Ex-cop in videotaped beating of barmaid says he had ‘bad day’
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org October 23, 2012 2:14PM
Karolina Obrycka, outside the Dirksen Federal Building after testifying Tuesday. October 22, 2012 | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Updated: November 25, 2012 11:38AM
The notorious viral video of off-duty Chicago cop Anthony Abbate brutally beating barmaid Karolina Obrycka already cost Abbate his job — and indirectly, former Supt. Phil Cline his police career.
On Tuesday, it tripped up another veteran Chicago officer.
Peter Masheimer — the cop dispatched to investigate Abbate’s February 19, 2007 attack at a Northwest Side tavern — endured a torrid afternoon on the stand in Federal Court as clips from the security camera footage were played by Obrycka’s attorneys in an attempt to show that he was part of a police cover-up.
“I did not remember,” Masheimer testified repeatedly.
At the same time, he was presented with video evidence showing that within an hour of the attack at Jesse’s Short Stop Inn he was given Abbate’s full name on a piece of paper by Obrycka, told that Abbate was a Chicago Police officer and told that there was a video of the entire incident.
None of those details made it into a police report that Masheimer filed, which described the attacker as an unknown man named Tony.
Nor does audio recording of the barroom match sworn testimony Masheimer gave an internal police probe of his conduct in which he told investigators he “never had [a] conversation” with Obrycka about the cameras, claimed Obrycka “never made that statement” about Abbate being a cop, and denied he was given Abbate’s last name, he admitted.
Masheimer — given a 30-day unpaid suspension for his handling of the report — said he only recalled the damning details much later “after reviewing the tape.”
He left them out of his report because he knew detectives would follow up, because he was given three versions of the spelling of Abbate’s last name and could not verify that Abbate was a cop, he said, adding that he did not know Abbate and was not asked by anyone to hush up the incident.
Masheimer’s uncomfortable testimony came on the second day of a civil jury trial expected to take three weeks. It could cost Chicago taxpayers millions if officers — including cops far above Masheimer’s pay grade — are found to have conspired in a cover up before the video of the attack went viral and Abbate was eventually slapped with felony charges.
Earlier Tuesday, Abbate, whose testimony began on Monday, told the jury that he was having “a bad day” and had decided to get drunk on the day of the assault because his dog had been diagnosed with cancer.
“I was on a mission to get totally inebriated ... blacked out,” Abbate said.
He said he was so drunk on Canadian whiskey, Rumple Minze schnapps and blackberry brandy that he could barely remember any details of the attack, nor of the next 24 hours, during which phone records show he and his close friends and fellow officers exchanged hundreds of calls.
Obrycka’s attorneys allege those calls were part of the cover-up but Abbate testified that he had never asked anyone to do him any illegal favor. The lengthy calls he made in the hours after the incident were merely cases of “drunk-dialing,” he said.
Asked what he meant by that, he answered, “Just acting like a jackass.”
Abbate dialed back his previous claim that he was acting in self-defense when he attacked Obrycka, saying he was only acting in self-defense at the start of the confrontation.
He acknowledged that he had been investigated for four previous complaints made by fellow officers or by the public, including for allegedly dragging a pregnant, handcuffed woman along the ground.
Amid the sometimes heated exchanges with Obrycka’s attorneys, he also attempted a joke.
Asked by city attorney Barrett Rubens why the video shows him flexing his biceps so often, Abbate said, “I guess that’s what you call ‘beer muscles.’”