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As legal bills pile up, justice in Chicago suffers

Attorney Andrew M. Hale Andrew M. Hale   Associates.

Attorney Andrew M. Hale, of Andrew M. Hale & Associates.

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Updated: February 5, 2013 6:21AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his corporation counsel have wasted tens of millions of dollars in the unprincipled defense of convicted police torturer Jon Burge and his confederates, the police code of silence and detectives who framed an innocent 14-year-old boy.

This blatant disrespect for citizens, particularly African Americans, was further demonstrated by the mayor’s refusal to apologize to the victims of police torture and their families, to join with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in her fight to strip Burge of his police pension and the failure to make good on his promise that he would end the torture scandal by fairly settling the remaining cases that torture survivors had brought.

In January, a federal jury brought back a $25 million verdict against the city in the case of Thaddeus Jimenez, who, at 14, was framed by a Chicago Police detective and spent 16 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. The city refused to settle for a small fraction of the final verdict, choosing instead to follow the recommendations of its private lawyers from Andrew Hale and Associates, who made a cool $2.5 million in fees.

In March, a federal judge dealt the city and Hale another blow when he granted a new damages trial to wrongfully convicted octogenarian Oscar Walden on the grounds that Hale and his partner, Avi Kamionski, engaged in “unethical” trial conduct. The city had paid Hale and Associates $400,000 to defend the case, and, after the ruling, paid another $1 million to Walden and his attorneys rather than face sanctions.

Throughout the winter and spring of 2012, the city fought to avoid, then to delay, the deposition of former Mayor Richard M. Daley in torture victim Michael Tillman’s wrongful conviction lawsuit. In July, the city settled with Tillman for $5.375 million.

Also in July, Sun-Times reporter Chris Fusco revealed Hale and his partner made more than $20.5 million defending police torture and wrongful-conviction cases. The city declared it would investigate, but later refused to produce its Hale “investigation” file.

In November, a federal jury returned an $850,000 verdict vs. the city in a case where an off-duty police officer had beaten a female bartender, finding that the beating was facilitated by the police code of silence. Before trial, the city, which could have settled for $400,000, refused to offer any money to resolve the case.

After the verdict, the city condemned the verdict, then attempted to strike the judgment from the public record. The judge refused to go along, and the city now faces a bill of as much as $5 million in damages and lawyers’ fees.

In December, the city’s defense of Burge, Daley and their collaborators again raised its ugly head as a federal jury was about to be selected in the case of Alton Logan, an innocent man who spent 27 years in prison. Logan alleged that Burge, who is represented by Hale and Associates, framed him, and Burge was scheduled to “testify” by video hook-up from his North Carolina jail cell by invoking the Fifth Amendment. The city, which had already paid $2.6 million to Hale and a battery of other lawyers, successfully argued for a continuance, apparently for settlement discussions. Whether these discussions were fruitful is not yet known, but, once again, pinstripe patronage is an obvious winner.

At the same time, the city continued to finance Burge and Daley’s defense in several police torture cases. In Ronald Kitchen’s case, for example, the city had paid Hale and other private lawyers about $2 million to keep fighting the case, most recently trying yet again to block or delay Daley’s deposition in that case. Similarly, in Darrell Cannon’s case, the city has already paid $1.8 million to private lawyers to continue to pursue its argument that the $3,000 settlement that it gave to Cannon before the torture scandal came to light was not the result of a cover-up.

If 2012 is any measuring stick, can we reasonably expect 2013 to be any different?

G. Flint Taylor is a lawyer for alleged torture victims and has litigated police code of silence cases for two decades.

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