Jurors on Tuesday afternoon returned with a finding that the city's tolerance of the code emboldened off-duty officer Anthony Abbate to beat Karolina Obrycka. Natalie Martinez reports.
A federal jury on Tuesday ruled in favor of a bartender who was viciously beaten by an off-duty police officer in 2007. The jury made its decision after two days of deliberations, albeit six days after they were first handed the case.
Karolina Obrycka sued the former cop, Anthony Abbate, and the City of Chicago for damages in the civil case. She was awarded $850,000 for the attack that was recorded by surveillance cameras and seen around the world.
"I would like to say, 'Thank you,' to the lawyers, to the jury and to everybody that supported me in this case for almost six years," she told reporters in the lobby of the Dirksen Federal Building after the verdict was handed down.
At issue was whether Chicago police adhered to a code of silence protecting a fellow officer accused of wrongdoing, including trying to suppress the video.
"We proved the Code of Silence at every level of the Chicago Police Department, from the patrolmen that walked in the door to the bar, into the 25th District, into the superintendent's office, into [the Internal Affairs Division], right at the desk of [former IAD Director] Deb Kirby," said Obrycka's attorney, Terry Ekl.
He said the legal team felt the award provided by the verdict was a fair one because psychological and emotional injuries are "difficult to quantify."
"We didn't ask the jury for a specific amount," he said.
In closing arguments, plaintiff's attorney Patrick Provenzale called Abbate "a monster" acting with impunity because of established police culture.
City attorney Barrett Rubens agreed Abbate was a monster but told jurors he isn't a "monster that the city created," which means the city isn't liable for his actions.
Obrycka testified the beating was so violent that she feared she would never again see her son.
A week earlier, Abbate told the court he didn't remember the attack because he was drunk and told the court that he never implored officers to cover up the incident. He was convicted of aggravated battery in 2009 and sentenced to probation.
The police department later fired him.
While he said it was difficult to prove, Ekl said the case was one that had to be tried, adding that the jury's ruling could set a precedent for other like cases.
"This judgement can be used by other plaintiffs in other civil rights cases to prove the Code of Silence in the Chicago Police Department, so it will be tremendously advantageous to other people who have been subject of constitutional violations," he said.
Ekl said he hopes the case changes the culture of the Chicago Police Department.
City attorneys did not comment after the verdict.