Abbatte and the city who employed him as a cop were found liable to the tune of $850K in compensatory damages and refused to consider any settlement of the case despite videotaped evidence of the beating and testimony that the officer, off-duty and on a self-confessed "mission to get inebriated." Relying entirely on attempting to sever its connection to Abbatte, the City repeatedly fought any claim revolving around the "wall of silence" but Northern District of Illinois Judge Amy St. Eve ruled against the City and the City failed to convince a jury that there was no blue wall of silence mainly because the Plaintiff did a solid job proving otherwise. Now that the Plaintiff has filed this motion jointly with the City, Judge St. Eve will be ruling solely by weighing the interests of the parties involved in the lawsuit against the interest of the public in having the record of the jury's verdict stand. The interest of the public was the argument that the Plaintiff's side made most often throughout their process, so it will be interesting to see how Judge St. Eve takes this naked attempt by the Plaintiff to collect damages without fearing an appeal.
For example the Plaintiff's attorneys successfully demonstrated that the felony aggravated battery charges, which were clearly appropriate after viewing the videotape, that the Defendant Abbatte was eventually convicted of, were initially only misdemeanor charges despite internal dispute about the seriousness. It went to show that even the ASA, in addition to Abbatte's fellow officers, were willing to cut Abbatte breaks because he was a cop.
Plaintiff's attorneys showed the blue wall in effect using both Abbatte's own drunken boasts and repeatedly not-so-veiled threats but also the investigating officer's own controverted testimony.
The City created a confluence of circumstances, a perfect storm, and drowned in the aftermath. Now it seeks to pay off the Plaintiff in order to cleanse the judicial record so future Plaintiff's can not use this jury verdict to substantiate their claims of conspiracy among the police.
Unfortunately, the City should have contemplated all of the costs of proceeding to trial, including the effects a negative jury finding would have on their other police abuse cases. I cannot imagine that Judge St. Eve would take down a jury verdict to lessen the consequences to the City from such a finding.
I think the undeniable fact here is that there was a blue wall of silence and Judge St. Eve could have shut down that inquiry earlier but, tellingly, refused to do so despite similar arguments by the City.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has spoken out in favor of the City's attempt to vacate the jury verdict in the Abbate case. Mayor Emanuel basically is trying a logically poor argument that this case started under Mayor Daley and that because he is now in charge it is somehow not relevant anymore. Basically he wants anyone harmed by the Chicago Police to blaze a new trail rather than use the one created by the bartender's attorney. Of course, without any meaningful changes in the department, the conduct the jury found so repugnant will simply continue. Having this jury verdict on the books will be a VERY powerful incentive for the police to ensure their conduct is above the board, especially when another cop is involved. It would be difficult for Judge St. Eve to think the public's interests are somehow outweighed by the bartender who just wants easy cash and the City that is desperate to tamp down on police created liability.
Two Chicago area law professors have filed a motion seeking leave to submit briefs on "addressing the public's interest in ensuring that the city not be permitted to 'buy its way out of this judgment."
The two professors specialize in Section 1983 police misconduct cases and they clearly hope to take advantage of the jury's findings in the Abbatte case.