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City: Professors have motive to keep ‘code of silence’ verdict in Abbate case

KarolinObrycksmiles after federal jury awarded her $850000 compensatory damages against city Chicago Tuesday November 13 2012. She was beaten by

Karolina Obrycka smiles after a federal jury awarded her $850,000 in compensatory damages against the city of Chicago Tuesday November 13, 2012. She was beaten by off-duty Chicago Police officer Anthony Abbate in 2007 at the bar where she worked as a bartender. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 19, 2013 6:16AM

Chicago lawyers fired the latest shot in the fallout from the Anthony Abbate bar beating verdict Monday, claiming two law professors who have intervened have a financial motive to keep the judgment against the city intact.

The professors — Northwestern University Professor Locke Bowman and University of Chicago Professor Craig Futterman — are “veteran plaintiffs’ lawyers whose primary area of practice consists of suing the city and its police officers,” city lawyers wrote in a court filing Monday.

Pointing to other lawsuits, they said the professors are “undeniably and highly motivated by their own litigation interests in achieving a particular outcome here.”

Flint Taylor of the People’s Law Office, a member of the professors’ legal team, said his firm has fought to expose the code of silence for more than 40 years.

“It is disappointing, but unfortunately not surprising, that this administration, like Mayor Daley’s before it, has chosen to shove the code of silence under the rug and to attack the lawyers who have fought to expose it rather than to seriously deal with the problem,” Taylor said.

A federal jury last month found the Chicago Police Department had either a code of silence or a policy of failing to properly investigate and discipline officers. The city asked Judge Amy St. Eve to vacate the judgment, saying plaintiffs’ attorneys were “chomping at the bit” to “misuse” the finding to gouge taxpayers in other police misconduct cases.

St. Eve let the professors chime in. They argued that the jury’s finding that off-duty officer Abbate attacked bartender Karolina Obrycka at a Northwest Side bar in 2007 because he reasonably believed that his status as a Chicago cop meant he could get away with it was “profound.” They argued that setting aside the judgment would slow police reform.

But lawyers for the city argue that the verdict itself, the $850,000 it agreed to pay Obrycka and the publicity surrounding the case is incentive enough to make reforms.

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