CHICAGO (AP) — The city of Chicago is asking a judge to erase a landmark verdict that found there exists a code of silence in the police department that leads officers to protect rogue colleagues — a legal move that critics say is calculated to deny others suing over alleged police abuse from citing the decision as a precedent.
The motion, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Chicago, comes a month after jurors at a civil trial returned with a verdict against the city and for bartender Karolina Obrycka. A videotape of off-duty officer Anthony Abbate beating Obrycka in 2007 created a sensation after it went viral on the Internet.
One aspect that makes the motion unusual is that Obrycka joined it. The advantage to her is that, if the joint request is granted, Chicago will pay $850,000 in damages awarded to her by jurors immediately, rather than stringing out the litigation for years on appeal.
Attorneys who had heralded the Nov. 13 verdict criticized the city’s legal maneuver Tuesday.
“It’s outrageous,” said Flint Taylor, a Chicago-based attorney. “The city forced the plaintiff to trial, there’s a finding about there being a code of silence — and the city turns around and tries to buy itself out of the jury’s finding as if it never happened.”
Rather than trying to strike the finding from the record, the city should commit itself to eradicating an engrained police culture the leads some officers to feel obliged to protect their own, said Taylor, who has sued the city multiple times in the past on behalf of clients alleging police abuse.
“Instead of trying to buy their way out of the problem, they should deal with the problem,” Taylor said.
A status hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday, when U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve could rule.
While the city would still be on the hook to pay Obrycka, it could save itself money by snatching the potential precedent from others seeking massive city payouts in the future.
“In the long run, they figure they can keep the ship steering in the same direction without taking on additional water,” said Locke Bowman, the director of the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law. “I think that is unfortunate. (The motion) loses sight of the need for additional reform.”
A spokesman for the city’s law department, Roderick Drew, issued a brief statement saying, “The city has concluded it is time to move on and resolve this unfortunate incident without further litigation.”
Abbate was convicted of aggravated battery in 2009 and sentenced to probation. The core issue jurors had to decide at the civil trial was whether city officials tolerated the police culture, and whether that emboldened Abbate and led him to act with impunity in attacking the bartender.
Obrycka’s attorneys had said before and during the trial that they hoped a verdict in their favor would send a wider message that the code of silence won’t be tolerated.
Still, Taylor said he didn’t blame Obrycka and her lawyers for taking the city’s offer and joining the motion.
“There’s a gun being held to their heads,” he said. “The city is saying, ‘If you don’t agree, we will appeal and you will have to wait two or three years for your money.’”
Obryska also faces the risk that, if she loses on appeal, a higher court could drastically reduce her damages payment or even rule she should receive nothing.
Follow Michael Tarm at www.twitter.com/mtarm
More Related Stories
- If Alex Pareene was a cable news executive...
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
- UK officials: Radical Islam behind London attack
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- London machete attack could be linked to terrorism
- Conservative group blames military sexual assault on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
- Experts: Fox News spying scandal a game-changer
- San Francisco Giant Jeremy Affeldt apologizes for homophobic past
- 9-year-old slams Rahm over Chicago schools
- Stockholm riots rage for third day
- Wall Street firm's "Golden Pitchbook" is totally sexist, full of lies
- Must-see morning clip: Toronto's eccentric and allegedly crack-smoking mayor
- Federal court strikes down Arizona abortion ban
- Jodi Arias: I deserve a second chance
- Oklahoma residents return home to pick up the pieces
- Florida man with connection to Tsarnaev killed by FBI
- FBI identifies 5 Benghazi suspects
- Here come the tornado truthers. Already
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11