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Judge finds Mount Prospect man unable to comprehend actions — and not guilty — in fast food break-in

A Mount Prospect man made international news in September following his arrest for climbing through the drive-up window of a fast food restaurant after hours to make himself some chicken tenders and French fries. But a judge on Monday said Hachem Gomez did not appear to comprehend his actions, and found him not guilty.

“I do not believe the state has proved intent in this matter,” said Cook County Circuit Court Judge Kay Hanlon. “I would just like to say I have observed the defendant in the courtroom and he appears not to understand some of the proceedings.”

Gomez, 21, is cared for by an older sister, Ivon Gomez. He faced up to seven years in prison if convicted on the felony charge.

“We are very happy with the verdict,” said Ivon Gomez, who also is the caretaker for another brother. “He was jailed for two months after his arrest. That frightened him.”

Hachem Gomez clung to his 22-year-old sister as they entered and left the Rolling Meadows courthouse. He nodded in agreement with her, but did not speak to reporters.

“He’s too scared,” said Ivon Gomez, explaining that her brother takes medication for schizophrenia and is under the care of a therapist. She said her brother has an eating problem that she tries to control.

Prosecutors said Hachem Gomez crawled through the drive-up window of the Mr. Beef and Pizza restaurant at 1796 S. Elmhurst Road in Mount Prospect about 3 a.m. on Sept. 10, 2011. Surveillance video tapes showed that the man, who weighs nearly 300 pounds, had to take off his clothes in order to squeeze through the window, prosecutors said.

After setting off a burglary alarm, Hachem Gomez put his clothes back on and proceeded to remove chicken tenders and French fries from the freezer and placed them in the microwave, prosecutors said. When police showed up, Gomez went to the front door and let them in, leaving the fries and chicken in the microwave, prosecutors said.

Assistant public defender Joe Gump said Hachem Gomez apologized to the arresting officers.

“It was a courageous decision, the right decision,” Gump said of the verdict. “It was clear Mr. Gomez was not mentally competent. He didn’t know anything except that he was getting something to eat.”

Gump eventually got his client released on a personal recognizance bond while he waited trial.

Hanlon said a review of the tapes, showing Hachem Gomez dressing and preparing food while the burglar alarm was blaring, convinced her that he was not fully aware of the consequences of his actions.

After it was learned that Hachem Gomez told authorities he broke into the restaurant because he needed something to eat, his story appeared in news reports in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Ivon Gomez said she would continue to care for her brother. He has no criminal record.


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