City settles police misconduct lawsuit after new evidence surfaces — again

SHARE City settles police misconduct lawsuit after new evidence surfaces — again

Sun-Times file photo

In what is becoming a routine occurrence at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, City Hall has settled another lawsuit alleging police misconduct days before trial after crucial new evidence surfaced at the last minute.

Aretha Simmons sued the city in 2014 over the execution of a search warrant, alleging Chicago police pointed a gun at the chest of her 3-year-old daughter from six inches away when they raided her home in August 2013.

The case was set to go to trial Wednesday. But Al Hofeld, one of Simmons’ attorneys, told the Sun-Times the case settled Monday night. He said U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly ordered the amount of the settlement to be kept confidential for now.

Representatives of the city’s Law Department declined to comment.

The settlement comes a little more than two weeks after city lawyers began producing thousands of pages of documents that led to allegations of perjury, records show. And it comes on the heels of a vow by Kennelly to hold a hearing over a “systemic problem” that has led to a string of embarrassments for City Hall.

“This is not going to end with this trial,” Kennelly said Thursday. “There’s going to be some kind of a hearing after this.”

Lawyers are not expected back in Kennelly’s courtroom to discuss the case until April.

Not only did Simmons allege that police threatened her small daughter with a gun, but she said the girl saw police violently shake Simmons and point a gun at the head of the girl’s grandmother. Hofeld called the child’s trauma — labeled by an expert as “one of the worst cases of child PTSD” he’s seen — the heart of the case.

Simmons’ lawyers alerted Kennelly this month when the city suddenly began to cough up documents that allegedly show some officers in the case committed perjury. It also turned over what it called “unit files” for those officers filled with documents typically found in a personnel file.

Kennelly ordered the officers’ personnel files turned over in January 2016. Lawyers for the accused officers have denied they committed perjury, records show.

This is the third consecutive month a lawsuit alleging police misconduct ended with sudden disclosures of new evidence followed by a settlement by the city. Last December, new evidence surfaced in the midst of a trial involving ex-cop Joseph Frugoli, whose drunken crash on the Dan Ryan Expressway in April 2009 killed Fausto Manzera and Andrew Cazares.

Lawyers quickly reached a deal, but U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall told them she would still consider sanctions.

In January, a settlement scuttled a civil trial over the August 2015 shooting by police of Jaquise Evans. The city reached the deal after new evidence began to surface roughly three weeks before trial.

Addressing a request for sanctions in the Simmons case last week, Kennelly threatened to call the city’s current and former corporation counsels and police superintendent to his courtroom for a hearing.

“I’m just going to start lining them up,” he said.

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