Judge Hears Arguments In 'Code of Silence' Case

City agrees to pay, but judge delays decision on city's motion to set aside the judgment

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A federal judge has asked attorneys for more information before deciding on the city of Chicago's request to erase a landmark judgment that found the police department operates under a code of silence that leads officers to protect rogue colleagues.

    Chicago has agreed to pay $850,000 to a female bartender who was attacked by a drunken off-duty police officer, the city's attorney said Friday in an effort to convince a federal judge to toss part of the jury's decision that found Chicago police operated under a code of silence.

    Karolina Obrycka, who sued the city after she was beaten in 2007, will receive a check from the city by the end of December regardless of whether that part of the verdict is tossed, attorney Scott Jebson said during a hearing.

    The city is not challenging the rest of the jury's ruling, including the money it awarded Obrycka.

    Jebson also said the city has decided not to appeal, underscoring its fear of the jury's finding that police operated under a code of silence that led officers to protect even the most out-of-control colleagues.

    Mayor: Motion to Vacate Beating Verdict Protects City

    [CHI] Mayor: Motion to Vacate Bartender Beating Verdict Protects City
    Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the city has asked a federal judge to overturn the jury verdict in the Anthony Abbate beating trial so other plaintiff's against the police department won't be able to invoke the same "code of silence" defense.

    Obrycka's lawyers, who support the city's motion, have said an appeal could have lasted two years.

    U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve did not rule on the city's motion to set aside the judgment. However, she did rule that a team of law professors who handle police misconduct cases could file their own legal briefs about why the jury's verdict should remain.

    Jebson argued that if the verdict remains, many frivolous lawsuits claiming police cover-ups could be filed using the same argument. Tossing the code-of-silence ruling would "save taxpayers a significant amount of money defending these countless claims," he said.

    He also suggested the judgment was not needed, saying the Chicago Police Department has made great strides to improve the way it investigates allegations of police misconduct since 2007, when a surveillance camera captured then-Officer Anthony Abbate beat Obrycka in a Chicago tavern.

    The video later went viral, and Abbate was convicted of aggravated battery in 2009, sentenced to probation and fired from his job. Abbate testified that he had been drinking heavily before the incident because he was distraught after learning his dog had cancer.

    But attorneys for outside groups pushing to keep the verdict disputed Jepson's claim that the city isn't trying to "silence the jury," arguing that a code of silence among police "is alive and well and needs to be changed."

    Locke Bowman, director of the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law, said it's this verdict -- not the mayor's and other city officials' public claims of not tolerating police misconduct -- will force officers to stop protecting rogue officers.

    "The potential that this judgment has to change that code is in the public interest," he said.

    St. Eve asked Bowman to file written arguments by Tuesday, and asked for the city's response by the following Monday. She said she would review the claims and then quickly issue a ruling.