Jury trials are rare these days. Jury wins for police officers accused of excessive force are rarer still—especially in the Chicago area. But HCB attorneys achieved just such a few weeks ago.
The suit arose from an incident nearly six years ago. City of Joliet police officers were dispatched to an apartment complex for a loud music complaint. The plaintiff, who was sitting in a van in the apartment parking lot blasting his music and drinking beer, was the subject of the complaint. He repeatedly refused to turn down his music when asked. He also refused to give his ID and walked away, despite commands to come back, and was arrested. Once back at the station, plaintiff claimed to have been injured, and he was taken to a local hospital for treatment.
Most of the incident was captured on a cell phone video taken by an apartment resident. Notably, neither of the officers had any idea they were being recorded (the department did not have body cameras at the time, and the dash cameras did not capture the incident.
Plaintiff filed a multi-count federal civil rights suit against six officers. He claimed to have suffered numerous facial injuries which required, among other things, the removal of a tooth and physical therapy on his neck and jaw, when the officers allegedly “slammed” him and “smashed” his face. After discovery finished, he voluntarily dismissed all his claims except a claim for excessive force against two of the officers. Those claims went to trial in February of 2023.
At trial, the defense presented a two-pronged strategy. First, they demonstrated that the plaintiff had repeatedly contradicted himself about the events of that night. His initial complaint, which he had signed under oath, his deposition, and his trial testimony all differed from each other in significant ways. Second, they showed that none of the evidence corroborated the plaintiff’s account. His claims of injury were belied by the medical records and testimony from treating medical professionals. His accusations against the police officers were rebutted – not merely by the officers themselves – but by the cell phone video and testimony of the neutral eyewitness.
After a two-day trial before the Hon. Ronald Guzman, a jury deliberated just under two hours before returning a verdict for both officers. The verdict was a welcome reminder that even in this anti-police environment, favorable facts and a skilled defense can still lead juries to side with police officers. Hervas, Condon, & Bersani attorneys David Mathues and Kaleah Ault represented the officers.