A day before jury selection in the Quintonio LeGrier wrongful death lawsuit is slated to begin, a Cook County judge ruled that attorneys may not make reference to Bettie Jones’ lawsuit and $16 million settlement that her estate reached with the city last week.
Her death, though, is still fair game to bring up during trial.
Judge Rena Marie Van Tine’s ruling came during a sometimes contentious hearing Wednesday morning at the Daley Center.
Brian Gainer, an attorney for the city, submitted a motion on Tuesday to bar any references to Jones — aside from accounts of her opening the door for Officer Robert Rialmo — from the trial, which is expected to start Monday.
Gainer argued that mentions of Jones’ death, her lawsuit and settlement would be “prejudicial to the moon and back.” But Van Tine said that she could not exclude the death of the 55-year-old grandmother “and have the jury understand the totality of the circumstances.”
Attorneys for the LeGrier estate and Rialmo agreed that the Jones lawsuit and settlement should be barred from trial, but argued that references to her death should be allowed.
A spokesman for the city’s Law Department declined to comment on the judge’s ruling, citing the still pending lawsuit.
Joel Brodsky, Rialmo’s attorney, also submitted a motion for sanctions against the city attorneys. Those attorneys, Brodsky claimed, used “underhanded” tactics of introducing motions during hearings for which he was not present and didn’t mark them as “new” when he was provided copies.
Van Tine eventually denied Brodsky’s motion, but not before Brodsky — who has not been present for much of the pre-trial proceedings — and Gainer traded barbs.
“Mr. Brodsky is making a mockery of due process,” Gainer told Van Tine. “The idea that I’ve been somehow avoiding him is completely contradictory to the record in this case.”
Gainer said — and Van Tine agreed — that the settling of the Jones case “necessitated new motions.”
“He’s created this mess with his well-thought-out strategy to just waltz in every other day and just light everything on fire,” Gainer said.
Brodsky shot back, comparing Gainer to a child complaining to their mother.
“It’s pathetic,” he said.
After denying Brodsky’s motion, Van Tine encouraged all attorneys to stay in communication with each other.
“I’m trying to stay on top of everything, as you see,” Brodsky said.
References to Rialmo’s lack of crisis intervention training have also been barred from the trial.
Van Tine, however, denied a city motion to dismiss Rialmo’s cross-claim against the city. That cross-claim, Gainer said, leans heavily on that lack of training.
Rialmo also filed a counter claim against the LeGrier estate, arguing that LeGrier’s actions — charging at the officer with a metal baseball bat — forced Rialmo to shoot him. Jones, Brodsky said, was an innocent victim and Rialmo “still tears up when I talk about Bettie Jones.”
The city filed a motion Tuesday to sever itself as a co-defendant in that claim, but Van Tine also denied that Wednesday.
Rialmo shot and killed LeGrier and Jones on Dec. 26, 2015. It was the first fatal shooting by a Chicago police officer after the release of the Laquan McDonald video.
Police were called to LeGrier’s father’s home in the 4700 block of West Erie to respond to a domestic incident between the two LeGriers. Jones answered the door for Rialmo. Once the door was opened, LeGrier — armed with a metal baseball bat — charged at Rialmo, who opened fire. LeGrier and Jones were both killed.
Brodsky has claimed that Rialmo is being served up as the “sacrificial lamb” for political purposes.