DES MOINES, Iowa -- A Chicago police officer whose assault conviction prompted an outcry among his family, colleagues and even Mayor Richard Daley could be released from prison within days after the Iowa attorney general's office announced Tuesday it will not seek a state Supreme Court review of his case.
Michael Mette's case does not present the kind of clear legal issue that would necessarily lead the Iowa Supreme Court to accept an application for review, Attorney General Tom Miller's office said in a statement.
"While the Attorney General's Office disagrees with the Court of Appeals analysis, it accepts the outcome," the statement said.
Last week, the Iowa Court of Appeals found a district court judge was mistaken in convicting Mette, saying there was not enough evidence the police officer could have retreated from an altercation in Dubuque on Oct. 9, 2005. State prosecutors could have asked the state Supreme Court to review the appeals court ruling to acquit Mette of assault causing serious injury.
Mette's sister, Jennifer Pomatto, shouted with excitement when reached by telephone on Tuesday evening.
"It's great news, now we can have him home," she said, adding that she wants to "just hug him." She also wants him to see her new daughter, his niece, and joked, "then I want him to take his dog back."
Their father, Robert Mette, said there will be hugs and some tears.
"It's about time," he said of his son's release.
Mette's release from prison could move quickly, perhaps within a day or two, the attorney general's office said. First the Supreme Court must issue an order closing the appeal and the Iowa Department of Corrections must complete final processing paperwork.
Mette has spent about a year in a state prison in Rockwell City. The judge who found him guilty sentenced him to five years.
During an interview at the prison last week with The Associated Press, he said he's eager to get back to his family, girlfriend and job.
"I won't feel like a free man until I walk out that gate. It's such a relief to get this over, and the way I've gone through my life, once I'm out of this gate, it's over. This part of it is done, and I go back and hopefully start my life where I stopped it back in 2005," he said.
No one disputes that during the 2005 confrontation Mette punched Jake Gothard, fracturing his nose, cheek and jaw. But Mette's attorney maintained that the police officer only struck back after Gothard followed him from a party and pushed him three times.
Although both men had been drinking, Mette's family and supporters point out that Gothard's blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit to drive. And they note that Mette, in Dubuque to celebrate his brother's 25th birthday, tried to avoid a fight.
Prominent Illinois officials, including Daley, Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine and Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis, called for Mette's release and praised the appeals court decision.
In its ruling, the appeals court found that prosecutors did not meet the burden of proof, and that there was no testimony to support the district court judge's findings.
"After being pushed and knocked backwards two or three times, there was nothing in the record to indicate Michael could have avoided Gothard's next blow, without his defensive punch," the ruling said. "While it may be possible to speculate on Michael's ability to retreat, the record is utterly void of any testimony to support that assumption."
Mette said last week that the first thing he's going to do on his way out of prison is head to nearby Sac City and get a steak.