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Finance Committee Backs Nearly $33M In Settlements Of Police Lawsuits

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This photo of Christina Eilman shows her about nine months before she came to Chicago in 2006. (Family Photo)

This photo of Christina Eilman shows her about nine months before she came to Chicago in 2006. (Family Photo)

CHICAGO (CBS) – A Chicago City Council Committee has given preliminary approval to nearly $33 million dollars in settlements of two high-profile cases of alleged police misconduct.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports aldermen on the Finance Committee had no objections to paying a $22.5 million settlement a federal lawsuit filed by the family of Christina Eilman.

The mentally ill California woman was raped and severely injured in May 2006, after police arrested her for causing a disturbance at Midway International Airport, then released her near the old Robert Taylor Homes public housing project, without a clue where she was.

Eilman suffered from bipolar disorder and was in an acute manic phase at the time, according to court records.

Despite calls from her parents telling police she suffered from bipolar disorder, police released her near the Robert Taylor Homes without any assistance, without a phone, and dressed in a cutoff top, short shorts, and boots.

She was raped and then fell or was pushed out of a 7th floor window, causing a severe brain injury and several broken bones. She now requires around-the-clock care and is living with her parents in California.

A recent photo of Christina Eilman shows a tracheotomy scar on her throat. (Family Photo)

A recent photo of Christina Eilman shows a tracheotomy scar on her throat. (Family Photo)

Court records indicate, although the city first argued Eilman seemed coherent while in custody, several police officers testified in depositions that they noticed bizarre behavior.

The committee’s chair, Ald. Edward Burke (14th), touched a nerve when he quoted from an appeals court ruling in the case: “They might as well have released her into the lions’ den at Brookfield Zoo.”

South Side Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) objected to the judges’ words.

“Comparing a community to animals is inappropriate. There could have been another way to say that,” she said.

A photo of Christina Eilman with her parents before she was attacked and nearly killed in Chicago. (Family Photo)

A photo of Christina Eilman with her parents before she was attacked and nearly killed in Chicago. (Family Photo)

City Corporation Counsel Steve Patton said the family had been seeking $100 million in damages, and city attorneys sought to minimize the cost of a settlement to taxpayers.

“I am convinced that that will care for this young woman for the rest of her life. I think it will be sufficient to do that,” Patton said of the $22.5 million settlement.

Burke, a former police officer himself, was blunt in his assessment of the case.

“I’m embarrassed to think that a poor girl like this would have been so callously treated by members of the Chicago Police Department,” he said.

An attorney for the Eilman family said he has agreed not to comment on the settlement until after final approval by the full City Council.

The committee also recommended approval of a $10.25 million settlement in a federal lawsuit filed by Alton Logan, who spent 26 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

Logan sued former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and other police officers, but unlike other former suspects who have sued Burge and his detectives, Logan did not allege he was tortured into confessing, but instead claimed police covered up evidence that would have cleared him of killing a security guard at a McDonald’s restaurant in Chicago in 1982.

Logan was released from prison in 2008 after new evidence revealed he wasn’t the killer.

The trial in Logan’s lawsuit was delayed last month just before jury selection. Burge was to be called as a witness to testify by videoconference from prison, where he is serving 4 ½ years for lying about torture by the detectives under his command. He likely would have asserted his Fifth Amendment right against incriminating himself.

The full City Council will consider the settlements on Thursday.

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