Court Asked to Set Aside “Code of Silence” Verdict Against Chicago City

Posted on December 13, 2012

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Chicago City officials on Monday asked a federal judge to set aside a jury verdict that found there exists a code of silence in the city police department by which officers tend to cover up for each other’s mistakes or wrongdoings. However, they are not contesting the $850,000 in damages which the jurors awarded to Karolina Obrycka, the former bartender who filed the civil complaint against the city for personal injuries which she sustained following a beating from a drunk, off-duty cop.

Surprisingly, Obrycka also joined the city in its motion before the U.S. District Court in Chicago. As it turned out, she has been assured that by joining in the motion she stands to quickly collect the jury award she won without having to face the risk of losing on appeal or having the trial judge reduce the $850,000.

Obrycka was beaten in February 2007 by former police officer Anthony Abbate, who was then off-duty and admittedly drunk. Surveillance video showed Abbate pushing Obrycka to the ground behind the bar at Jesse’s Shortstop Inn where she worked, then repeatedly punching and kicking her. Abbate was fired after he was criminally convicted of aggravated battery in 2009, and sentenced to probation.

Following the criminal conviction, Obrycka filed a lawsuit in civil court against Abbate and the city of Chicago seeking damages for the pain and distress she suffered as a result of the beating and the alleged cover-up which came after. As plaintiff, she alleged that the police tried to downplay and cover up the beating, in part out of an ingrained culture within the police force of protecting their own. She, through her counsel, said that culture emboldened Abbate and created an environment that led to the beating.

 

The city attorneys countered that there was no evidence that such a secret code existed within the police department.  They maintained that Abbate alone should be held accountable for his action. However, during the two and a half weeks of the trial, which focused almost exclusively on the question of whether or not there is such an ingrained code of silence, some police officials who testified clearly contradicted each other, proving the plaintiff’s point that there were indeed some cover-ups made in the case. Abbate himself testified to “drunk dialing” his friends and colleagues after beating the former bartender.

On November 13, the federal jury awarded Obrycka $850,000 in damages, ruling that a code of silence in the police department protected officer Abbate in the beating incident.

In the motion filed Monday, city officials jointly with Obrycka asked U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve to set aside the landmark verdict that found there exists a code of silence in the police department but to keep intact the $850,000 judgment in favor of the winning plaintiff. It is seen as a legal move meant to prevent the verdict from being cited as a precedent in similar future cases against the city.

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