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Abbate verdict signals time to talk about Chicago ‘code of silence’

Off-duty Chicago Police Officer Anthony Abbate beats up bartender KarolinObryck2007.  |  Video surveillance tape

Off-duty Chicago Police Officer Anthony Abbate beats up bartender Karolina Obrycka in 2007. | Video surveillance tape

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Updated: December 15, 2012 6:33AM

Bartender Karolina Obrycka is a tough cookie.

In the end, that may be all that kept her from becoming an exceptionally rich one as well.

Not that $850,000 — plus attorney’s fees — is anything to sneeze at.

But you might have thought that proving you were the victim not only of a beating by an off-duty Chicago Police officer but also of a coverup at the highest levels of the Chicago Police Department would produce a larger judgment than the one awarded Obrycka on Tuesday by a federal jury.

I would have expected the city to offer her $1 million just to avoid going to trial, with the proviso, of course, of admitting no wrongdoing.

The city doesn’t want to be on record as acknowledging the existence of any code of silence within the police department, although it might be a good time for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy to start tearing it down just the same before these sorts of lawsuits rank right up there with the Burge torture cases as an ongoing disaster.

If you saw the video of how quickly Obrycka bounced up off the floor of Jesse’s Shortstop Inn after the attempted pummeling inflicted by a drunken Anthony Abbate, then you know what I’m saying about her being a tough cookie. Her decision to go toe-to-toe with him in the first place to kick him out from behind her bar was further proof.

With little in the way of physical injuries as a result of the attack, however, it was left to Obrycka’s attorneys to argue psychological injury as the basis for her damages. She testified she suffers from panic attacks as a result of the beating, which a doctor attributed to post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s a tougher case to make.

Terry Ekl, Obrycka’s lead attorney, told reporters afterward that the $850,000 was “very appropriate,” and Obrycka thanked the jury.

“We are more than satisfied,” said Ekl, whose fees could hit city taxpayers with another substantial tab.

The city says it will appeal. The law in the case was very complicated, and maybe the city’s lawyers can still win. But with a jury verdict in her corner now to go with that video, I like the tough cookie’s chances.

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