Court Rules against Chicago Police Code of Silence

Friday, December 28, 2012
Tony Abbate (AP Photo)

A federal judge has ruled against the Chicago police for using a “code of silence” to protect an officer who brutally assaulted a female bartender five years ago.


District Judge Amy St. Eve ruled that the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and officer Tony Abbate conspired to minimize the attack on Karolina Obrycka, who was tending bar at Jesse’s Shortstop Inn on February 19, 2007.


On the night of the assault, Obrycka refused to serve Abbate any more drinks after she determined he had had enough. Abbate responded by going behind the bar and punching and kicking Obrycka, who called 911 for help. Officers who responded omitted certain details from their report, including the fact that the incident was captured on the bar’s video camera and that the assailant was a cop.


Later, Abbate tried to intimidate Obrycka into giving him the videotape, which she refused to do. Then, a city official who was friends with Abbate tried to bribe the victim by offering to pay for her medical bills, as long as she didn’t press charges.


Abbate was initially charged with misdemeanor battery. But after Obrycka released the video to the media, the district attorney elevated the charge to aggravated battery. Abbate was convicted in June 2009.


Obrycka sued the city, the CPD and Abbate. The city tried to get the case thrown out, but Judge St. Eve denied the motion and awarded Obrycka $850,000.


City officials still weren’t through fighting, however.


Mayor Rahm Emanuel reportedly told the city attorney to try to vacate the court decision in order to erase the judgment against the code of silence. The city even tried to get Obrycka on its side to ask the judge to vacate the ruling, in return for the $850,000.


In need of the money, Obrycka asked the judge to drop the matter. But St. Eve refused, saying the code of silence charge “needed to be litigated, not settled, as a matter of principle to defend the reputation and legal strategy of contesting civil rights and police brutality cases,” according to Mark Karlin of Truthout.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Chicago 'Code of Silence' Verdict Will Stand (by Jack Bouboushian, Courthouse News Service)

Federal Jury Finds City of Chicago Responsible for "Code of Silence" in Chicago Police Department (by Mark Karlin, Truthout)

Memorandum Opinion and Order, Katarina Obrycka v. City of Chicago and Anthony Abbate Jr. (pdf)

Chicagoland Police Hit with Torture and Forced Confession Lawsuits (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)


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