A lawsuit was filed Wednesday from a Chicago man who claims he was falsely accused of murder and, he says, he was severely beaten in an attempt to force a confession for the crime. Leonard Robinson was later acquitted of first degree murder charges.
Robinson says police punched him, stomped on him and whipped him with a TV antenna during three days of interrogation.
As hard as the Chicago Police Department tries to remake itself for the future, its past keeps coming back to haunt the force.At the Chicago Crime Commission luncheon Wednesday, new police Superintendent Jodi Weis called reshaping his department's tarnished image one of his top priorities:
"Because of the misdeeds of a handful of people, the image of the Chicago Police Department isn't where it should be," said Supt. Jody Weis, Chicago Police Department.
Weis did not know that two hours earlier his department and the city were hit with another police misconduct lawsuit, this one alleging that in 2004 detectives at Area Four Police Headquarters tortured Leonard Robinson in an effort to get a murder confession from him.
"They handcuffed me to a wall and beat me with a TV antenna, and kicked me, stomped me, spit on me," said Robinson.
The lawsuit further alleges that while Robinson was held in the Cook County Jail awaiting trial, the detective who claimed he heard Robinson confess to the crime made 17 phone calls to the suspect's wife.
"After he met her, he decided that he was going to continue to call her and to pursue her and to have a sexual relationship with her," said Andre Grant, Robinson's attorney.
Robinson was found not guilty last October. During a ruling on a motion to suppress the confession Judge Vincent Gaughan said, "I find, one, that the statement, if it was made, was made as a result of the beating and, therefore, was involuntary". And on the detectives alleged phone calls to the suspect's wife, Gaughn ruled, "For the lack of a better word, he's hitting on Mrs. Robinson at the time that he's the one saying that her husband made an oral confession."
Grant says, despite the judge's ruling and a complaint filed with the department three years, the offending officer was never disciplined.
"I'm sure he is where most police officers are when they commit misconduct: still on the police force," Grant said.
Weis would not take questions after his crime commission speech. But an aide said his staff is reviewing past misconduct complaints that may not have been acted upon during the previous police administration.
"There are many officers who have been relieved of powers that the media and the public doesn't even know about. Since Superintendent Weis has taken the helm," said Monique Bond, police spokeswoman.
But Bond could say that the detectives involved in the Leonard Robinson case are among those quietly disciplined by the Weis administration.
The city spends tens of millions of dollars annually settling police misconduct lawsuits. It's another reason Mayor Daley wants the problem solved as soon as possible.