Judge denies motion for new Quintonio LeGrier, Robert Rialmo trial

SHARE Judge denies motion for 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.

A Cook County judge denied a request for a new trial from the estate of Quintonio LeGrier Monday morning.

The decision from Judge Rena Marie Van Tine came three months after a Cook County jury found that Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo was, effectively, justified when he fatally shot the 19-year-old LeGrier on Dec. 26, 2015.

After an eight-day trial last June, Van Tine ruled that a “special interrogatory” posed to the jury overruled the jury’s decision to award the LeGrier estate $1.05 million in damages.

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.”

The LeGrier estate argued that the special interrogatory wasn’t submitted in proper form. Van Tine, though, ruled that everything was submitted in accordance with the law.

“The special interrogatory was in its proper form and it properly controlled the verdict,” Van Tine said at the conclusion of Monday’s hour-long hearing.

Basileios “Bill” Foutris, an attorney for the LeGrier estate, said an appeal to Van Tine’s ruling would be forthcoming.

“We think that the jury’s resolution was clear,” Foutris said after the hearing. “We believe that the jury clearly found that this was an unlawful shooting and the reason why this family is being put through this is that the city offered a trick question.”

In post-trial motions, Foutris argued that the special interrogatory did not necessarily override the verdict. It was possible, Foutris said, that the jurors could have found Rialmo to be justified in shooting LeGrier once while also believing the subsequent six or seven gunshots were not justified.

Brian Gainer, an attorney for the city, said the effort to separate each shot — six or seven, which were all fired in less than two seconds — was “disingenuous.”

“That’s not consistent with how this case went in,” Gainer said. “It’s not consistent with how this case was argued.”

Van Tine agreed, saying that “the shooting was all one event.”

Rialmo and his partner, Anthony LaPalermo, responded to 4710 W. Erie about 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, contended that Rialmo did not violate the judge’s order to not discuss his testimony outside the courtroom, and Van Tine agreed, though she noted “it was in bad form” for Rialmo to speak to the media during the trial.

“I surmise that Rialmo was probably trying to get the press to write something favorable about him,” Van Tine said.

The legal headaches for Rialmo, a 29-year-old former Marine, did not end with the trial, though Rialmo never faced criminal charges in connection with the shooting. 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.

The rulings from COPA and Johnson were both barred from trial, as was any mention of LeGrier’s mental health history before the night of the shooting.

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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The shooting happened about 6 p.m. in the 3300 block of West Flournoy Street.