Lawyers for a man shot two years ago by Chicago police, say they have been surprised twice in the last week by eleventh-hour evidence which was never turned over by city attorneys.
The case in question involves a man named Jaquise Evans, who was 16 years old when he was shot by police in August of 2015. The officer who shot Evans, Richard Salvador, said the boy pointed a gun at him. But when the case went to trial, Evans was aquitted of the gun charge, and he sued Salvador for his substantial injuries.
The matter is set for trial at the end of this month, but Evans’ attorneys Michael Oppenheimer, Sam Adam Jr., and Ronak Maisuria, say they were told only last week of a video depicting Salvador cursing and seemingly giving rough treatment to another man eight weeks before the Evans shooting.
“Officer Richard Salvador (engaged) in what can only be described as brutal, violent, unlawful, and arguably racist conduct towards a young African American citizen,” they wrote. “The speed with which Defendant’s counsel was able to send the link suggests that the video was readily available and simply had not been produced.”
The video, posted on facebook by another person who was present during the incident, appears to show Salvador screaming at a handcuffed arrestee, daring him to lash out.
“I am not f***ing with you, you understand?” he asks “Make a move like that towards me again. I will f***ing show you, exactly, what I can do!”
In a hearing in Federal Court, Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer made no effort to hide her disgust at the video, which she called “disturbing”.
“To call what happened on that video nothing more than use of profanity is just—nobody in this room believes that,” Pallmeyer said. “It was threatening physical violence on an arrestee. It was suggesting to the arrestee it was his personal affront to the officer that rendered him liable.”
Pallmeyer warned the city lawyers they had an obligation to follow their own code of professional conduct.
“The lawyers who represent the city are responsible to take that seriously, and to say, you know, we have to think seriously about the credibility of our own witness,” she said. “Because this witness engaged in this kind of conduct in a situation like this and hasn’t been disciplined for it, and so far as we know, hasn’t really owned up to it.”
Pallmeyer told the attorneys they might want to remember, “This is the guy we are representing---we might have a little bit of a problem.”
Salvador reported alleged that the man in the video had attempted to head-butt him. Ironically, that man, who NBC 5 is not naming, was released without charges.
Pallmeyer asked the city attorneys when they became aware of the video, and they admitted it had been called to their attention last April.
“Did that trouble you at all?” she asked. “I am not asking you as a judge. I am asking you as somebody who cares deeply about the city of Chicago.”
Pallmeyer called the credibility of another witness in the case, a Lieutenant who had reportedly signed off on the incident as merely foul language, “very, very, poor.”
“That makes anything he says about what—about his views about Officer Salvador’s conduct in this case very suspect,” she said.
City lawyers insisted they had advised Evans’ attorneys about a reported social media video last year.
“I absolutely disclosed the existence of this video in April of 2017,” said city attorney Scott Cohen. “I never heard anything…they were on notice…”
Evans’ lawyers countered that it was the city’s responsibility to tender any potentially damaging evidence.
What I would like clarified is, did he watch the video then?” asked attorney Ronak Maisuria. “Because they should have known then that they should have produced this to us long ago.”
The very next day, the same Evans lawyers filed still another motion, saying they had just been advised of three more complaints from the officer’s history, which had never been revealed before.
“It is essential that we know exactly what defense counsel was aware of with regard to the additional complaint registers at the court hearing just one day prior,” Maisuria wrote. “It is difficult to wholeheartedly trust that defense counsel just became aware of this information this afternoon!”
Late Tuesday, the Chicago Law Department said in a statement that they had done their best to keep defense counsel apprised of everything in the officer’s record.
“The Department of Law provided a complete list of complaints to the plaintiff’s attorneys in May 2016,” the statement said. “Since that time, additional complaints have been made against the defendant officer, and Law is making a good faith effort to obtain them and produce them. We will continue to argue that sanctions are unwarranted as we continue to defend against this lawsuit.”
A hearing on the matter was set for Tuesday morning. In the meantime, 21st ward alderman Howard Brookins, expressed concern about the allegations that city attorneys might have hidden evidence, or at the very least, bungled their legally mandated obligation to tender any and all evidence to their opposing counsel.
“There’s no excuse for that,” Brookins told NBC 5. “It is a systemic problem, and we’ve got to get to the bottom of it because it’s costing us too much money, and it’s costing our reputation.”