Chicago's City Council Finance Committee on Tuesday approved a multi-million dollar settlement to avoid a trial in a 2006 case alleging police misconduct.
"It was the most emotional settlement day I have ever spent," Corporation Counsel Steve Patton said.
The $22.5 million proposed settlement is for the California-based family of Christina Eilman who was dropped off by Chicago police officers nearly seven years ago in a rough south side neighborhood while in the midst of a bipolar breakdown.
Eilman was later sexually assaulted and either fell or was pushed from a seventh floor window of the former Robert Taylor Homes. She survived, but the ordeal left her permanently disabled.
"I am both embarrassed and ashamed," committee Chairman Ed Burke said of the city's handling of the case.
"They might as well have released her into the lion's den at Brookfield Zoo," Burke said, quoting an opinion from the 7th Circuit.
The "lion's den" comment sparked a flood of objections from African-American aldermen.
"I think comparing a community to animals is inappropriate," said Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd).
Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), a former police officer, conceded the episode was an "egregious situation" but he agreed with Dowell.
"Everybody released from that lockup is released in that neighborhood," he said. "Not everybody goes through that situation."
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) echoed Cochran's sentiments and openly questioned why the officers involved were not sharing in the liability.
"I think that kind of commentary is very racially insensitive," she said. "The taxpayers are on the hook every time there is a rogue cop."
In response to a question about how many other big cases are still out there waiting to be resolved, Patton conceded there were more.
"We're not done yet," he said. "We're trying to clean up a lot of legacy messes."
The family is seeking in excess of $100 million from the city for what happened to the Eilman. Patton said the city had spent more than $2 million fighting the case.
In their 2006 lawsuit, Eilman's family contends officers ignored the pleas to keep their daughter in custody, arguing she lacked the "mental capacity" to protect herself and get home.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October rejected the city's attempt to end the lawsuit.