(CBS) — A federal jury on Thursday awarded a Chicago man $44.7 million after he was shot in the head with a bullet from the gun of his then-friend, a Chicago cop with a checkered history, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
The jury, however, did not make a specific finding that there was a code of silence at the Chicago Police Department.
Michael D. LaPorta was shot in the head with a bullet from Officer Patrick Kelly’s service weapon on Jan. 12, 2010. The two had been close friends, and the shooting happened in Kelly’s home after the two men had gone out drinking with Kelly’s co-workers.
As he awaited the verdict to be read, LaPorta held his mother’s hand. After jurors announced their decision, he fist-bumped his attorneys in celebration.
“I feel whole again,” he tells CBS 2’s Dave Savini, who has long followed the case.
The city of Chicago is on the hook for $15 million, with the balance to be paid by private insurance, Savini reports. The award does not include another $10 million in attorneys’ fees.
Last week on the witness stand, Kelly invoked his constitutional right not to incriminate himself. He did so moments before LaPorta testified from his wheelchair, denying that he shot himself and insisting about Kelly, “I know he shot me.”
Jurors say Kelly taking the Fifth was a game-changer in the trial. They say the lack of fingerprints on the gun indicates Kelly cleaned the scene of the shooting.
The civil trial at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse began Oct. 2. At issue was whether the city failed to rein in Kelly, an officer with a history of violence, and prevent LaPorta’s injuries.
Jurors were first asked whether it was more likely that Kelly pulled the trigger the night LaPorta was shot — an allegation Kelly specifically refused to deny when he took the stand.
Then, jurors were asked to consider, among other things, whether a so-called “code of silence” existed within the Chicago Police Department that protected Kelly. They did so after being exposed to conclusions by the Police Accountability Task Force, the Department of Justice and even Mayor Rahm Emanuel that the code is real.
Kelly and LaPorta had visited multiple bars with other off-duty Chicago Police officers before the shooting. But what happened later inside Kelly’s home has never been clear. Testimony suggests the two got into an argument over Kelly’s dog.
When Kelly called 911 early that morning, he calmly told a dispatcher, “I have a friend that committed suicide . . . He’s dead right now.” But soon, his tone changed, and he abruptly blurted out the words, “he’s still breathing!”
When paramedics arrived, Kelly was “extremely upset,” “agitated” and “not calm-able,” witnesses said. He yelled obscenities at a sergeant and was ultimately arrested for simple assault. A judge later found him not guilty.
Kelly has previously said he saw LaPorta holding the gun to his left temple with his left hand. Kelly said he heard the gun click and then tried to grab it with his right hand. The gun went off with Kelly’s hand about six inches away, he said.
But LaPorta testified that he learned to shoot a gun when he was 7, and he always used his right hand.
CPD is taking a second look at the shooting. Kelly had been assigned to administrative duties, but after the verdict was announced the CPD said he was relieved of his police powers.
A news conference is scheduled for Friday to discuss the case — the largest verdict in Illinois for a police misconduct case — Savini reports.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire copy; Chicago Sun-Times 2017. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)