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Internal affairs lieutenant in Abbate case contradicts boss

Anthony Abbate leaves Dirksen Federal Building last year.  |  Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Anthony Abbate leaves the Dirksen Federal Building last year. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 3, 2012 6:38AM

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office soft-pedaled the case against disgraced police officer Anthony Abbate, a senior cop testified Thursday morning as the Chicago Police Department fought back against allegations it tried to cover up a notorious videotaped attack.

But Deputy Chief Keith Calloway — the first witness called by the City of Chicago in its fight against a lawsuit filed by beaten bartender Karolina Obrycka — may have unintentionally hurt the city’s defense when he took the stand in Federal Court.

Calloway — a lieutenant in the police department’s Internal Affairs Division at the time of Abbate’s Feb. 19, 2007, attack on Obrycka — gave evidence that contradicted that of his boss at the time, Debra Kirby, and the evidence of two other IAD officers, further muddying the police department’s already confused account of its actions in the aftermath of the attack.

Wearing his dress uniform and addressing city attorney Matthew Hurd as “Sir,” Calloway said that the notorious viral video of the beating showed behavior by an off-duty Abbate that was “just unbelievable . . . that someone could be so evil and mean.”

At a meeting four days after the attack, Calloway said, he told assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Tom Bilyk that “this is a felony,” urging Bilyk to bring aggravated battery charges against Abbate.

But Bilyk told him, “I know it looks bad, but it’s not a felony,” Calloway testified, flatly contradicting Bilyk’s prior testimony.

Attorneys for the city are attempting to convince the jury that the state’s attorney’s office declined to press felony charges against Abbate until, under political pressure weeks later, they found a rarely used section of law that says a battery in a “place of public entertainment” is an aggravated battery.

But Obrycka’s attorneys say that IAD officers directed by Kirby secretly had Obrycka sign a misdemeanor complaint against Abbate just three days after the attack in an attempt to undercut felony charges. The special prosecutions section of the state’s attorney’s office was still investigating the case when they discovered weeks later that a misdemeanor complaint had been filed, Bilyk testified earlier this week.

Officers Joseph Stehlik and Dion Boyd and Obrycka all testified that the complaint was signed by Obrycka on Feb. 22. Kirby also acknowledged that it was signed on the 22nd, but denied giving an order to have it signed. A dated copy of the complaint has been entered into evidence in the case.

But on the stand Thursday, Calloway emphatically denied that the misdemeanor complaint was signed before police met with prosecutors on the case on Feb. 23.

“It did not happen!” he barked several times during a tense cross examination by Obrycka’s attorney Terry Ekl. “I’m telling you, it did not happen.”

Calloway also acknowledged that he had met with Kirby and discussed the case just two weeks ago, though he angrily denied that the meeting with Kirby was, as Ekl asserted, “to get your stories lined up.”

The city is due to call its next witness when the case resumes on Monday.

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