Chicago taxpayers will pay $2.3 million to settle a police shooting lawsuit made worse by yet another example of legal misconduct by the city’s Law Department.
“Once again, the federal courts had to step in … and say, ‘Enough of this with the discovery. Enough.’ Finally, the federal courts have had enough,” said Sam Adam Jr., an attorney representing Jaquise Evans.
“They’re not forthcoming with discovery. The mayor needs to do something about this. The corporation counsel needs to do something about this. … You won’t have many of these situations where the taxpayers are paying out more money if it’s not for the witholding of evidence.”
In late January, an 11th-hour settlement — for an amount not disclosed at the time — scuttled a civil trial over the August 2015 police shooting of Evans, who was 16 at the time of the shooting.
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.
“These actions will not be tolerated under my leadership,” Corporation Counsel Ed Siskel wrote in a memo to his staff.
Siskel said failure to meet “expected professional standards” can “quickly erode the trust the public places in us and mistakes can have lasting, significant consequences that damage the collective reputation with judges, opposing counsel and taxpayers.”
A $2.3 million settlement to Jaquise Evans is now on the agenda for Monday’s meeting of the City Council’s Finance Committee. It’s one of four cases expected to be settled for a combined total of $6.2 million.
Adam and his colleagues 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 a rebuke from U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, who asked 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.”
Evans’ lawyers say Salvador shot Evans three times on Aug. 21, 2015.
The then-16-year-old ran with a cellphone in his hand when Salvador and other officers confronted him and a group of 15 to 20 people who had gathered at 1641 W. 71st for an informal memorial, according to the lawsuit.
The teenager eventually tripped, dropped his cellphone and, realizing there was no escape, held his hands in the air when he stood back up. That’s when Salvador fired from behind the wheel of his SUV, the complaint alleges.
“This was a young African-American male who was shot down wrongfully. At a trial, we would have proved he was wrongfully shot down,” Adam said Thursday.
“The city very well could have been on the hook for a lot more than this had this gone to trial. The facts that we had, the way we laid this out, we very well would have proved that, not only was he shot and his civil rights violated, but that a gun was planted on him. I believe we would have proved that up.”
Adam was asked whether he believes the discovery violations by the city were deliberate, or whether the witholding of evidence was simply a string of mistakes by a bumbling bureaucracy.
“Depending on the case, it’s a combination of both,” Adam said.
Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey refused to comment on the Evans settlement.
The three other settlements expected to be approved by the Finance Committee 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.
–$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.