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$892,000 verdict in wrongful arrest suit; officers owe $96,000 of that

Noel Padillhis sJulian 2005. The phowas entered inevidence federal trial; Padillsued city five police officers alleging wrongful arrest. A jury

Noel Padilla and his son Julian in 2005. The photo was entered into evidence in a federal trial; Padilla sued the city and five police officers, alleging wrongful arrest. A jury awarded $892,500 in damages. | Photo provided

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Updated: June 30, 2014 12:53PM

Noel Padilla recalls looking at a wallet photo of his baby son before being processed into Cook County Jail on drug charges in 2005.

“I didn’t get to tell him bye-bye or kiss him,” Padilla said. “I broke down.”

Padilla spent nine months behind bars before prosecutors dropped the case. He sued the city, saying he’d been framed.

Last week, a federal jury took the unusual step of ordering the five Chicago Police officers named in the lawsuit to pay $96,000 in punitive damages out of their own pockets. The verdict said the city must pay an additional $796,000 in compensatory damages. The judge previously found Padilla’s civil rights were violated.

“I’m always going to be like that is not enough,” said Padilla, whose lawsuit sought $4 million. “Those nine months felt like a lifetime.”

City attorneys haven’t decided if they’ll appeal, a Law Department source said.

Padilla, 35, now has three sons and sells tamales from a street stand. The verdict could help him expand.

“I’m hoping I can get a food truck pretty soon,” he said.

To Craig Futterman, one of Padilla’s lawyers, the case showed a lack of oversight of cops accused of misconduct.

“Not only did they steal Noel Padilla’s freedom, but the honor of the thousands of good officers who do their jobs every day,” said Futterman, a University of Chicago Law School professor.

Padilla accused officers in the Special Operations Section of dragging him down a stairwell, handcuffing him, taking him to an alley and ordering him to lead them to guns and drugs.

When he said he couldn’t help, they drove him to his home and his mother’s home where they conducted illegal searches, Padilla said. After finding nothing, the officers allegedly framed him with cocaine possession.

Officers Keith Herrera, Stephen DelBosque, Margaret Hopkins, Donovan Markiewicz and Paul Zogg were defendants. The amounts owed go from $5,000 (Hopkins) to $50,500 (Herrera).

Only Zogg remains on the force, city records show. The other four were prosecuted in a corruption investigation of the now-disbanded Special Operations Section, some of whose members were accused of kidnapping, robbery and other crimes. Herrera received a two-month sentence; Markiewicz got six months; Hopkins, 60 days; and DelBosque, probation.

Evidence presented in Padilla’s lawsuit showed the five officers racked up 122 citizen complaints between 2000 and 2005, but received no serious discipline. A statistician testified the odds were one-in-a-thousand that a Special Operations Section officer would face discipline after getting accused of a crime, Futterman said.

“The oddsmakers in Las Vegas give the Cubs a much better chance of winning the World Series this year,” he said.


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