Reporting Craig Dellimore
CHICAGO (CBS) – Alderman expressed outrage Thursday, even as they unanimously approved nearly $33 million in settlements of two high-profile lawsuits alleging police misconduct.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) said she had to rant about the city having to pay $10.25 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Alton Logan, who spent 26 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
Logan sued the city and former Lt. Jon Burge, alleging not that he was tortured into confessing – as other wrongfully convicted suspects have claimed about Burge – but that police withheld evidence that would have cleared him of killing a security guard at a McDonald’s restaurant in Chicago in 1982.
“It shouldn’t happen, because it’s a reflection on my people, and my community,” she said. “And I didn’t come out of slavery. I’m not in slavery no more. We are free. And the right to be free is justice for all, and do the right thing. And the system shouldn’t have allowed this to happen.”
Mitts said the millions of dollars paid out to settle such cases isn’t just a disgrace, it’s a waste.
“As we talk about Dr. Martin Luther King, I’m looking at today the city of Chicago, and the amount of money that the taxpayers are paying out, what we could do with that money in our neighborhoods,” she said.
The City Council gave final approval Thursday to the settlement of Logan’s federal lawsuit.
Aldermen also approved a $22.5 million settlement of a federal lawsuit filed by the family of a woman who was raped and nearly killed after police released her from custody into a high-crime area of the city, with no knowledge of where she was, and no phone.
Christina Eilman, who suffers from bipolar disorder, was arrested at Midway International Airport in May 2006 after allegedly causing a disturbance at the airport.
Despite calls from her parents warning police of her mental illness, police released her from custody near the Robert Taylor Homes public housing project, without a clue where she was. Court records indicate she was in an acute manic phase at the time.
After she was released, she was raped and then pushed or fell from a 7th floor window, causing several broken bones and a severe brain injury. She has required around-the-clock medical care since, and now lives with her parents in California.
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.
Her parents had sought $100 million in damages in their lawsuit, but agreed to settle for $22.5 million.
Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) asked how long the city would have to pay for such cases, when the officers involved in the alleged misconduct are so rarely disciplined.
“There hasn’t been any consequences for these actions, but the people have to pay, and the people are the ones suffering this,” he said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said such settlements also damage the city’s reputation.
“While it is financially costly, it has cost us more than just that,” he said.
The settlement in the Eilman lawsuit is one of the largest payments to a single plaintiff in the city’s history.
The mayor acknowledged the city has all but exhausted its funds to pay for such settlements.
“The good news is we have an insurance policy. You are right that they have exhausted … the bandwidth of those policies, for lack of a better way of saying it,” he said.
But the mayor said the city will have more funds.