$20M torture settlement hits roadblock

CHICAGO The four are alleged victims of torture administered by Chicago police officers.

A tentative agreement was reached Friday. It was approved Monday by the city council finance committee and was supposed to go to the floor Wednesday. Aldermen were hoping to vote yes, to begin the end of a long and nightmarish debate over police torture.

"We need to do some healing here. So I want to see it done as quickly as we can get it done," said Ald. Ed Smith, 28th Ward.

Minutes later, Dmith and the other aldermen were stunned when the deal had unraveled. Plaintiff Stanley Howard, who is still in prison for rape, signed the settlement document but hand wrote in the margin "this release does not bar any future claims."

"Putting in that language makes the agreement different than what we had agreed to. I think everybody recognizes that," said Mara Georges, Chicago Corporation Counsel.

But Howard's attorney downplayed the handwritten qualifier.

"This is not something that is controversial. In my view, it's being used as an excuse," said John Loevy, Howard's attorney.

And there are questions about plaintiff Aaron Patterson's agreement. Attorney Frank Avila has power of attorney for Patterson to settle for not less than $5.2 million. Patterson's share of the $19.8 million is only $5 million.

"We are still awaiting from Mr. Patterson's attorney a copy of a power of attorney duly executed by Aaron Patterson," said Georges.

"But the deal is not done today. We will go back to court or negotiate a higher amount," said Avila.

Avila said his client will need more money if the office that represents plaintiff Leroy Orange doesn't drop its claim on part of Patterson's $5 million. That office previously represented Patterson for a dozen years.

"They have asked for incredible and reasonable and excessive amounts," said Avila.

"I got his pardon. I got him out of jail. I got him the lawsuit. I represented him for most of his civil case," said Flint Taylor, People's Law Office.

Watching and still waiting was Leroy Orange. The wrongfully convicted alleged torture victim came to the council meeting thinking his 23-year-long journey to justice would end Wednesday. It did not.

"I'm tired. I spent 23 years waiting for justice. And I'm ready to move on with my life," he said.

Mayor Daley would not comment on the settlement or lack thereof. City attorney Georges admitted her mistake in rushing the ordinance to city council without having all the required signatures. She said she still believes there can be a settlement in January, but whether Patterson's attorney makes good on the threat to demand more money remains to be seen.
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