By Annie Sweeney, Chicago Tribune –
CHICAGO — A high-ranking official with the Chicago Police Department denied on Tuesday that she pushed for misdemeanor charges for an off-duty officer who attacked a female bartender in a beating that was caught on videotape and went viral.
Debra Kirby, who was the head of Internal Affairs Division at the time of the 2007 beating, testified she wanted to seek felony charges against the officer, Anthony Abbate.
Kirby appeared tense on the witness stand in the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse as she answered a series of questions by attorney Terry Ekl, who is representing the bartender, Karolina Obrycka, in her federal suit against Abbate and the city.
Kirby is currently the chief of the department’s Bureau of Organizational Development and formerly served as general counsel under former Superintendent Jody Weis.
Kirby’s testimony is central to Obrycka’s allegation that the department tried to cover up or minimize the 2007 beating.
Kirby and Ekl sparred over the first question, disputing whether she was called to the superintendent’s “conference room” or “office” when the department brass first learned of the videotape of the beating at Jesse’s Short Stop Inn on the Northwest Side.
During about 40 minutes of aggressive questioning, Ekl pressed Kirby on how she described the vicious beating to officials at the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.
Kirby denied multiple times that she ever pushed for misdemeanor charges against Abbate and said the prosecutors rejected felony charges.
“Absolutely, I never said that,” Kirby testified. “ … I was not certain where we were heading with that, but we were investigating a felony.”
In opening statements last week, Ekl maintained that Kirby soft-pedaled the attack in a phone call to a high-ranking prosecutor.
Kirby also denied directing Internal Affairs Division investigators to take a blank misdemeanor complaint form to Obrycka’s house for her to sign.
Abbate was initially charged with a misdemeanor, but the charges were upgraded to felonies after Obrycka’s attorneys, concerned the beating was being covered up, released the videotape to the news media, causing a firestorm of criticism for the department.