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Karolina Obrycka (left) watches as her attorney, Terry Ekl (center), addresses the media about the jury’s decision to side with her and award $850,000.

Jury sides with bartender and rules City and ex-cop Abbate must pay $850,000

by John Kanaly
Nov 13, 2012

A jury ruled late Tuesday afternoon that the City of Chicago is liable for former police officer Anthony Abbate’s attack on bartender Karoline Obrycka and awarded her $850,000. The jury also ruled that Obrycka’s First Amendment rights were violated by Abbate when he threatened her about releasing a video of the attack.

Obrycka was beaten by Abbate after she refused to let him go behind the Northwest Side bar where she worked. Obrycka and her attorneys filed a suit against the City saying it was responsible for the attack because of two widespread policies in the CPD. The first was that there is a code of silence among police officers to protect one another by turning a blind eye on other officers’ misconduct. The second was that the City routinely fails to adequately investigate instances of officer misconduct. She also sued Abbate for violating her First Amendment rights.

The jury did not elaborate on why they sided with Obrycka.

The case had made big headlines since Obrycka released surveillance footage of the attack back in 2007. Immediately the video became an online hit and led to Abbate being convicted of aggravated battery in 2009.

During the current civil trial, Obrycka’s lawyers provided to the jury Abbate’s and other officers’ phone records immediately following the attack. They said these records were proof that Abbate was making the calls needed to cover up what happened.

Obrycka’s attorneys also said the CPD tried to rush into pressing misdemeanor charges on Abbate before the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office could decide how to proceed with the case.

Obrycka’s case relied heavily on expert testimony. Her experts presented statistical evidence highlighting CPD’s poor track record of investigating and punishing officers for misbehavior.

City attorney Barrett Rubens pushed back in the first day of closing arguments last Tuesday, saying the City cannot be held responsible simply because Abbate was their employee. She said Abbate’s actions were motivated by liquor, rather than any code of silence. She went on to stress that Abbate’s actions following the attack were not consistent with someone who was convinced he would get away with his actions.

The City’s attorney also tried to poke holes in testimony of the expert witnesses called by Obrycka’s team. She said the statistics were flawed because the experts chose the numbers they wanted in order paint an untrue picture.