and he should avoid a confrontation.
Eventually, Kohnke said, he went to use the restroom and realized he didn’t have his cellphone on him. He returned to the seats where he and his sons had watched most of the game to look for his phone and was leaving when McCaskey followed him out to the club-level concourse, Kohnke said.
On the concourse, McCaskey “jumped in front of me to impede my progress,” Kohnke said. “He’s almost stepping on my toes. ... It was a real creepy act.”
Kohnke said he shoved McCaskey away in “a defensive move.” He said McCaskey stumbled back but didn’t fall to the ground, as media outlets in Chicago reported.
Meanwhile, a Bears fan immediately tackled Kohnke, he said. He was arrested and ejected; he later discovered one of his sons had his phone the entire time.
“These are all facts supported by testimony,” said Kohnke, who was represented in court by Chicago lawyer Mike Goggin.
On the other hand, a Chicago Police Department report alleges that when stadium security arrived to escort Kohnke out of Soldier Field, he “became verbally and physically combative toward (McCaskey), pushing his body against and into victim’s body twice.”
The report continues, “(McCaskey) attempted to walk away from (Kohnke), at which point (Kohnke) pushed/struck victim in the back with both open hands.”
McCaskey did not require medical attention.
“The judge chose to buy the prosecution’s story — that’s it,” Kohnke said. “The judge thought I should’ve found an usher” to resolve the dispute.
Calabrese ordered Kohnke to stay away from Soldier Field and not contact McCaskey.
Kohnke said he has no intention of returning to the Chicago stadium.
Both the Bears and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the outcome of the trial.