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In Abbate trial, witnesses talk about threats, lies and videotape

MarcKolodziej owner Jesse's Short Stop Inn leaves federal court after testifying civil law suit against Anthony Abbate October 25 2012.

Marcin Kolodziej, owner of Jesse's Short Stop Inn leaves federal court after testifying in the civil law suit against Anthony Abbate, October 25, 2012. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 27, 2012 11:05AM

A barmaid had just been attacked by an off-duty cop, and the Chicago Police officers sent to investigate promised they’d be right in to watch a video of the assault, bar owner Marcin Kolodziej said.

“Why don’t you set [it] up, and we’re gonna be in in a few minutes,” Officers Peter Masheimer and Jerry Knickrehm allegedly told Kolodziej as they sat in a squad car outside Jesse’s Shortstop Inn.

But when Kolodziej went back inside the Northwest Side bar and cued up the notorious footage of Anthony Abbate beating barmaid Karolina Obrycka, the officers split, he testified in federal court Thursday.

“I waited a while and then I went outside again, but the squad car wasn’t there,” he said in a thick Polish accent.

Kolodziej was the latest in a line of colorful barroom characters to testify in a civil trial over allegations that Abbate, his pals and other Chicago cops attempted to cover up the Feb. 19, 2007 attack.

His testimony contradicts Masheimer and Knickrehm’s accounts. They both previously said that the video was locked up and couldn’t be seen. Kolodziej’s version appears to be supported by the video itself.

It shows him going outside to talk to the officers, returning to the bar, then going outside again minutes later, only to come back inside.

If the disgraced Abbate is the villain of the infamous video, and Obrycka is the victim, then Kolodziej might have been auditioning for the role of unsung hero when he took the stand.

Just two days before the assault, the 37-year-old immigrant said he went to a Costco Wholesale store and bought the cameras that captured the moment since seen by millions worldwide.

It wasn’t the only recording gear he used to grab evidence of the alleged coverup.

Jurors Thursday also heard an audio recording Kolodziej secretly made three days after the attack, in which another barmaid told him that Abbate was threatening to frame the bar owner unless he turned over the damning video.

“He goes ‘Believe me what I tell you,’” Patti Chiriboga told Kolodziej in the taped conversation. Abbate “said, ‘Your life, everybody in the ****ing bar...I’m backed against the wall, I don’t give a ****. I did, I did that to Karolina but I want the tape. I want the ****ing tape.’”

In another section of the tape played for jurors, Chiriboga said Abbate told her to pass on a message that Kolodziej should “get rid of that tape or there’s gonna be people getting DUIs...You might be driving with a pound of ****ing cocaine.”

Kolodziej said he’d taped the conversation because he was “scared.” But the recording shows that he wasn’t intimidated, catching him telling Chiriboga that Abbate “thinks we are stupid Polish — no, not me.”

And testifying later Thursday, Chiriboga claimed the threats she passed on were “all lies that I made up.” Chiriboga — a friend of Abbate’s for 20 years — said she’d lied because she was afraid the bar might lose business if the media saw the video. “A bar is supposed to be a sacred place,” she said.

She also disavowed what she called “confused” testimony she gave a grand jury a month after the attack in which she said that Abbate had threatened that “bad things would happen” if Kolodziej didn’t cave.

During a heated exchange in which Chiriboga claimed she was telling the “truth” both when she previously testified that Abbate had made threats and also on Thursday, when she denied that, Obrycka’s exasperated lawyer Terry Ekl asked her, “The truth doesn’t change, does it?”

The clash ended a day that began on a comic note, with the testimony of Abbate’s lifelong pal, Gary Ortiz, a truck driver for the city.

Obrycka’s attorneys allege that Ortiz rushed to the bar in the immediate aftermath of the attack to begin the coverup.

But Ortiz said that an offer he made to Obrycka that Abbate would pay her medical bills and for any time off she needed was neither sanctioned by Abbate nor linked to her dropping the case.

Judge Amy St. Eve seemed to have to restrain a smile when Ortiz said he told Obrycka, “I’m sure that when Tony wakes up and realizes what he’s done, he’ll pay for your hospital bill and apologize.”

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