City worker falsely accused in prostitution sting gets $370,000

SHARE City worker falsely accused in prostitution sting gets $370,000

A City Council committee OK’d a settlement for a city worker caught up in a prostitution sting. Charges against Hugo Holmes later were dropped. | File photo

The City Council’s Finance Committee on Tuesday authorized a $370,000 settlement to a former city supervisor who claims he was the innocent victim of a police prostitution sting.

But aldermen argued that the compensation for Hugo Holmes wasn’t nearly enough to offset the damage done to his reputation after his arrest and status as a field service supervisor for the Chicago Department of Transportation was publicized.

Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke (14th) went so far as to liken Holmes’ case to the indictment and subsequent acquittal of former U.S. Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan.

After Donovan was found not guilty, “… he walked into the lobby of the courthouse surrounded by the press and he said in effect, `What door do I go to here in this building to get my reputation back,’” Burke recalled.

“What door does this man (Holmes) go to get his reputation back? Do we acknowledge that he was wrongfully prosecuted [and] charged? … Do we say something in the order to permit the Law Department to settle this case that we apologize to this man and to his family for what he’s gone through? Maybe that’s a rhetorical question. [But] there are some things that, I think, require more than just a financial settlement.”

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, bemoaned the fact that there is neither audio nor video to back up the claims of an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute that Holmes solicited her for sex.

“In today’s times, don’t you think it would be wise — even with these undercover officers doing these undercover stings — to be wired and miked so they can get some audio and video to back up their claims?” Beale told First Deputy Corporation Counsel Jenny Notz.

“Going forward, we might want to pass that message over to the Police Department. We need some audio to back up these claims because, once again, Hugo is an African-American falsely accused of something he didn’t do. To eliminate some of that, we need to have some audio.”

Indicted Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) agreed audio and video is a must.

“When law enforcement goes out to do these stings, they should have some. Too many reports are written contrary to what the truth is and then, we end up in this room again” approving a settlement.

“It’s important that we protect ourselves…and have proof that words [allegedly] being spoken have actually been spoken. This is not the first time that’s happened…. It’s only one person’s word against the other. It doesn’t work out too well……for that person. I’m happy to see that Mr. Holmes has been able to successfully defend his position. But, …his reputation has been tarnished tremendously.”

The incident that changed Hugo Holmes’ life forever happened about 8:30 a.m. on April 25, 2008, after Holmes claims he stopped at a stop sign at the corner of 47th and Washtenaw.

According to Holmes, a woman who would turn out to be undercover police officer Michelle Acosta posing as a prostitute, approached his pick-up truck and said, “$20 for a b—job?”

Holmes claims he ignored the solicitation with disgust and a dismissive gesture, telling her, “I’m working.”

Acosta tells a different story. She claims that Holmes offered $20 in exchange for “h–d” and to “lick her t—y.”

Whichever version is correct, Holmes got caught up in the sting. Acosta signaled to her undercover partners, who “swiftly accelerated” out of a nearby alley into Holmes path, arrested and searched him and searched and impounded his pickup.

He subsequently sued the Chicago Police Department for false arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment as well as state law claims of malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The case against Holmes was “voluntarily dismissed” by prosecutors.

Long before the U.S. Justice Department reached similar conclusions about police training and supervision, Holmes alleged that the city “has, with deliberate indifference, maintained a policy of inadequate training and safeguards for officers concerning the constitution rights of citizens.”

Also on Tuesday, the Finance Committee authorized $403,000 in settlements to a pair of pedestrians injured by police vehicles.

But aldermen postponed a final vote on a $250,000 settlement to compensate a drag racing motorcycle driver injured in a 2011 collision with a police vehicle driven by First Deputy Police Superintendent Kevin Navarro.

Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey would only say that the Finance Committee “requested additional information about the proposed settlement” and that the the Law Department would “seek approval next month.”

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