City settles police misconduct lawsuits

January 15, 2013 3:29:00 PM PST
Two big payouts will soon be approved to settle lawsuits involving allegations of Chicago police misconduct.

A Chicago City Council committee agrees to pay $33 million to settle one case that resulted in a man spending years in prison for a crime he did not commit, as well as a case involving permanent injury to an innocent young woman.

While it's only January, the city is already spending millions to settle cases with even more settlements are expected before 2013 is over.

These are two of the biggest police misconduct case settlements ever. The city has insurance, but it does not kick in until there is a $15 million threshold, which means that for these two cases taxpayers on the hook for $25 million in damages.

Alton Logan did 26 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.

"Nothing. No amount of money. Nothing can ever make up for the time that I lost," Logan said.

He and his attorney will get a settlement of $10.25 million. Of all cases linked to the now-imprisoned former police commander Jon Burge, Logan's settlement is the largest, and the only one that that didn't allege police torture.

The finance committee Tuesday green-lighted the Logan settlement and another twice its size.

"As I sit here today, I'm both embarrassed and ashamed," said 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke.

The committee chairman's assessment shared by others in the case of Christina Eilman, a then-21-year-old California woman with a bi-polar condition, who in 2006 was sexually assaulted and either jumped or fell from a vacant Robert Taylor high rise.

Police had earlier taken her into custody but released her into a tough neighborhood despite the pleadings of her parents not to.

Much of the Eilman's $22.5 million settlement is to go for her continued permanent care.

The city's corporation counsel reasons that had the Eilman and Logan cases gone to trial, it likely would have cost more than the price of settlement.

"Sometimes, it's better to eliminate the risk of a much worse outcome by settling the case," said Steve Patton, Chicago Corporation Counsel.

Though both cases have led to changes in police procedure, the question asked Tuesday was, "What other alleged police misconduct cases are in the pipeline?" The answer is several, and they could be costly.

Two involve fatal shootings by police officers, one in the fall of 2011. Flint Farmer was reportedly shot 16 times. Another last March involving Rekia Boyd, killed when an officer fired into a group of people. And a third involving Jose Fematt, who was 14 years old seven years ago when a group of rogue cops burst into his home, put a gun to his head and demanded information about a drug dealer Fematt did not have.

Sources say those cases are in settlement discussions, though Patton is not prepared to confirm that.

"We are going to continue to do in the future what we've done in the past, which is look at each one of these cases and try to figure out what is the best thing to do with it from the city and our taxpayers' perspective.

The full City Counsel is expected to approve the two settlements when it meets on Thursday.

The family of Christina Eilman is holding comment until then.