The Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog

Ex-Cop That Beat Bartender Claims Self-Defense in Civil Suit

Earlier this week, we talked about a possible resolution of a long-pending lawsuit against the Chicago PD for releasing a mentally ill woman into a dangerous neighborhood, where she was subsequently attacked. That incident happened in 2006 and the case is still pending. That's not the only long-delayed Chicago PD case that is drawing to a close.

Ex-officer Anthony Abbate's infamous beating of a female bartender in 2007 also resulted in a lawsuit against both Abbate and the Chicago Police Department. The trial is currently ongoing. The claims against Abatte are probably a foregone conclusion, as the following tape is pretty clear:

The real question in the lawsuit is whether or not the Chicago Police Department and by extension, the city, can be held liable for an off-duty cop's behavior. Ordinarily, the department would only be held liable if the officer beat the living hell out of a civilian while on duty. However, the victim, Karolina Obrycka, is alleging that the department's code of silence and subsequent cover-ups enabled the department's widespread pattern of misconduct.

Obrycka is claiming violations of her constitutional rights, which is the most common claim in an excessive force or police brutality lawsuit. Under the 1978 Monell Supreme Court case, in order to hold a city (and the police department) liable for the actions of an employee that violate the constitutional rights of a victim, one must show either an official policy that enables the behavior, or a long-standing informal policy that does the same.

The informal Blue Shield of Silence -- or police cover-ups of other police officers' misdeeds -- would likely qualify as an informal policy that enables the behavior. According to the Tribune, a police report taken by a fellow officer after the beating neglected to mention that Obrycka wrote down Abbate's last name and told the officer that the surveillance cameras likely captured the incident. The officer said that the information was "speculation" and therefore not included in the report.

Abbate also took the stand and initially claimed self-defense. After watching the video, however, he changed his mind and claimed that he was blackout drunk and could not remember much of the 24 hours that followed. When asked about the dozens of calls that he made to friends (and fellow officers) in the hours after the incident, he called it "drunk dialing" and "being a jackass."

There was also testimony about four prior allegations of misconduct against Abbate, including a 1997 incident in which he was accused of dragging an 8 1/2 month pregnant woman, who was cuffed, into a police vehicle.

If Obrycka can present enough evidence to show more likely than not that the informal code of silence and "police brotherhood" enabled Abbate's behavior, the Chicago Police Department and the city itself could end up covering Abbate's tab for the bartender beating.

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