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Rialmo withdraws lawsuit against city as LeGrier trial ending nears

Chicago police officer Robert Rialmo, the officer who shot and killed Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones in December 2015, leaves court at the Daley Center on June 19, 2018. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Officer Robert Rialmo withdrew his lawsuit against the city Monday as the Quintonio LeGrier wrongful death trial nears closing arguments.

Rialmo had alleged that he was poorly trained and that led him to fatally shoot LeGrier and 55-year-old Bettie Jones in December 2015. Rialmo also sued the LeGrier estate. That suit is still active.

Rialmo’s attorney, Joel Brodsky, said discussions about withdrawing the lawsuit had been going on for about a week. However, Brodsky noted, he and the city are still negotiating, just in a different venue, and the claim could still be brought back to court.

“All his problems with the city and all the city’s problems with him are open to resolution and discussion in different manners,” Brodsky told reporters. “Everything’s on the table, nothing’s off.”

Asked if those discussions could include settlement negotiations, Brodsky said “that’s one possibility,” but added that he didn’t think it was likely.

The withdrawal came on the sixth day of the trial, in which the LeGrier estate is suing Rialmo and the city. The LeGrier estate rested Monday and now city attorneys and Brodsky have the chance to call witnesses. Closing arguments are expected to be given Wednesday.

A spokesman for the city’s Law Department declined to comment on the withdrawal, citing the case’s active status.

Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier. | Provided photos
Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier. | Provided photos

Rialmo’s withdrawal wasn’t announced until after lunch and Judge Rena Marie Van Tine told jurors they should disregard Rialmo’s prior claims against the city.

After the jury was dismissed, but before they all left the courtroom, one juror submitted a question to the judge, asking if he and his colleagues are still allowed to “consider Rialmo’s full testimony even though he dropped his case against the city?”

Last week, Rialmo testified extensively about his training. He acknowledged that, at one point, he referred to his training as “a joke.”

Basileios “Bill” Foutris, one of the attorneys for the LeGrier estate, argued that all of Rialmo’s testimony should still be allowed because, “In our view, everything that’s come in overlaps.”

Brian Gainer, an attorney representing the city, said that some of what Rialmo testified to should no longer be considered because it isn’t relevant to active claims.

“There are no claims any more that have to do with training,” Gainer said. “That’s not just my opinion. That’s a fact.”

Attorneys for all parties agreed to exchange proposals for additional jury instructions by Monday night.

Janet Cooksey, LeGrier’s mother, also briefly testified Monday.

Under questioning from LeGrier estate attorney Jack Kennedy, she said that she last saw her son alive about 7 a.m. on Dec. 25, 2015, when she dropped her son off at his father’s home at 4710 W. Erie.

Cooksey said that the 19-year-old LeGrier — who had been staying with her but had plans to stay with his father on Christmas Day — had “broke a household rule,” prompting her to take LeGrier over to his father earlier than planned. Cooksey wasn’t asked and didn’t clarify what that rule was.

Kennedy asked Cooksey, who spoke at a low volume and teared up several times, about her “hopes and dreams for your son’s future.”

Cooksey said she hoped “that he would be a better person than me” and eventually have children of his own.

Anthony LaPalermo, Rialmo’s partner the night night of the shooting, also testified Monday. He said that he never saw LeGrier swing an aluminum baseball bat at Rialmo, nor did he hear Rialmo say “Drop the bat!” 10 times, as Rialmo had previously testified.

LaPalermo did say, and demonstrated for the jury, that he saw LeGrier come through the front door of the home with a bat as the two officers were on the front porch. LaPalermo testified that, as the two officers were standing just a few feet away, LeGrier came out the door with a bat raised above his head.

“I thought that my head was gonna get split open,” LaPalermo said.

Foutris tried to highlight to the jury that LaPalermo, who was within arm’s reach of Rialmo, was able to quickly move away from the front porch without shooting LeGrier. LaPalermo did say, though, that he did draw his weapon.

The officer also said he heard LeGrier’s father, Antonio LeGrier, tell Rialmo, “You did what you needed to do” after the younger LeGrier was shot. Last week, Rialmo testified to the same thing. On the witness stand, Antonio LeGrier flatly denied ever saying that.

Rialmo and LaPalermo were responding to several calls for a domestic disturbance in the early hours of Dec. 26, 2015, at Antonio LeGrier’s home at 4710 W. Erie. Rialmo has said that, while he was on the porch of the home, Quintonio LeGrier charged at him with a baseball bat, forcing him to shoot him. He also fatally wounded Jones, who opened the door for him.