Updated 12/7/12 – 1:16 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – A judge is delaying a ruling on whether to set aside a federal jury’s verdict that a “code of silence” protected ex-cop Anthony Abbate during an investigation into his beating of bartender Karolina Obrycka in 2007.
Attorneys for the city and Obrycka have asked U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve to vacate the jury’s verdict regarding the so-called “code of silence.”
In 2007, Abbate – while drunk and off-duty – repeatedly punched and kicked Obrycka when she refused to continue serving him drinks. The attack was caught on surveillance video.
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During a trial on Obrycka’s lawsuit against Abbate and the city, her attorneys argued other officers and police brass tried to cover up the attack. The jury found Abbate was part of a conspiracy to cover up the beating, and that an unwritten “code of silence” emboldened him to pummel Obrycka, believing his fellow officers would protect him. The jury awarded Obrycka $850,000 in damages.
At a hearing on their request to vacate the jury’s finding that a “code of silence” leads officers to protect each other in cases of wrongdoing, city attorneys promised Obrycka would get the $850,000 in damages by month’s end, but asked that the jury’s legal finding itself be stricken, so other brutality plaintiffs could not use it to bolster their own cases in the future.
Obrycka’s attorneys said they do not object to the city’s request, but civil rights attorney Locke Bowman — who has filed several brutality and misconduct lawsuits against police — said the judgement must stand as hard-won proof of a code of silence, and a lesson for other police and city officials with coverup on their minds.
St. Eve continued the case for another week, to give both sides time to file briefs on the issue, and promised a ruling next Friday, Dec. 14.
The city has said vacating the judgment that a code of silence exists would protect the city from liability and save taxpayers money in future cases of alleged misconduct. It has insisted there have been improvements in the handling of police complaints since the infamous beating.
But Bowman has said the city should not be able to buy its way out of the jury’s verdict.