Updated 10/22/2012 at 5:30 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A civil trial began Monday in federal court over that infamous beating of a bartender by a drunken off-duty Chicago police officer.

The question in the case isn’t whether a drunken Anthony Abbate beat, punched and kicked bartender Karolina Obrycka after she refused to serve him more alcohol more than five years ago. It’s about what he and his fellow officers did afterward.

A federal lawsuit alleges a coverup by police to protect one of their own.

“You will hear evidence that it is the standard operating procedure of the Chicago Police Department to protect the reputation of the Chicago Police Department,” Obrycka’s attorney, Terry Ekl, told jurors.

The city had a different view about the incident.

“It’s not about Chicago Police Department policy and procedures,”  attorney Matthew Hurd said. “It’s about a guy who got drunk, sang songs and messed with Karolina Obrycka.”

Abatte took the stand Monday, saying he was defending himself at the bar.

The Chicago Tribune reports that according to court records, Abbate and his police partner made some 150 calls to investigators in the hours after the beating and made threats to try to get the surveillance camera video of the beating — a video that later was seen around the world.

The lawsuit could cost the city millions, if Obrycka wins her case.

Abbate was criminally convicted, sentenced to two years probation and fired from his police job.