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With law department in trouble again, City Hall settles another lawsuit

Sun-Times file photo

Sun-Times file photo

City Hall has settled yet another lawsuit over alleged police wrongdoing following claims of misconduct by its law department.

It did so less than a week after a federal judge asked its lawyers to explain “what they are doing to correct this problem.”

The settlement, for a so-far undisclosed sum, was announced in U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer’s courtroom Thursday. It scuttled an upcoming civil trial over the August 2015 shooting by police of Jaquise Evans.

Just last month, the city settled a civil case involving ex-cop Joseph Frugoli after critical evidence came to light well after trial began.

This month, Evans’ lawyers sought sanctions against the city in a series of motions repeatedly alleging that new evidence had been revealed. The case was set for trial Monday.

“The Department of Law takes the issues raised in this case very seriously. We are reviewing the handling of discovery in this lawsuit to determine if any personnel action is warranted,” a law department spokesman said. “We are also examining our discovery policies and procedures to identify improvements and will be adjusting training to ensure that any mistakes are not repeated.”

The evidence, including video of past misconduct and citizen complaints, revolved around Officer Richard Salvador. Then, last week, Evans’ lawyers 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 Pallmeyer who last week in court asked, “as a matter of professional responsibility, you don’t know who your client is?”

“Who, as a matter of professional ethics, does this?” Pallmeyer said. “You cannot represent somebody and not know about it.”

The judge finally said she would likely award sanctions, telling the lawyers that she would “direct that the city’s lawyers tell me what they are doing to correct this problem. I don’t mean just in this case. I mean systematically.”

Evans’ lawyers say Salvador shot Evans three times on Aug. 21, 2015. The then-16-year-old ran with a cell phone in his hand when Salvador and other officers confronted him and a group of 15-20 people who had gathered at 1641 West 71st for an informal memorial, according to court filings.

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 filings allege.