Chicago Cop Once Jailed in Iowa Celebrates Release

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CHICAGO (AP) - A Chicago policeman went for his first motorcycle ride since being released from an Iowa prison, only to be pulled over by officers who wanted to congratulate him.

Michael Mette, 31, related the tale Sunday at a welcome-home party thrown for him at the union hall of the Chicago police force, which he hopes to rejoin shortly. He was released from prison Wednesday after a court ordered his acquittal.

"I can't imagine how hard it is for someone who doesn't have the support that I had," said Mette. "If you make an arrest, you better believe you're making it for the right reasons."

He was sentenced to five years in an Iowa prison after being convicted of an assault charge resulting from an October 2005 fight in which Mette punched Dubuque student Jake Gothard, who suffered a broken nose, cheek and jaw.

The Iowa Court of Appeals found that a district judge erred when she ruled that Mette could have retreated from the altercation. The appeals court ordered his acquittal after he had served about a year of the sentence.

Mette maintained throughout the case that he hit Gothard in self-defense, and officials including Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley had called for Mette's release.

Mette said Sunday that he would take up Weis' offer to return to the force and that he would meet with him this week.

Bill Dougherty, vice president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 7, said that Mette may have to do some retraining at the police academy but that nothing else should keep him from stepping back into the role of officer.

"I think a lot of the guys are very proud and happy that he didn't have to go through more of the appeals process, and that Iowa finally did the right thing," Dougherty said.

All the support has been wonderful, Mette said: "They call it a brotherhood for a reason."

He has been spending his time since the release getting reacquainted with the real world. He went for a motorcycle ride Friday but was pulled over by police who wanted to congratulate him, he said.

On Saturday he cut the long, shaggy hair he grew in prison. Later in the day went to get a hot dog at the restaurant Portillo's, where he said he got emotional as he watched people outside and remembered again that he was out of prison.

(This version CORRECTS the pronoun gender on the third reference to the Chicago police superintendent.)

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