Filing: Chicago ‘two-faced’ on acknowledging police abuse

May 19, 2022, 10:28 AM | Updated: 4:40 pm

CHICAGO (AP) — The city of Chicago pursues a “two-faced” strategy of acknowledging an ugly history of police brutality in public while directing its lawyers to deny that legacy in court when victims sue, community leaders alleged in a court filing Thursday.

The filing in Chicago’s U.S. District Court on behalf of nearly 50 civic, business and religious leaders says the approach delays just payouts and costs the city tens of millions in legal fees that could otherwise go to social programs or reducing taxes.

The filing is in a lawsuit by 55-year-old Black man, James Gibson, freed in 2019 after serving 29 years behind bars when courts found officers under police commander Jon Burge tortured Gibson into implicating himself in the 1989 slayings of two men, including by pressing a scorching hot iron into Gibson’s arm. Gibson was later granted a certificate of innocence.

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his successor, current Mayor Lori Lightfoot, are among those who have spoken publicly about how, between 1972 and 1991, Burge’s crew sought confessions from at least 100 African Americans, using electric shocks to their genitals, suffocating them with typewriter covers and shoving guns in their mouths.

“The City’s two-faced approach of admitting Burge’s long practice of torture publicly, but then denying the existence of that same pattern when confronted with civil rights claims of Burge’s victims, serves no one,” the filing says.

The filing cites the Chicago Tribune as reporting that the city, from 2004 to early 2019, spent over $27 million in fees and costs for outside lawyers in lawsuits tied to Burge. As of 2019, the city and Cook County have spent nearly $140 million in taxpayer dollars in settlements and various legal fees on Burge-related torture cases, the filing says.

Some two dozen lawsuits brought by Burge’s victims against the city, with high-priced law firms hired to defend the city, have dragged on for three to six years, according to the filing. Gibson has battled the city in court for three years with no resolution.

“This litigation gamesmanship steals precious time from innocent people like Mr. Gibson, who have already lost decades of their lives to Burge’s torture machine,” the filing, submitted by Washington, D.C.-based attorney Jeetander T. Dulani says.

A message seeking comment from the city’s law department Thursday wasn’t immediately returned, though in an early response to Gibson’s 2019 lawsuit, city attorneys formally denied Burge and his officers regularly engaged in the torture of suspects and that the city turned a blind eye to those abuses.

Dulani said in a phone interview that he can’t know for sure what motivates the city to fight such cases so tenaciously.

“They may believe that by extending the litigation they can reduce the amount of money they will pay out — either because people (suing them) will give up or agree to less money,” he said.

Gibson’s attorney, Andrew M. Stroth, said later Thursday that the city doesn’t appear to have thought through the consequences of spending millions “on indefensible cases.”

“If the city did any type of analysis, … it is clear it’s wasting taxpayer money and that it doesn’t have a coherent strategy” on these lawsuits, Stroth said.

The filing, a friend of the court brief from parties not directly involved in the case, asks U.S. District Judge Sara Ellis to grant Gibson’s motion to declare a pattern and practice of police abuse linked to Burge a proven fact. That could relieve Gibson and others from having to spend money and time, sometimes years, repeatedly proving such a pattern in court. Determining the amount of compensation would still be litigated.

Ellis earlier gave the city until June 17 to respond to Gibson’s motion. She said she would rule on Nov. 1.

“If the City is allowed to continue denying Burge’s pattern of torture in court while ignoring its public admissions about that same pattern, police abuse will continue,” Thursday’s filing says. It adds: “The City’s public apologies for the two-decade pattern of torture by Jon Burge and his henchman are meaningless if the City continues to deny that same pattern in court.”

The 47 community leaders who signed named in the friend of the court brief ranged from Mark Kaufman, executive chairman of the Illinois-based orthopedic rehabilitation service chain, Athletico Physical Therapy, to activist Chicago priest Michael Pfleger.

Burge was fired in 1993 after it was determined he tortured a murder suspect. He was sentenced to prison in 2011 for lying in a civil case about his actions. It was too late to charge him criminally on the torture charges. Burge spent 4½ years in prison and on home confinement before dying in 2018 at age 70.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Tracy Toulou...

Associated Press

How to tackle crime in Indian Country? Empower tribal justice, ex-Justice Department official says

A recently retired director of the Justice Dept. says the federal government hasn't given tribal justice systems equal recognition.

5 hours ago

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson...

Associated Press

House Speaker Mike Johnson says he will push for aid to Israel and Ukraine this week

House Speaker Mike Johnson said Sunday he will try to advance wartime aid for Israel this week, along with funding for Ukraine.

6 hours ago

President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign rally Saturday, March 9, 2024, at Pullman Yards in Atlanta...

Associated Press

US shoots down ‘nearly all’ Iran-launched attack drones as Biden vows support for Israel’s defense

Joe Biden cut short a weekend stay at his beach house to meet with his national security team as Iran launched an attack against Israel.

2 days ago

Protesters in Phoenix shout as they join thousands marching around the Arizona state Capitol after ...

Associated Press

Abortion ruling supercharges Arizona to be an especially important swing state

A ruling this week instituting a near-total abortion ban supercharged Arizona's role, turning it into the most critical battleground.

2 days ago

Former President Donald Trump, center, appears in court for his arraignment, Tuesday, April 4, 2023...

Associated Press

Manhattan court searching for jurors to hear first-ever criminal case against a former president

Jury selection is set to start Monday in former President Donald Trump's hush money case — the first trial of the presumptive nominee.

2 days ago

Emergency personnel arrive on the scene after a  an 18-wheeler crashed into the Texas Department of...

Associated Press

1 dead and 13 injured in semitrailer crash at a Texas public safety office, with the driver jailed

A driver rammed an 18-wheeler though the front of a building where his renewal for a commercial driver’s license had been rejected.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Filing: Chicago ‘two-faced’ on acknowledging police abuse