December 07, 2012
The Chicago Tribune
Lawyers allowed to intervene in 'code of silence' case
By: Jason Meisner
A federal judge ruled today that a group of lawyers who handle police misconduct cases can intervene to try to block the city's attempt to set aside what they called a "momentous" jury verdict in the infamous videotaped beating of a female bartender by an off-duty Chicago police officer.
U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve gave lawyers Locke Bowman and Craig Futterman until Tuesday to file an amicus brief laying out why she should keep intact the jury's verdict against former Officer Anthony Abbate and the city.
Earlier this week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration floated the proposal to pay bartender Karolina Obrycka the $850,000 she was awarded immediately instead of continuing the court fight with an appeal. But the city also wants St. Eve to vacate the judgment she issued after the jury's Nov. 13 verdict that found there was a "code of silence" within the police department that led to an attempted coverup of the beating.
In court today, lawyers for the city claimed the jury's verdict was "ambiguous" and would lead to a litany of cases filed against the city that would misuse the Abbate case to win damages that would cost taxpayers millions.
"This courtroom right now is packed with plaintiff's attorneys," said city attorney Scott Jepson. "They are champing at the bit."
Locke Bowman, legal director of Northwestern University's MacArthur Justice Center, said the city's argument shows they are still trying to deny that the code of silence exists and "don't want to bothered” by the jury verdict.
"They'd prefer not to have the aggravation of having to deal with folks and explain the consequences of it," Bowman said to reporters after the hearing.
The city battled Obrycka's lawsuit for more than five years, arguing that Abbate's attack on her, which was caught on security video and eventually went viral on the Internet, was the action of an off-duty officer and not the responsibility of the Chicago Police Department.
St. Eve told lawyers for the city today they should be ready to respond to the amicus brief by the end of next week. She said she will rule by mail at a later date but indicated her decision would be swift.
"I don't want this to languish," St. Eve said. "This is something that has my attention."