by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer
CHICAGO (CBS) — Aldermen are set to vote on more than $1 million in settlements stemming from four police misconduct lawsuits, during a City Council Finance Committee meeting next week.
The largest settlement on the agenda for Monday’s meeting is a $500,000 payment to Andy Jardinas, who accused a police officer of shoving him to the ground while handcuffed, in a police lockup in 2016, causing a major head injury.
Police arrested Jardinas on a misdemeanor property damage charge on Nov. 5, 2016. Jardinas accused Officer Rodrigo Corona of shoving him in a cell at the 9th District station, while Jardinas was still handcuffed, causing him to fall and hit his head, causing bleeding on his brain.
“At the time Defendant CORONA used force against Plaintiff, Officer CORONA knew Plaintiff was not posing any threat that justified the force CORONA used on Plaintiff,” the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit also states Officer Manuel Arroyo was standing right behind Corona at the time, and did nothing to stop him from shoving Jardinas.
Jardinas also claimed the two officers conspired to falsify police documents to cover up Corona’s use of excessive force.
According to the lawsuit, Jardinas suffered severe injuries that required him to go to the hospital, and he still suffers pain and emotional trauma more than three years later.
The lawsuit says Corona has faced at least 20 misconduct complaints since he became an officer in 2006, including an allegation of excessive force in the death of Heriberto Godinez.
In December, the Finance Committee signed off on a controversial $1.2 million settlement for Godinez’s family. Godinez died in police custody in July 2015, and the city has said video shows one officer placing his foot on Godinez’s neck for approximately two seconds while he was lying on the ground, and another officer later standing on Godinez’s chest for about 90 seconds.
Several aldermen objected to the settlement, arguing Godinez was a gang banger who died of a drug overdose, not police misconduct. But aldermen who voted for the settlement said the city risked an even larger payment if the case were to go to trial.
Final approval of the Godinez settlement was delayed until next week’s City Council meeting.
Another settlement up for a vote by the Finance Committee on Monday is a $300,000 payment to Police Officer Kelly Hespe, who accused a supervisor, Sgt. Gerald Breimon, of a “pattern of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.”
In a federal lawsuit, Hespe claimed Breimon forced her to have sex multiple times over three years while they were assigned to the 14th District, and becoming abusive and retaliating against her when she tried to end the relationship.
Breimon was a sergeant at the time, and has since been promoted to the rank of lieutenant.
Hespe said the harassment started with Breimon making sexually suggestive comments, calling himself Tarzan and her Jane.
“Plaintiff subsequently learned through conversations with Breimon and through her own experience that she would have to run a gauntlet of sexual harassment in the 14th district in order to ensure male officers would ‘have her back’ on calls and not refer to her as a ‘rat.’” her lawsuit claimed. “Plaintiff discovered and was informed that she would be ostracized and retaliated against and that other officers would not be willing to work with her, if she complained about their offensive conduct.”
Hespe claimed, when she complained to Breimon about another officer sexually harassing her, including masturbating in his squad car while parked next to hers, Breimon told her to “deal with it herself.”
Later, after repeatedly sending her lewd sexual messages on Facebook while on and off duty, and telling her no one would believe her if she complained, Hespe said Breimon started forcing her to have sex with her in his squad car, in his office, and in a police station storage room.
Hespe said Breimon also forced her to carpool with him from December 2010 through November 2012, so he could have sex with her in the parking lot before and after work.
She said she gave in to his demands for sex out of fear of retaliation. She claimed Breimon told her his mother was a former high-ranking police official who still had powerful connections, and would “get rid” of her if Hespe ever complained about his harassment.
Hespe also said Breimon threatened to kill himself when she would refuse his demands for sex.
Hespe went on medical leave in March 2013, and when that expired in April 2014, she went on unpaid leave, but still remains a member of the force.
Meantime, aldermen also are set to vote on a $150,000 settlement with Travon and Treonia Gardner, who say two police officers choked and beat Travon after pulling him over in 2016, and taking away Treonia’s phone and smashing it against the car when she recorded them.
According to their lawsuit, Officers James Haworth and Zachary Gammonley pulled Travon over while he was driving near 77th and Central Park on Aug. 14, 2016, and forced him out of his car, even though there was no reason to believe he had committed a crime.
The lawsuit claims, after the officers arrested Travon, they choked him and hit him in the head and neck, and when Tereonia recorded them with her phone, they took her phone away and repeatedly slammed it against the back of Travon’s car.
After handcuffing Travon and putting him in the back seat of their squad car, the lawsuit claims the officers repeatedly and intentionally sped up and braked, slamming his face and head into the divider of the patrol car.
The final lawsuit on the slate for Monday’s committee meeting is a $125,000 payment to Alma Benitez, a witness to the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Benitez says detectives pressured her to change her account of the shooting, claiming dashboard camera video contradicted her assertion McDonald was not a threat to police when Officer Jason Van Dyke shot him 16 times.
That settlement was held up at the previous Finance Committee meeting last month, but is back on the agenda for Monday.