Daughter of state rep charged with stapling opponent's head

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Bradley Fichter and Jessica Soto | Chicago Police

CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) - Robert Zwolinski said he was floored when he learned that one of the people who’d allegedly attacked him and stapled his forehead outside his Ukrainian Village campaign headquarters earlier this month was the daughter of his opponent in his unsuccessful Illinois House race.

“My common sense intuition said no way it would be her daughter because that in itself sounds so extreme,” Zwolinski told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Jessica Soto, the daughter of state Rep. Cynthia Soto, was ordered held in lieu of $25,000 bail Friday for the attack Cook County prosecutors said left Zwolinski with a black eye, broken nose and six stitches to his forehead.

Jessica Soto and Bradley Fichter, both 26, both face three felony counts of aggravated battery in connection with the March 6 incident in the 800 block of North Ashland.

Fichter, also ordered held in lieu of $25,000 bail, was additionally charged with filing a false police report, another felony.

Assistant State’s Attorney Erin Antonietti said the 30-year-old Zwolinski was driving up to his campaign office that night when he saw Jessica Soto and Fichter putting up Soto’s mother’s campaign signs right outside his office.

When Zwolinski got out of the car, approached the pair and pulled his opponent’s sign down, an argument ensued and Fichter punched him in the left eye and Jessica Soto punched him in the rib area, Antonietti said.

The blows caused Zwolinski to fall, Antonietti said.

While Zwolinski  was on the ground, Fichter got on top of him and punched him in the left eye and choked him, Antonietti said.

Jessica Soto allegedly continued the attack by squeezing Zwolinski’s genitals, kicking him in the head, striking him in the forehead with a staple gun and using a beer bottle to pelt him in the nose.

Jessica Soto then went to Zwolinksi’s car and threatened Zwolinski’s girlfriend while she sat inside, Antonietti said. At the time, Jessica Soto allegedly had the staple gun in her hand.

Following the attack, Jessica Soto drove off with Fichter as witnesses noted the license plate of the car.

About one and a half hours later, Fichter went to the 14th District Police station to file a report saying Zwolinski ripped off his “mother-in-law’s” campaign signs and beat him up, Antonietti said.

When Fichter was taken to the hospital, he refused medical treatment and left, Antonietti said.

Jessica Soto and Fichter, a gas reader who was an unpaid volunteer for Soto’s mother, turned themselves in to police this week.

Their attorneys — Frank Avila and Steven Weinberg — said their clients were acting in self-defense.

Avila, who told reporters Jessica Soto was never involved in the attack, stressed to Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil that the two had been putting up the campaign signs on vacant property.

Kuriakos Ciesil said the case “baffled” her and said she was “saddened” by the state of politics.

“This is an embarrassment to our entire country,” the judge said of Soto and Fichter’s case.

Jessica Soto received supervision for a previous battery case and was arrested three other times for battery, Antonietti said.

She also had an aggravated battery case for striking a person she thought took her phone with a beer bottle while they were in a bar, Antonietti said. That case was eventually dropped because the victim never turned up in court, Antonietti said.

In light of this month’s attack, Zwolinski renewed his call for his opponent, Cynthia Soto to resign.

“The girl was screaming, ‘This isn’t your territory! This is Soto’s territory!’ while I was being pummeled on the ground,” Zwolinski said.

Avila said Zwolinski’s claim that Fichter and Jessica Soto were putting up campaign posters at Zwolinski’s headquarters is nonsense.

Avila also questioned why Zwolinski held a news conference before going to the hospital to have his injuries treated.

“He was doing interviews with a staple in his head,” Avila said.

Avila questioned whether Zwolinski stapled his own head.

After court Friday, Avila again passionately defended Jessica Soto, a mother of a 19-month-old.

He said the charges were a “tragedy and travesty” of justice.

“These charges are way exaggerated,” Avila said.

“He [Zwolinski] approached them. … He provoked them by tearing down the sign. He initiated physical contact. … He should be on trial and he should be in jail. … This is politics at it’s finest.”

Avila added that it was ludicrous that anyone would think his client — a “chunky” 5 foot 2 woman, could fight like Jackie Chan, Jet Li or Ronda Rousey.

Cynthia Soto defeated Zwolinski in Tuesday’s primary election.