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City offers to pay up fast in Abbate loss — but wants judgment removed

KarolinObryckwho was beaten by Anthony Abbate an off-duty Chicago police officer enters Dirksen Federal Building testify Oct. 29.  |

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

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Updated: January 6, 2013 9:47AM

The City of Chicago is asking a federal judge to set aside the judgement in the Anthony Abbate bar beating case — offering to quickly pay battered bartender Karolina Obrycka and her attorneys in return for an agreement that the jury’s findings can’t be used against it in other cases.

A jury last month found that police policy was the “moving force” behind the notorious videotaped attack. Off-duty officer 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.

“This agreement, in my view, closes a chapter on something [that happened] before I was mayor, and it also allows us to protect the city against future lawsuits,” he said Tuesday.

It also puts to rest an ugly incident without an appeal, Law Department spokesperson Roderick Drew said.

Though Obrycka’s attorneys initially heralded her victory as a legal landmark exposing the police code of silence, they are also asking Judge Amy St. Eve to OK the deal so that Obrycka quickly receives the $850,000 the jury awarded her.

“There’s always a risk on appeal that the reviewing court could make a determination that the trial judge made a mistake, reverse the case and order a new trial,” Obrycka’s attorney Terry Ekl said.

“I would be guilty of malpractice if I did not advise her to accept this agreement.”

Under the deal, which St. Eve is due to hear arguments on Monday, the city would not accept any fault. It insists in court filings that it has made improvements to how it handles police complaints since the 2007 attack.

But the mayor’s decision in the case did not sit well with Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), an attorney who has represented plaintiffs in cases against the Chicago Police Department.

Fioretti said the “unique legal maneuvering” sends the wrong message to Chicagoans who still don’t trust the police in the wake of the Jon Burge police torture scandal.

“I’m worried about the perception that it’s a further cover-up,” Fioretti said.

The mayor countered that he had directed Police Supt. Garry McCarthy from Day One to “re-establish trust” between police and residents, adding that he has “zero tolerance ... for anybody who’s in the police department to act like they’re above the law, rather than they are there to uphold the law.”

During the trial, Emanuel said he had no idea whether the Chicago Police Department engaged in a cover-up to conceal the brutal beating that burly former Police Officer Anthony Abbate inflicted on a diminutive barmaid, but it was time to “get to the bottom” of it and “get justice served.”

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