Gary Engel’s son insisted for years that the FBI framed his father back in the 1990s.
When the former Willow Springs cop was arrested three years ago and hanged himself in jail — charged as an accomplice in one of Chicago’s most gruesome kidnap and murder plots — Daniel Engel pressed on with his father’s lawsuit against retired FBI agent Robert Buchan and others.
But Daniel Engel abruptly dropped the case against Buchan mid-trial Wednesday, two days after opening statements at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.
Buchan and his government lawyers celebrated with hugs and laughter. They even posed for photographs in U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly’s courtroom.
They declined to comment as they left the courthouse, but a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice said it was “pleased with the outcome.”
Daniel Engel also declined to speak to reporters. But his lawyer later said the Engel family walked away with a $3 million settlement from Buffalo Grove — whose officers had earlier been named as defendants but didn’t go to trial — and he said it was time for the family to move on in the face of “veiled prosecution threats.”
“The government has been making veiled prosecution threats against a family member to try to intimidate him into signing an incriminating affidavit,” Loevy wrote in an email.
“That family member is refusing to sign the government’s affidavit despite this pressure, but (t)he family would like this pressure to end, and has decided that $3 million is sufficient justice.”
Gary Engel will long be remembered as the accomplice to ex-Chicago cop Steve Mandell, who is serving life plus five years for his 2012 plan with Engel to kidnap a businessman, torture him in a Northwest Side torture chamber called “Club Med” and kill him.
The trial that began this week at Chicago’s federal courthouse served as a prequel of sorts to the “Club Med” case. At issue was whether Gary Engel was harmed by an alleged law enforcement crusade in the late 1980s and early 1990s to imprison Mandell, who was known then as Steve Manning.
Engel served 19 years for a 1984 Missouri kidnapping until that state’s supreme court reversed his conviction in 2010 for due process violations. Gary Engel claimed he was set up for the kidnapping as the feds pressured him to give them incriminating evidence on his colleague, Mandell.
In opening statements Monday, Loevy told jurors the feds “railroaded, ran over, completely trampled” Gary Engel’s rights. Government lawyer Leah Taylor told them, “We don’t have to prove that Engel is guilty, but he is.”
But behind the scenes, transcripts show hesitation among some of Engel’s relatives about the trial prompted the FBI to subpoena Gary Engel’s brother, Rick, Sunday night.
Government lawyers said Rick Engel then told them his brother “talked about doing a score down in Missouri,” according to transcripts. After Rick Engel initially agreed to sign an affidavit, they said, they reminded him he said in an earlier deposition he didn’t know anything about the kidnapping.
However, Loevy said his client’s take-away from the conversation was that his uncle “lied then or you lied now, you need to get a lawyer, you face criminal jeopardy either way.”