City to challenge Anthony Abbate verdict as $850K is awarded in bartender beating civil trial

November 14, 2012 (CHICAGO)

A jury awarded Karolina Obrycka $850,000 in the civil trial of former Chicago police officer Anthony Abbate, who was caught on video beating Obrycka. She sued Abbate and the city, claiming they tried to cover up the 2007 attack.

The city contended that his pummeling of bartender Karolina Obryska was unprovoked and inexcusable, but the responsibility rested with Abbate alone.

Attorneys for the city would not comment on camera after the verdict. But in a written statement, the city says it "respectfully disagrees" with the decision, and that "we intend to challenge that verdict through post-trial motions ..., and if necessary, on appeal."

Meanwhile, when reporters approached Abbate after the verdict and asked where the $850,000 will come from, he quipped, "I think I got a Visa card in my wallet." He chose not to discuss the verdict on camera.

Obryska's attorneys argued throughout the trial that Abbate acted the way he did because he was unafraid of the consequences that he would be protected by a long standing police code of silence.

"There was never any question," Obyrcka's attorney Terry Ekl said. "The code of silence is alive and well in the police department, and we had the incredible burden that it was widespread and persistent."

The jury, which consisted of three men and eight women, agreed. They accepted the argument that Abbate conspired with other officers to minimize the case against him, and that higher ups sought to soft-pedal the case so as not to damage the department's reputation.

"To tell you the truth I'm still shocked," Obrycka said. "There's so many things I want to say."

One of the things she does say is that justice was served-- and the power behind the tape weighed heavily.

"I don't know if that was a determining factor in what they decided but just having it out there was going to make it a very uphill battle," Abbate's attorney Mike Malatesta said.

Former Police Superintendent and ABC7 Public Safety Expert Jody Weis said there's an instinct among cops to protect their own.

"You've got to make sure no one believes or feels like they're above the law," Weis said. "Yes, you have to trust each other with your lives but that doesn't put you above the law."

The jury found Abbate's status as a cop afforded him a certain level of protection - not just from the rank and file - but also police brass.

"The testimony presented to the jury - emotional or not emotional - that there was a code of silence that let Abbate think he was going to operate with impunity here and that's the key," IIT Kent College of Law professor Sheldon Nahmod said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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