2 officers held liable in assault

Man stands to get $4 million from city.

By: Jeff Coen, Chicago Tribune: October 17th, 2007

A federal jury late Tuesday held two Chicago police officers liable for the unreasonable search of a man who alleged that the officers sodomized him with a screwdriver during a search for drugs.

Coprez Coffie, 23, had testified that the tactical officers used the tool on him in a West Side alley in 2004. His family hugged after the verdict was announced.

Justice was served, it was,” Coffie said after court. “Now you see what’s going on. It’s put to the light.”

The jury was not asked to decide damages because the two sides had previously reached a settlement of $4 million if the verdict favored Coffie.

The jury, which deliberated for three days, did not stop to speak to reporters.

Coffie’s attorney, Jon Loevy, said he believed it was the totality of the evidence in the case that led to the favorable verdict. Loevy had presented evidence that an internal police investigation uncovered screwdrivers in the car used by the officers, that Coffie had an injury to his rectum and that a forensic test suggested there was human fecal matter in the car’s glove compartment.

Loevy called the case a black eye for the Police Department, which did not discipline the officers, Gerald Lodwich and Scott Korhonen. The nine jurors found that Korhonen conducted an unreasonable search and that Lodwich failed to stop it, he said.

“It’s further evidence that the Police Department does not do an effective job of policing itself,” he said.

The department recently has been embroiled in a scandal involving its now-disbanded Special Operations Section.

A Law Department spokeswoman said the city was disappointed by the verdict and would consider its options for appeal.

A spokeswoman for the police’s Office of Professional Standards said any case involving a city settlement is reviewed.

The Coffie case will be reopened to examine any new information developed during the civil trial, the spokeswoman said.

Coffie said he now intends to finish school and would use the money to help care for his 2-year-old son.

He had testified at trial that he was handcuffed, placed against the officers’ unmarked car in an alley near Division Street and Pulaski Road and told to spread his buttocks before the assault. He eventually was charged with drug possession.

Andrew Hale, hired by the city to represent the officers, had said the city and officers denied that the assault took place.

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