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Judge refuses to set aside ‘code of silence’ role in Abbate case

KarolinObrycktalks briefly with medioutside Dirksen Federal Building after federal jury awarded Obryck$850000 compensatory damages against city Chicago Tuesday November 13

Karolina Obrycka talks briefly with the media outside the Dirksen Federal Building after a federal jury awarded Obrycka $850,000 in compensatory damages against the city of Chicago Tuesday November 13, 2012. She was beaten by off-duty Chicago Police officer Anthony Abbate in 2007 at the bar where she worked as a bartender. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 22, 2013 6:31AM

A federal judge Thursday turned down a city request to set aside a jury judgement that a “code of silence” in the Chicago Police Department played a role in the video taped beating of bartender Karolina Obrycka by police officer Anthony Abbate.

The city said it would still pay the full $850,000 in damages a jury awarded to Obrycka, but had asked the court to vacate the judgement so it would not set a precedent for potential future lawsuits against the city.

City attorneys had claimed the jury verdict was not clear and that the precedent set by it would be of little value in future cases.

But Judge Amy St. Eve in her decision noted that when the city had a chance to settle, it decided to pursue the case, calling it “a matter of principal.”

“The City strategically decided to proceed to a jury trial ­— despite Obrycka’s willingness to settle for a reasonable amount of compensatory damages — knowing that an adverse judgment was a risk,” St. Eve wrote in her opinion.

Northwestern University Professor Locke Bowman had filed a brief opposing the city’s position. “The city’s on a mission from God in this respect,” Bowman said Thursday. “They take every possible step to prevent a decision on the municipal responsibility for the way police officers misbehave.”

Mayor Emanuel had backed the city’s move, saying it “allows us to protect the city against future lawsuits.”

But on Thursday the mayor’s office issued this statement: “We respect the judge’s opinion and that this is the final decision . . . The City of Chicago has zero tolerance for actions like this. Since Mayor Emanuel took office, Police Superintendent McCarthy has adopted new procedures to prevent these kinds of crimes by law enforcement officers from going unreported or under-reported.”

No matter what the decision on the judgement issue, the city had previously agreed that Obrycka would be paid the $850,000 in damages awarded to her by a jury by end of the month.

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