5 Replies to “Why I waited to comment on Burge Torture as Mara Georges Smiles”

  1. Police torture victims deal falls apart

    December 12, 2007
    BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter/fspielman@suntimes.com
    The City Council’s plan to make amends for one of the ugliest chapters in the history of the Chicago Police Department came undone today.

    Last-minute legal hang-ups derailed a final vote on a $19.8 million settlement with four former Death Row inmates who alleged they were tortured by former Area 2 Police Cmdr Jon Burge and his cohorts.

    It happened after torture victim Stanley Howard refused to release the city from “future claims that may arise in connection with his separate rape convictions” and an attorney representing Aaron Patterson failed to produce a power of attorney that demonstrates he has the authority to settle the case for $5 million.

    The healing process that African American aldermen had been demanding will now have to wait until the new year.

    “That’s how life is,” said Mayor Daley, who had hoped to put the issue behind him and his new police superintendent.

    Concerned that aldermen would be blamed for the delay, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) asked Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th) to articulate the hang-ups on the Council floor to make it clear the problem was “not a result of city action in any way.”

    Burke replied, “A settlement is designed to put to rest all claims against the parties, not to leave a window of opportunity open so that, later on, that [person] can come back and sue the same defendants.’’

    Corporation Counsel Mara Georges acknowledged that she may have inadvertently caused the hang-up by going to the Finance Committee with a settlement that wasn’t signed, sealed and delivered “in my haste to get this resolved…I heard the message from the aldermen, which they delivered to me very loudly and clearly on many occasions that they wanted these cases settled.”

    She argued that Howard “changed the nature of the deal” when he refused to release the city for claims tied to his rape convictions and that U.S. District Judge Marvin Aspen “agrees with our position.”

    “That’s really the way litigation goes. Things happen that you don’t expect and you’ve just got to kind of roll with the punches,” she said.

    Jonathan Loevy, an attorney representing Howard and Hobley, acknowledged that the release language “covers this case and this case only.” But, he insisted that’s “standard in any settlement agreement.” He called the entire issue a red-herring.

    “Mr. Howard signed the agreement and the deal is done. The city apparently did not approve the settlement for reasons having nothing to do with Mr. Howard,” he said.

    Attorney Frank Avila, who represents Patterson, reacted to the delay by threatening to pull out of the deal entirely — and double his $5 million demand.

    “If it’s not today, then this is off and, now, I want $10 million,” Avila said, spitting out his words behind the City Council chambers.

    “If it’s not today, then Aaron Patterson will not sign because part of the agreement we have is they pay off one of the liens” on a $1.2 million loan Patterson took out in anticipation of the settlement.

    The $19.8 million agreement was first disclosed on Suntimes.com.

    It was bundled together into one of the largest settlements in Chicago history to take advantage of a catastrophic insurance policy purchased by the city in 2001 after the Daley administration agreed to pay $18 million to the family of LaTanya Haggerty, one of two unarmed civilians shot to death by Chicago Police over the same weekend.

    The insurance policy states that the first $15 million of any individual settlement is covered by the city, while AIG, the private insurance carrier, pays the rest. The Burge settlement marks the first time the city has taken advantage of the coverage.

    The insurance won’t kick in unless all four cases are settled at once. What happens if Avila insists on raising the stakes?

    “We’ll be working with Judge Aspen who, I’m sure, will say, `No. Your deal was for $5 million,’ ” Georges said.

    The long-awaited settlement calls for the city to pay: Howard $800,000; $1 million to attorneys for Howard and Hobley; $5.5 million to Orange; $5 million to Patterson and $7.5 million to Hobley.

    Whether or not Hobley receives the full amount hinges on the outcome of the federal government’s re-investigation into a 1987 South Side fire that killed seven people. Hobley was originally convicted of murder and arson in that fire only to join Orange, Patterson and Howard in being pardoned by former Illinois Gov. George Ryan in 2003.

    Under the agreement, Hobley will get $1 million immediately and the remaining $6.5 million, only if he is not indicted by 2009, if the U.S. attorney’s office announces that he won’t be indicted, or if he is indicted, but found not guilty.

  2. Chicago City Council postpones police torture settlement
    Late legal glitches delay council vote
    By Gary Washburn | Tribune staff reporter
    11:09 PM CST, December 12, 2007
    A settlement totaling nearly $20 million with four alleged victims of police torture hit a roadblock Wednesday, but the city’s top lawyer said she hoped it would be removed in time for City Council approval of the long-awaited deal next month.

    Last-minute legal glitches surfaced in settlements with former Death Row inmates Stanley Howard and Aaron Patterson, said Corporation Counsel Mara Georges. Patterson’s attorney threatened to walk away from his part of the deal, something that brought with it the risk of a lengthy delay settling all four cases.

