Former Chicago police officer Anthony Abbate, convicted in a notorious beating, was the first witness in a trial focused on allegations there's an entrenched police culture where officers protect each other.
A former Chicago police officer convicted of brutally beating a bartender while off-duty headed to federal court Monday, this time amid allegations the department and the city invoked a "code of silence" to protect him.
The civil trial stems from Anthony Abbate's 2007 attack on bartender Karolina Obrycka. A video of him punching and kicking her later went viral.
In his opening statement, attorney Terry Ekl told the jury he can prove the department maintains a widespread pattern of trying to minimize abuse cases before they can come to trial.
"We call it a code of silence," he said. "Anthony Abbate calls it a professional courtesy."
Jurors on Monday were shown the surveillance video that ultimately lead to Abbate's conviction in 2009. Also captured on video were the alleged efforts to cover up the incident.
Abbate's attorneys say Abbate was not involved in those efforts but said the video will likely factor into whatever verdict the juror renders.
"We will let the facts play out but the civil case is a little different than the criminal case in that the battery itself isn't really at issue," said attorney Michael Malatesta, adding that the last few years have been difficult for his client.
Both Abbate and Obrycka are expected to take the stand in the case that's expected to include testimony that threats were made against the Jesse's Short Stop Inn, where the video was recorded and that drugs would be planted on patrons unless the video was handed over to Abbate or officers acting on his behalf.
In February, Judge Amy St. Eve pointed to evidence suggesting there was a code of silence among police after the incident, noting responding officers didn’t identify Abbate as a police officer in initial reports.
Abbate was sentenced to two years probation and anger management classes for the videotaped attack. He was fired from the police department.