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

May 18, 2022, 10:28 PM | Updated: May 19, 2022, 4:32 pm
FILE - In this June 8, 2010 file photo former Chicago Police commander Jon Burge, is seen at the Fe...

FILE - In this June 8, 2010 file photo former Chicago Police commander Jon Burge, is seen at the Federal Courthouse in Chicago. 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, a cross-section of community leaders alleged in a court filing Thursday, May 19, 2022. The filing is in a lawsuit by 55-year-old James Gibson, freed after 29 years when courts agreed officers under commander Burge tortured him into implicating himself in the 1989 slayings of two men.(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

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.


Associated Press

Starbucks leader grilled by Senate over anti-union actions

Longtime Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz faced sharp questioning Wednesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
1 day ago
FILE - The overdose-reversal drug Narcan is displayed during training for employees of the Public H...
Associated Press

FDA approves over-the-counter Narcan; here’s what it means

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved selling naloxone without a prescription, the first over-the-counter opioid treatment.
1 day ago
FILE - A Seattle police officer walks past tents used by people experiencing homelessness, March 11...
Associated Press

Seattle, feds seek to end most oversight of city’s police

  SEATTLE (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department and Seattle officials asked a judge Tuesday to end most federal oversight of the city’s police department, saying its sustained, decade-long reform efforts are a model for other cities whose law enforcement agencies face federal civil rights investigations. Seattle has overhauled virtually all aspects of its police […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Washington moves to end child sex abuse lawsuit time limits

People who were sexually abused as children in Washington state may soon be able to bring lawsuits against the state, schools or other institutions for failing to stop the abuse, no matter when it happened.
2 days ago
Three children and three adults were killed in a shooting at a private Christian grade school in Na...
Associated Press

Nashville shooter who killed 6 drew maps, surveilled school

Three children were killed in a shooting at a private Christian grade school in Nashville on Monday, hospital officials said.
3 days ago
(Photo from KIRO 7)...
Associated Press

Police: passenger pulled jet’s emergency slide before LAX to SEA flight

A passenger on a Delta Air Lines flight out of Los Angeles International Airport was detained for triggering the plane’s emergency slide prior to takeoff, authorities said.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.
Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.
SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Filing: Chicago ‘two-faced’ on acknowledging police abuse