    Aldermen also put off considering a proposal to require police officers involved in shootings to submit to post-incident alcohol testing after questions surfaced about its legality.

    On a day when police issues were expected to take center stage, the delay in settling the suits filed by Howard, Patterson, Madison Hobley and Leroy Orange—all alleged victims of torture at the hands of former Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and officers in his command—disappointed aldermen who have been pushing for closure of the cases for months.

    “Surely we wanted to get it passed today . . . to get it behind us so we can move on,” said Ald. Ed Smith (28th).

    Georges said that late Tuesday, either Howard or his attorney changed the wording of his settlement agreement, seeking to retain the right to file future claims against the city for sexual-assault and kidnapping convictions that were separate from the murder charge for which former Gov. George Ryan pardoned him. The city had insisted on a release of all claims as part of a deal that would pay Howard $800,000.

    “The purpose of settling is to resolve these issues once and for all, to put them to rest,” Ald. Edward Burke (14th) said at a City Council meeting.

    Howard should be allowed to file claims if he is exonerated of the other charges for which he is in prison, asserted his attorney, Jon Loevy.

    Nevertheless, “we are working on getting it resolved,” Loevy said. “I don’t anticipate it is a problem.”

    Meanwhile, Patterson’s lawyer failed to produce a properly drafted document giving him power of attorney to agree to his client’s $5 million settlement, Georges said.

    The lawyer, Frank Avila Jr., disputed that contention and angrily threatened to pull out of the agreement, go back to court and seek double what Patterson was to have received. Patterson remains in federal prison in Kentucky after being convicted this year of trading in guns and drugs after he was freed from Death Row.

    “If this is not passed today, then I cannot agree to it, and justice delayed is justice denied,” Avila declared. “If there is no deal, then we are going to trial. . . . Our case is the best case, and we should have had more money in the first place.”

    If that happens, Georges told reporters, the city will go to the federal judge on the case, “who I am sure will say, ‘No, you settled for $5 million.’ “

    In another high-profile police matter, a measure that would have required police involved in shootings to submit to Breathalyzer tests introduced by Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th) and Burke on Monday had been put on a legislative fast track for passage Wednesday.

    But sources familiar with the legislation said the aldermen received informal legal opinions advising that the measure would conflict with state law.

    Carothers said there now will be a public hearing on the proposal in January.


  3. Police Torture Victims’ Deal Falls Apart

    A $19.8 million agreement with four former Death Row inmates who alleged they were tortured by former Area 2 Police Commander Jon Burge and his cohorts appeared to be unraveling this morning.

    The City Council was scheduled to vote today on the historic settlement to begin to heal one of the ugliest chapters in the Chicago Police Department’s history.

    But Stanley Howard, one of the former former Death Row inmates, derailed the vote by refusing to release the city from all future claims.

    Attorney Bob Clifford, a special counsel to the city, advised the Daley administration not to sign the deal because Howard’s counter-proprosal “materially changes the agreement.”

    As a result, the City Council vote was called off.

    The healing process that African American alderman had been demanding will now be delayed and the entire settlement is up for grabs.

    Attorney Frank Avila, who represents torture victim Aaron Patterson, was furious about the delay. He said all bets are now off.

    “If it’s not today, then Aaron Patterson will not sign, because part of the agreement we have is they pay off one of the liens” on a $1.2 million loan Patterson took out in anticipation of the settlement, Avila said.

    “If this is not passed today, then this is off and now I want $10 mlllion,” Avila said. “If this deal is not passed today, then the deal is off. Justice delayed is justice denied. I’m so livid at this.”

    The city had agreed to settle with Howard, Patterson, Leroy Orange and Madison Hobley in hopes newly appointed Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis would have an easier time reestablishing trust between citizens and police in neighborhoods most victimized by both crime and police brutality.

    “This case has really haunted the African-American community for a long time,” Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) said at a Finance Committee meeting earlier this week.

    The settlement called for the city to pay: Howard $1.8 million, $1 million of it to his attorney; $5.5 million to Orange; $5 million to Patterson; and $7.5 million to Hobley.

  4. Chicago’s $20 million police torture suit settlement hits snag

    Associated Press – December 12, 2007 7:24 PM ET

    CHICAGO (AP) – A lawyer for the city of Chicago says she hopes to bring a proposed settlement with four alleged victims of police torture before the City Council again next month.

    Corporation Counsel Mara Georges says all of the parties need time to get the deal back on track.

    The $20 million settlement was expected to be approved today. Finance committee chairman Alderman Ed Burke says a couple of glitches postponed a vote.

    Burke says a lawyer for one man hasn’t produced his power of attorney. Another of the alleged victims penciled in language into the proposed agreement that doesn’t fully relieve defendants like the city of all liability.

    The settlement would end lawsuits brought by Stanley Howard, Aaron Patterson, Leroy Orange and Madison Hobley.

    Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.

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