City was told about video of salon raid months ago
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter May 26, 2014 11:41PM
Updated: June 28, 2014 6:04AM
Less than two weeks after Chicago cops hit a handcuffed salon manager in the head and verbally abused her during a botched vice raid, a senior City Hall official was told there was video of the incident.
But it wasn’t until nine months later — after the video was published at suntimes.com last week — that one of the officers was stripped of his police powers, or that the Independent Police Review Authority asked for a copy of the video.
Obtained by the Sun-Times, a letter sent to City Hall just a dozen days after the July 31 raid of Copper Tan and Spa in Noble Square last year appears to expose serious shortcomings in authorities’ handling of the scandal before it became a public relations disaster.
After the video went viral and Jianqing “Jessica” Klyzek filed a civil rights lawsuit, Supt. Garry McCarthy said last week that it showed “behavior that we do not condone and we’re not going to tolerate in this department” as he stripped Frank Messina — the officer allegedly caught on camera throwing the open-handed punch — of his police powers.
Yet police brass last year took no action against Messina or Gerald Di Pasquale — another cop accused of threatening the salon manager in a racially charged rant — when a lawyer for the raided salon wrote to City Hall lawyer Barbara Gressel on Aug. 12, informing her that the video shows officers “engaging in blatant misconduct.” The letter, sent by attorney Tom Needham, detailed how the officer can be seen hitting 110-pound salon manager Jianqing “Jessica” Klyzek in the head, how Klyzek was accused of being an illegal immigrant, despite being a U.S. citizen, and how officers are seen on screen fruitlessly hunting for the off-site recording device that captured the entire incident.
Gressel — the city’s assistant commissioner for business affairs — forwarded the letter to the city’s law department on Aug. 13, according to police spokesman Adam Collins.
Law department spokeswoman Shannon Breymeier said that an unidentified city lawyer then made a phone call and “immediately requested a copy of the video from Mr. Needham and provided him ample time to respond” — a claim Needham called “completely false.”
Either way, it wasn’t until Jan. 16 — five months later — that the law department passed the letter on to the Police Department, according to Collins.
The police Internal Affairs Division then took another week before forwarding the letter to IPRA, which is charged with investigating police misconduct, on Jan. 22, Collins said.
IPRA spokesman Larry Merritt said “confusion” over who Needham represented caused a delay in requesting the video. Though Needham’s letter clearly states that he represents the salon owner — not Klyzek, who is a salon employee — an IPRA investigator “made an assumption that was wrong.”
The investigator attempted to interview Klyzek but was told by one of Klyzek’s lawyers that she was not available, Merritt said. Other witnesses who were in the salon also declined to be interviewed, he said.
And it wasn’t until May 22 — the day the Sun-Times published the security camera footage online, after another four months and the filing of a federal lawsuit by Klyzek — that IPRA investigators finally subpoenaed a copy of the video. Messina was then stripped of his police powers and placed on desk duty a day later, at IPRA’s request, Collins said.
In the meantime, two cases alleging that Klyzek assaulted officers during the raid were both tossed out, first by a judge after officers failed to show up in court, then, in January, by Cook County prosecutors after they were shown the video.
Asked if the series of delays showed that allegations of police misconduct are not taken seriously unless there is a lawsuit and media pressure, Collins disputed that, saying that the case was “acted on quickly once it was routed through the proper channels.”
And Merritt denied the delays were evidence of IPRA incompetence, saying “nothing was done maliciously to derail the investigation. . . . We have the video and will be continuing to investigate.”
But Needham — who served as CPD’s general counsel under former Supt. Terry Hillard from 1998 until 2001 — said that seven years after a video of cop Anthony Abbate drunkenly attacking a barmaid disgraced the department, it seems to him that “people over there still don’t realize that it’s in the public interest to take these cases seriously.”
“You’d think they’d have learned from Abbate,” he said.