Skeletons in the Closet?
City Attorneys Not Responding To Allegations Against Sergeant
The announcement that Mayor Rahm Emanuel will not seek reelection no doubt poses a dilemma to the top attorney for the city, Ed Siskel.
The reason is that it is highly likely whoever wins the next election will bring in their own top city attorney to decide key legal questions, not the least of which is whether to settle police misconduct lawsuits and whether to fire accused police officers.
But in some instances, these cases might follow Siskel and his administration long after they take leave from the city. The reason is that some of the bizarre and suspicious decisions against police officers by Siskel’s Corporation Counsel look like they may take on a life of their own in other legal venues.
Consider the decision by the city to recommend termination for two officers accused of lying about a 2013 arrest of a career gang member that netted two guns, one a submachine gun, and a cache of dope.
The two officers, Jack O’Keefe and John Wrigley, worked with Superintendent Eddie Johnson when Johnson was Area Central Deputy Chief.
The officers, regularly making felony arrests as part of the Area Central Gun Team, testified about the arrest during trial. At the last moments of the trial, an attorney for the defendant revealed a video that, the attorney claimed, contradicted the officers’ testimony. But the video only showed slight discrepancies between the officers’ report and testimony, discrepancies like being off on their times by a few minutes. These discrepancies had no impact on the legitimacy of their arrest. Prosecutors balked at charging the officers for the anomalies.
The case went to Internal Affairs investigated by Sergeant Majed Assaf. In his report, Assaf said both officers lied repeatedly and should be fired.
For a long time, the officers languished in callback. The Assaf investigation didn’t seem to hold too much water. There were rumors that few colleagues and supervisors agreed with his findings. It appeared likely the officers would be returned to duty, despite Assaf’s findings.
But a while later, both officers were accused of misconduct in another lawsuit, this one stemming from a 2013 search warrant that netted a pistol, drugs, and drug paraphernalia, and put an offender in prison for 17 years. The plaintiff, Aretha Simmons, claimed her daughter was traumatized because officers pointed their guns at the three-year-old child. The gun found in the search was discovered in Simmons’s purse.
Initially, it looked as if the city was treating the lawsuit as frivolous and was headed to trial. But just before the trial was set to begin, attorneys for Simmons argued the city attorneys had withheld documents. It wasn’t the first time city attorneys were accused of doing so.
From the Sun-Times:
In February, a federal judge vowed to hold a hearing — and even threatened to “start lining” Chicago officials up — to get to the bottom of a series of incidents in which city lawyers have been late to turn over evidence in police misconduct cases.
In the wake of these allegations of withholding documents, Siskel’s Corporation Counsel completely folded on the case. They went from aggressively going to trial to settling the case for $2.5 million, even though Simmons’s boyfriend was sentenced to 17 years in prison as a result of the search warrant.
The city cited the claim that the child was traumatized from allegedly having a gun pointed at her to justify the settlement. O’Keefe and Wrigley were also thrown under the Siskel bus. The city moved in the original case against the officers—the one investigated by Sergeant Assaf in Internal Affairs—by recommending their case be moved to the police board, the next step in firing them.
But throughout this period, the FOP was conducting its own investigation. It pored over this investigation by Sergeant Assaf and discovered his allegations were clearly contradicted by the testimony of the officers. So blatantly false were the claims by Assaf, it was clear that it was Sergeant Assaf, not Wrigley and O’Keefe, who was committing a Rule 14 violation.
After sorting out what the FOP said were numerous falsehoods in Assaf’s report, the FOP filed a complaint against Assaf with the Inspector General, claiming Rule 14 violations against the sergeant.
Shortly thereafter, the FOP heard from an attorney, Louis Orlando, who also made claims about Assaf’s conduct as an Internal Affairs investigator. This one stemmed from a divorce proceeding in which Orlando was representing a Chicago Police officer.
Orlando claimed Assaf showed up at the divorce proceeding claiming that Assaf “was investigating my client and that it would be much easier on everything if my client dropped the order of protection he was granted against his wife. . . .”
“I have been an attorney here in Chicago for 31 years and have represented numerous police officers in the Domestic Relations Division and this was the first time I ever came across any interference from a non-party police official supposedly conducting an investigation,” Orlando wrote in a letter to the FOP. “That sequence of events coupled with the actions of Sergeant Assaf interjecting himself in my client’s civil case and trying to coerce my client into dropping his Order of Protection was in my opinion highly inappropriate and outside the boundaries of legitimate police internal affairs investigations.”
Coercion? Outside the boundaries of legitimate internal affairs investigations?
Just what is Assaf up to? And why is the city heeding his investigations without any serious review of them?
When the FOP obtained the letter from Orlando, they submitted it to the city. City officials are obligated to investigate. The city has not responded, even though the FOP has made follow-up inquiries.
Why? What action are they taking about the FOP allegations and now these by a licensed attorney?
The action of the department and the city against Wrigley and O’Keefe has further legal action looming all over it. It begs some questions: Is this how the city and department treat highly decorated police officers who are getting the worst gang members off the streets? Is this the kind of indemnification police officers will get from the city?
Siskel and his staff may very well be looking for new positions in the coming months, but if the city proceeds with trying to terminate the officers in the wake of all this evidence, Siskel and his staff may be called back for explanations.
And that might be when the skeletons in the closet come out.