CHICAGO – Chicago police adhere to a code of silence protecting fellow officers, a federal jury ruled Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by a female bartender whose videotaped beating by a drunken off-duty officer went viral online.
Jurors awarded $850,000 in damages to the bartender, Karolina Obrycka, who was beaten in February 2007 after she refused to keep serving Anthony Abbate, who was off-duty and admittedly drunk at the time. Surveillance video of the hulking Abbate pushing Obrycka to the ground behind the bar at Jesse’s Shortstop Inn, then repeatedly punching and kicking her.
The surveillance video, which became a major embarrassment for Chicago police, shined a spotlight on allegations of abuse by the city’s officers. Amid accusations that police dithered in the weeks after the beating, then-superintendent Phil Cline retired and the department vowed to clean up its image.
Abbate was convicted of aggravated battery in 2009 and sentenced to probation. At the civil trial, Obrycka was asking jurors to hold Abbate and the city liable for damages to compensate her for any pain or distress she suffered. Jurors sided with her after listening to weeks of testimony.
“I’m still in shock,” Obrycka said outside the courtroom after the verdict, adding that she hopes she can move on with her life now.
Her attorney, Terry Ekl, heralded the verdict as a landmark, precedent-setting decision.
“We proved the code of silence at every level of the Chicago Police Department,” from the first officers who responded to the beating to then-Chief Phil Cline, Ekl said after the verdict.