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Law profs: City trying to sweep Abbate case under the rug

Anthony Abbate former Chicago cop who was convicted felony battery fired after beating bartender KarolinObryckleaves Dirksen Federal Building Oct. 22

Anthony Abbate, a former Chicago cop who was convicted of felony battery and fired after beating bartender Karolina Obrycka, leaves the Dirksen Federal Building on Oct. 22 after taking the stand in a federal lawsuit by Obrycka. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 14, 2013 7:19AM

The Emanuel administration’s efforts to set aside the judgment against the city in the Anthony Abbate bar beating case are a “grave affront to the citizens of Chicago and to the rule of law,” two law professors argue in court papers.

Northwestern University Professor Locke Bowman and University of Chicago Professor Craig Futterman say the city is trying to sweep “under the rug” a federal jury’s finding that the Chicago Police Department had either a code of silence or a policy of failing to properly investigate and discipline officers.

The city earlier this month 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.

But St. Eve last week allowed Bowman and Futterman to have their say before she rules.

In their filing late Tuesday, the professors say 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.” The judgment “affirmed the reality of the code of silence and the role of that code in Abbate’s misconduct,” the professors wrote.

Referring to the Jon Burge police torture scandal, the Special Operations Section scandal and recent revelations in the David Koschman case, they argue that setting aside the judgment would slow police reform, discourage the city from settling police misconduct cases it should settle, waste court time and offend the public.

“If the City is allowed to sweep verdicts such as this one under the rug, it will have no incentive to change,” they wrote.

The city, which has previously argued that the Abbate case was a “unique case” that came before substantial reforms to police discipline, has until Dec. 17 to respond.

It has agreed to pay Obrycka the $850,000 the jury awarded her by the end of the month, regardless of which way the judge rules.

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