City’s bid to set aside judgment in Abbate bar beating delayed
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org December 7, 2012 12:26PM
Karolina Obrycka, who was beaten by Anthony Abbate, an off-duty Chicago police officer, enters the Dirksen Federal Building to testify on Oct. 29. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times
Updated: January 9, 2013 6:07AM
A bid by the city of Chicago to set aside the judgement in the Anthony Abbate bar beating case has been delayed so that a Federal Court Judge can hear detailed arguments from law professors who are against the deal.
Northwestern University professor Locke Bowman and University of Chicago professor Craig Futterman say the deal isn’t in the public interest, arguing the city is guilty of a “shameful” attempt to dodge the jury’s findings that police department policy was the “moving force” behind the disgraced officer’s off-duty attack on bartender Karolina Obrycka.
Judge Amy St. Eve said Friday morning that she’ll give the professors until Tuesday to spell out those objections in writing, before deciding whether to set aside the judgement.
Regardless of how she rules, the City will pay Obrycka the $850,000 she was awarded by the jury by the end of the month, Scott Jebson, a city attorney said.
The jury last month found that the police department was to blame for the notorious videotaped attack. Abbate — since convicted of aggravated battery and fired — believed that either a “police code of silence” or the police department’s history of failing to properly investigate and discipline officers meant he could act with impunity, the jury found.
That was a potentially costly legal precedent Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he wanted to avoid.
Speaking Friday, Jebson said that although the city wants to do the right thing by Obrycka, it needs to protect taxpayers against attempts by other plaintiffs to “misuse” the judgement in the Abbate case.
The Abbate beating at Jesse’s Shortstop Inn in 2007 was a “unique case” that occurred nearly six years ago, under a different Mayor and Police Superintendent and prior to the creation of the Independent Police Review Authority, he said, urging St. Eve to vacate the judgement against the city and to block the law professors from intervening in the case.
Attorneys who represent plaintiffs against the city were “chomping at the bit” to use the judgement to gouge taxpayers, he said.
Obrycka’s attorney Terry Ekl supported the city’s efforts to have the judgement set aside, so that Obrycka and her legal team would quickly be paid, but took no position on whether the law professors should intervene.
Speaking outside court, Ekl said that the jury’s verdict would stand, whether or not the judgement is set aside. He argued that how the judge rules will make little difference to how other police misconduct cases are dealt with.
Dan Webb, the former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, also backed Emanuel’s handling of the jury’s judgment.
Though Webb’s duties as a special prosecutor in the David Koschman case include investigating whether Chicago Police tried to conceal evidence against former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s nephew, Webb said he saw no connections to the Abbate case.
Attorneys for the city in the Abbate case were simply “doing what they’re supposed to do” by trying to protect taxpayers against further lawsuits.
“We’re all pretty quick to criticize public officials, but the City should be commended for coming up with a resolution where (Obrycka) gets paid quickly, not years from now,” Webb said.
Had the City not agreed to quickly pay her, it could have “dragged the case on for years without paying her,” he added.
But Bowman said that if the judgement didn’t matter at all, the city wouldn’t be fighting so hard to have it removed.
“The (real) way to protect taxpayers is to change the code of silence and start disciplining officers,” he said.
St. Eve said she would rule quickly so that Obrycka can have “finality.”
“She was brutally beaten by a man three times her size,” the judge said. “She finally had her day in court ... there were threats to her, but she took on those threats ... finally, six years later she got a judgement in her favor.”