Hearing set for Monday on potential new Quintonio LeGrier, Robert Rialmo trial

SHARE Hearing set for Monday on potential new Quintonio LeGrier, Robert Rialmo trial
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Chicago police officer Robert Rialmo, left, arrives for court at the Daley Center on May 29, 2018. File photo| Max Herman/For the Sun-Times; Quintonio LeGrier, right. Family photo.

The civil trial in the shooting death of Quintonio LeGrier ended last June with a twist.

Moments after a Cook County jury awarded LeGrier’s estate $1.05 million in damages, the verdict was wiped out because those same jurors also unanimously said that Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo was, effectively, justified when he shot and killed the 19-year-old LeGrier in December 2015.

After Judge Rena Marie Van Tine ruled that a “special interrogatory” overruled the award, Basileios “Bill” Foutris, an attorney for the LeGrier estate, told reporters that “we are going to be exploring all of our options going forward.”

In the months since the eight-day trial concluded, attorneys for the LeGrier estate, Rialmo and the city have filed motions, responses and replies arguing for and against a new trial.

A hearing on those arguments is set for next Monday morning, but it’s unclear if Van Tine will make a ruling.

Quintonio LeGrier’s father, Antonio LeGrier (right) and his mother, Janet Cooksey (center) at their son’s funeral in January 2016. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times file photo

Quintonio LeGrier’s father, Antonio LeGrier (right) and his mother, Janet Cooksey (center) at their son’s funeral in January 2016. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times file photo

After closing arguments were made, the six men and six women on the jury were asked: “When Robert Rialmo used deadly force against Quintonio LeGrier, did Robert Rialmo reasonably believe that such force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or [his partner] Anthony LaPalermo?”

All 12 answered “Yes” and Van Tine ruled that “the special interrogatory governs.”

Last July, the LeGrier estate filed a motion asking Van Tine to vacate the judgment, grant a new trial or enter a new judgment in its favor. The special interrogatory, posed to the jury at the city’s suggestion, is at the heart of the motion.

In a filing submitted Monday, LeGrier estate attorney Jack Kennedy argued that the jury’s decision to award damages and their answer to the special interrogatory were not mutually exclusive.

“The jury could have believed that Rialmo’s first shot, or first several shots, were justified, but that the remainder of shots, which struck Quintonio in his back, were not justified,” Kennedy wrote. “And the jury could have conceptualized Rialmo’s seven shots as seven separate uses of deadly force.”

Kennedy argues that there are circumstances in which “it would be true both that Rialmo committed willful and wanton conduct by shooting Quintonio without legal justification, and also that Rialmo reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary when he first fired his weapon.”

Bettie Jones. | Family photo

Bettie Jones. | Family photo

Provided photo

In a filing last week, Brian Gainer, an attorney retained by the city to litigate the case, said it was impossible to separate the jury’s verdict with the response to the special interrogatory.

“This finding was irreconcilable with a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, thus the special interrogatory controlled and a verdict in favor of defendants was required,” Gainer wrote. “Even if the jury considered each shot a separate use of force, the jury’s ‘Yes’ response indicates that each time ‘when he used deadly force’ that force was justified under Illinois statute.”

Rialmo and LaPalermo, responded to4710 W. Erieabout 4:25 a.m. on Dec. 26, 2015 after LeGrier and his father made calls to police. The elder LeGrier had barricaded himself in his room with a 2 x 4 a few hours earlier, and he was awoken when his son tried to force his way inside.

Rialmo and LaPalermo were met at the door by Bettie Jones, the elder LeGrier’s downstairs neighbor. Rialmo said that, as the officers were on the small front porch to the property, the younger LeGrier came down the stairs and around the door with an aluminum baseball bat raised above his head. Rialmo said that he backpedaled off the porch and opened fire, killing both LeGrier and Jones, 55.

The Jones estate also filed suit against the city, but settled for $16 million shortly before going to trial.

In their initial motion for a new trial, the LeGrier estate also argued that Rialmo violated a court order to not discuss his testimony when he was interviewed by Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed.

Joel Brodsky, Rialmo’s attorney, countered that “not one word [in the Sneed story] is mentioned about Rialmo’s testimony.”

“The only thing the article states regarding the incident that is the subject of the lawsuit is that Rialmo stated that his ‘only regret is that Bettie Jones was killed.’”

The legal headaches for Rialmo, a 29-year-old former Marine, did not end with the trial. The Civilian Office of Police Accountability ruled that he was not justified in the shooting and, while CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson disagreed, the Chicago Police Board is still weighing discipline against him.

About two years after the shooting, Rialmo was involved in a fight at a bar on the Northwest Side and charged with battery. He was found not guilty earlier this summer, though COPA is still investigating the incident.

Earlier this summer, he was captured on video in another scuffle. The CPD’s Internal Affairs Division has opened an investigation.

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