A federal judge Tuesday scolded lawyers for the city for not turning over records in a lawsuit filed by the family of a south suburban man who was shot after a boozy night out with a Chicago Police officer pal.
The circumstances of Michael LaPorta’s 2010 shooting have remained murky for six years since the night he sustained a gunshot wound inflicted by CPD Officer Patrick Kelly’s service weapon. But lawyers for LaPorta’s family claim that city attorneys have tried to keep them in the dark about parts of Kelly’s lengthy disciplinary history as well, by holding back reports related to a 2014 shooting in which Kelly fatally shot a suspect.
LaPorta family lawyer Tony Romanucci said he learned that Kelly had been involved in the 2014 shooting — in which Kelly fired 11 shots at a man who threatened him with a knife — only when Kelly gave a deposition in another lawsuit filed by a woman who claims she suffered a miscarriage in 2013 after Kelly jolted her with a Taser when she tried to stop her van from being towed.
“It’s not just that the city didn’t turn over the 2014 shooting,” Romanucci said Tuesday after a hearing before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber. “The question is, what else have they not turned over?”
The case is the latest in which lawyers for plaintiffs with high-stakes civil rights lawsuits against CPD officers have claimed the city attorneys have withheld evidence. A federal judge in January sanctioned top Law Department attorney Jordan Marsh for holding back evidence requested by lawyers representing the family of Darius Pinex, who was fatally shot by a CPD officer during a 2011 traffic stop.
Soon after, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he had hired former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb to conduct a review of the Law Department, a probe that still is ongoing. Marsh resigned from the Law Department.
Leinenweber did not rule on Romanucci’s request to sanction city lawyers in the case, but he did order them to turn over any records detailing other incidents in which Kelly fired his gun. The judge seemed puzzled as to why records involving a shooting would not have been among the records turned over in response to discovery requests.
“It was not in the file,” city attorney Eileen Rosen said.
“Why wouldn’t it be?” Leinenweber asked. “I know it’s been said over and over that if an officer discharges his weapon, you automatically investigate and he’s put on administrative duty until it’s concluded. . . . Why wouldn’t this be in his personnel file?”
The judge pointed out that the LaPortas’ lawsuit also seeks to show that the police “swept under the rug” allegations of misconduct by fellow officers, and that records that shed light on how the department handled investigations of Kelly even after LaPorta’s shooting might help build the case.
Rosen said Tuesday that reports on the 2014 shooting weren’t in Kelly’s disciplinary or personnel files, apparently because he had been cleared of wrongdoing by the Independent Police Review Authority. She learned that Kelly had been involved in another shooting only when she was contacted by a lawyer who had been at Kelly’s deposition.
Romanucci said he deposed Kelly in the LaPorta case weeks ago, but the police officer refused to answer any questions.
According to the lawsuit, LaPorta and Kelly were friends who had spent an evening bar-hopping the night of Jan. 11, 2010. Early the following morning, the two men were at Kelly’s house on the South Side when the gun went off, firing a bullet that struck LaPorta in the back of the head. How the gun went off is unclear.
In one four-year period, Kelly had amassed 15 misconduct complaints, though LaPorta family lawyers have noted the city turned over records of only 10 incidents.