Man wins $4 mil. in case vs. cops
Police Reopen Probe: Says officers assaulted him with a screwdriver, claimed he had drugs
By: Abdon M. Pallasch & Frank Main, Chicago Sun-Times: October 17th, 2007
The Chicago Police Department has agreed to pay $4 million to a 23-year-old man who says police shoved a screwdriver into his behind.
The announcement came moments after a jury of nine women and men ruled that they believed Coprez Coffie over the two police officers who testified they had no idea where that screwdriver in their squad car’s glove compartment came from.
“I just told my story because I wanted justice,” said Coffie, who was 19 when the incident occurred. “People need to know what’s going on.”
The head of the Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards, which earlier had cleared the officers of any wrongdoing, said Tuesday she now will reopen the investigation, as required by the city’s new ordinance governing her office.
Coffie and his mother said the officers should be fired. Annette Coffee said it galled her during the trial to watch the officers testify that her son had drugs and that they never assaulted him: “…them sitting up there, saying that’ they did nothing,” she said, her voice choking with emotion.
Coffie’s attorney, Jon Loevy, said he is not optimistic the department will ever hold its own accountable.
“The Police Department does not do an effective job policing themselves…. Why can’t the Police Department see what everybody else sees?” said Loevy, who noted that in all six million-dollar-plus verdicts he has won against the department in recent years, OPS had exonerated the officers in every case. ‘And nothing is going to happen now.”
After the verdict was announced, new OPS director Ilana Rosenzweig said, “We are supposed to review all cases settled by the Department of Law to examine any new evidence or different evidence that was presented in the trial and determine whether that has any impact on our investigation. We can change the outcome.”
John Gorman, spokesman for Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine, said “We’ll take a look at any evidence that OPS brings to us.”
There were tears on the officers’ side of the courtroom and smiles and hugs on Coffie’s side. The officers, Gerald Lodwich and Scott Korhonen, left without making any comments.
As the jurors – three white men, four white women, one black woman and one Hispanic woman – left the federal courthouse, they smiled and waved at Coffie and said “God bless you” and “Good luck.”
Coffie, a bagger at Jewel Food Stores, said he would have good use for the money: “I’m going to take care of my son and my family. I’m going back to school.”
As jurors deliberated over the weekend, Loevy and attorneys for the city agreed that if jurors ruled for the officers, Coffie would get nothing. If they ruled for Coffee, he would get $4 million and his attorneys $675,000 – pending appeals, a Law Department spokeswoman said.
Lodwich referred any questions to the city’s corporation counsel.
A relative of Korhonen’s answered the door at his North Side home Tuesday night. She said the officer wasn’t home, but she offered a comment: “We think it is sad for someone to get money for something like this – especially since it is not true,” she said