Two top civil rights attorneys filed a brief to the federal court late Tuesday evening arguing against vacating a recent verdict condemning the City of Chicago Police Department’s “code of silence.”
Locke Bowman and Craig Futterman argued strongly against efforts to vacate the recent ruling that blamed the beating of a female bartender by an off-duty officer on the “code of silence” that exists within the force.
A video of the incident caused widespread embarrassment for officers back in 2007. The now infamous tape showed off-duty officer Anthony Abbate beating bartender Karolina Obrycka when she refused to serve the clearly intoxicated officer any more alcohol. According to The Chicago Tribune Abbate had gotten into several other fist fights that evening and was even recorded shouting “Chicago Police Department!” whilst flexing his muscles to the camera. When Chicago police investigated the case they decided Abbate had only committed a misdemeanor offense, not a felony, and his fellow detectives had Obrycka sign statements to that effect. Following the event Abbate and another police partner are said to have made about 150 calls to other cops to help him bolster his story.
It was only when video evidence of the beating was made public by Obrycka’s attorneys and shown to Cook County prosecutors that the case was upgraded to a felony charge. The court awarded Obrycka $850,000 from the city, however since the trial she has joined with the city to file a motion requesting the presiding federal court judge toss out the verdict entirely. This is supposedly in return for the city’s prompt payment of her awarded money and quick payment of her lawyers’ fees. According to The Huffington Post if this motion is granted the city "escapes having to contend with a prior legal case in which its police department’s 'code of silence' was asserted to have protected the offending police officer in the case"
Bowman and Futterman, in the recently filed friend-of-the-court brief, argue that “The city should not be permitted to escape a finding that it covered up the misconduct of its officers by allowing it to simply erase that adjudication as if it never occurred, and then go on denying a code of silence.” The civil rights attorneys contend that the ruling is an important prompt for reform within a department that has struggled with police misconduct since the 1980s. “If the city is allowed to sweep verdicts such as this one under the rug is will have no incentive to change.” Dr. Steven Whitman, in his testimony during the Obrycka case, told the jury that the city of Chicago upheld just 2.7 percent of the excessive-force compaints filed against officers from 1999 through 2004, well below the 6 percent national average. Whitman maintained that the figures were “not just different by chance” and that there “is some kind of real phenomenon that is causing it.”