A federal judge ruled Thursday that a Chicago bartender brutally beaten by an off-duty police officer can pursue a lawsuit against the police department for mishandling the case.
Citing "the blue curtain," a reference to the unspoken policy among police officers to protect other cops against allegations of misconduct, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve said that "there is evidence in the record that [Officer Anthony] Abbate's conduct triggered the code of silence...an effort to protect Abbate from police brutality allegations," according to ABC Chicago, which obtained a copy of Judge St. Eve's ruling.
Abbate was found guilty of aggravated battery in 2009, after brutally beating female bartender Karolina Obrycka in an altercation caught on the bar's security camera. Abbate was reportedly angry that Obrycka would no longer serve him, and went behind the bar to attack her. The judge in his trial waived the misconduct charges, but Abbate lost his job over the felony charges. In 2010 he asked for a "second chance," and filed suit against the police department, citing "violations" in their decision to remove him from the force.
[Scroll down to see security footage from the incident.]
In her ruling, St. Eve cited evidence of possible police misconduct. She noted that responding officers Peter Masheimer and Jerry Knickrehm didn't include that Abbate was a police officer in their original report of the altercation, or that the incident was captured on the bar's security cameras, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. She also cited the actions of city employee Gary Ortiz, who visited Obrycka after the incident and tried to convince her not to file a complaint or lawsuit, promising Abbate would cover the cost of her medical bills.
St. Eve also pointed to numerous phone calls Abbate made to other officers, including his partner, immediately after the incident as possible evidence of cooperation between officers, the Sun-Times reports.
The ruling cites the opinion of procedural law enforcement expert Lou Reiter, who had criticized the Chicago Police Department's lax disciplinary code at the time of the incident as permissive of misconduct and supported by a "code of silence," according to the Chicago Tribune.
City officials note that the judge ruled only that a jury should hear the evidence presented; she did not evaluate the merits of the case.