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Chicago moves to have verdict in cop beating set aside

This news story was published on December 4, 2012.
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By David Heinzmann, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration asked a federal judge Monday to set aside a jury verdict in the infamous videotaped beating of a female bartender by an off-duty police officer — essentially agreeing to pay the woman $850,000 now in return for erasing the jury’s finding that a police “code of silence” protected the bad cop.

The unusual request is an attempt to prevent last month’s damaging verdict from being cited by lawyers in other lawsuits against the police department. The former bartender filed the motion jointly with the city; she stands to quickly collect the jury award she won without risking the chance of losing on appeal or having the trial judge reduce the amount.

It will be up to U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve to weigh the interests of the parties involved in the lawsuit against the interest of the public in having the record of the jury’s verdict stand. City lawyers said they plan to appear before the judge on Dec. 10.

The city battled Karolina Obrycka’s lawsuit for five years, arguing that former officer Anthony 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.

As part of her case against the city, Obrycka’s lawyers argued a pattern and practice of covering up police corruption and misconduct exists in the department. Moreover, she argued, Abbate behaved with a sense of impunity because he believed fellow officers would protect him. The jury agreed in its Nov. 13 verdict.

Although the city argued in Monday’s court papers that the jury’s verdict was “ambiguous” and tied to the peculiar circumstances of the Abbate case, lawyers also wrote that they want the verdict removed from the record because it could influence other lawsuits against the police department, of which there are many.

Vacating the jury’s decision “provides the City with certainty that the judgment in this case will not be used to deprive it of its day in court in future cases,” city lawyers wrote in a memorandum attached to the motion.

The city also argued in the motion that the misconduct in the Abbate case happened several years ago and things are different now. The old Office of Professional Standards, which investigated the Abbate case, was renamed and reconfigured in the wake of the scandal. Also, city lawyers noted that there is a new mayor as well as a different police superintendent.

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