In his 2009 criminal trial, former Chicago police officer Anthony Abbate was found guilty of brutally beating a female bartender, Karolina Obrycka, when she refused to continue severing him alcohol. In what has been viewed by many as a travesty of justice, the federal judge sentence Abbate to two years of probation for beating Obrycka. Since then, Obrycka filed a civil personal injury lawsuit against Abbate and the Chicago Police Department for physical and emotional injuries arising from the beating. Last week, Obrycka testified in her civil personal injury suit that members of the Chicago Police Department actively attempted to cover- up Abbate's beating of her.
Surveillance video captured Abbate's 2007 beating of Obrycka. In the video, Abbate walks behind around the bar and begins severely beating the 30 year old female bartender who is half his size. Part of the beating included Abatte slamming Obrycka to the ground before repeatedly punching and kicking her. The beating was allegedly prompted because Obrychka told Abbate she would not serve him more alcohol. Abbate initially claimed self-defense but later changed his story and said he could not recall what he was thinking.
On the stand, Obrycka testified when the police arrived at the bar in 2007, she reported that she had been beaten by Abbate and that it was caught on surveillance. When the police prepared their official report, they did not mention the surveillance tape nor Abbate's name or status as a police officer. She also testified the police made efforts to bribe, cajole and even threaten her in order to cover-up the beating. This included testimony that police officers threatened to plant drugs on bar staff where she worked unless she dropped her charges against Abbate.
Unlike a criminal suit, a civil lawsuit does not require proof beyond a reasonable doubt but proof by a preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance of the evidence is proof of something being more probably true than not. Proving that Abbate wrongfully beat Obrycka should not be difficult. Nor should it be difficult to prove that she suffered injuries from the beating, though there will be large debate over whether any of her injuries are permanent. Her claim of recurring panic attacks are also disputed. The more difficult and legally interesting dispute is whether Obrycka can prove her case against the Chicago Police Department. Did the department, through its officers, attempt to cover-up for Abbate and did this cause her further emotional distress?
A former internal affairs officer for the Los Angeles police department, Lou Reiter, testified on behalf of Obrycka. Reiter testified the CPD's "Code of Silence" is "alive and well." The "Code of Silence" describes the efforts by some police officers to cover up for one another's wrongful conduct. Reiter did concede on cross examination that the CPD does have good written policies. However, Reiter went on to testify that these good policies are not carried out in actual practice.
Most recently, the defense rested its case. The case will go to the jury after hearing closing arguments from the plaintiff and defense. A verdict could come as early as this week.
Huffington Post, "Code of Silence" Trial, Beaten Bartender Testifies Cops Tried To Bribe Her, 10-30-12.
ABC News, Bartender Karolina Obrycka Testifies Against Anthony Abbate In Police Beating Civil Trial, 10-30-12.