A questionable police shooting made worse by the Law Department’s failure to produce evidence has created a $2.3 million bill that came due for Chicago taxpayers on Wednesday.
The City Council approved the settlement to resolve a lawsuit filed by Jaquise Evans, who was 16 in August 2015 when he was shot and seriously wounded by a Chicago Police officer.
In late January, an 11th-hour settlement — for an amount not disclosed at the time — ended a civil trial over the police shooting of Evans.
It happened after Evans’ attorneys claimed misconduct by the city’s Law Department and a federal judge asked city attorneys to explain “what they are doing to correct this problem.”
One week later, a city attorney resigned and two more were suspended — one of them for 30 days — in the continuing fallout from a string of embarrassing lapses in which judges have found the city failed to produce evidence to defendants in civil cases.
At a Finance Committee meeting earlier this week, First Deputy Corporation Counsel Jennifer Notz talked about that latest episode of legal misconduct.
“We conducted an internal review and concluded there was no deliberate withholding of evidence and Judge [Rebecca] Pallmeyer did not actually find that,” Notz said.
“What we did determine was that mistakes had been made and internal protocols had not been diligently followed. For those reasons, the corporation counsel made a decision to discipline the attorneys involved.”
Evans’ attorneys had sought sanctions against the city in a series of motions repeatedly alleging that new evidence had been revealed.
The evidence, including video of past misconduct and citizen complaints, revolved around Officer Richard Salvador. Evans’ lawyers specifically accused city lawyers Matthew Hurd and Scott Cohen of letting Salvador commit perjury in a deposition when he said he had never previously been a defendant in a lawsuit.
It turned out both men had represented Salvador in a previous lawsuit. Cohen filed a response explaining that he “did not realize Sgt. Salvador was one of the officers he represented” in the previous case.
That prompted Pallmeyer to ask incredulously in court, “As a matter of professional responsibility, you don’t know who your client is? . . . Who, as a matter of professional ethics, does this? You cannot represent somebody and not know about it.”
Earlier this week, Notz acknowledged that the failure to turn over evidence to defendants was not the only problem with the case.
“If this case goes to trial, it’s expected that Evans would argue that the officer mistook his cell phone for a gun, shot him without justification and then engaged with his fellow officers in a conspiracy to cover up his mistake,” Notz said.
“In addition, Evans will rely on the fact relied on by the Circuit Court when it acquitted Evans of the criminal charges. That is that there is no physical evidence such as DNA or fingerprints linking Evans to the gun. And in addition, that the gun was found under some debris, suggesting that it was placed, rather than thrown.”
South Side Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) was more troubled by the fact that “just having five or six teenagers at someone’s house standing there” culminated in a police shooting that will forever alter the life of a young man.
“We see this pattern repeated over and over again, particularly in neighborhoods where minorities are being approached without cause,” said Lopez, who represents the gang-ridden neighborhoods of Englewood and Back of the Yards.
“This young man left the group as police were rolling and that gave cause for the police to chase him down and ultimately shoot him with a weapon found 40 feet away with no fingerprints from him. No DNA print at a time mid-summer when all of that should have been readily available. That should give us all pause. I know it bothers me.”
Three other settlements approved Wednesday include:
- $1.5 million to Anthony Hernandez, a Chicago Police officer on disability. Hernandez claims that a supervisor retaliated against him — by transferring him out of the Narcotics Unit to less desirable assignments — after his moonlighting work on the supervisor’s Michigan home triggered a pay dispute.Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) voted no.
- $840,000 to Dazarine Woods, whose husband, Melvin, committed suicide in a police lockup. The widow claims that police procedures aimed at preventing suicides were not followed.
- $1.6 million to Amtrak stemming from work done by the railroad to stop concrete from falling from the Canal Street viaduct outside Union Station, even though the city was responsible for maintaining the viaduct.