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Chicago hopes to erase landmark ruling in police case

| Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, 9:08 p.m.

CHICAGO — The city of Chicago is asking a judge to erase a landmark verdict that found there exists a code of silence in the police department that leads officers to protect rogue colleagues — a legal move that critics say is calculated to deny others suing over alleged police abuse from citing the decision as a precedent.

The motion was filed this week in U.S. District Court in Chicago, a month after jurors at a civil trial returned with a verdict against the city and for bartender Karolina Obrycka. A videotape of off-duty officer Anthony Abbate beating Obrycka in 2007 caused a sensation after it went viral on the Internet.

One aspect that makes the motion unusual is that Obrycka joined it. The advantage to her is that, if the joint request is granted, Chicago will pay $850,000 in damages awarded to her by jurors immediately, rather than stringing out the litigation for years on appeal.

Attorneys who had heralded the Nov. 13 verdict criticized the city's legal maneuver on Tuesday.

“It's outrageous,” said Flint Taylor, a Chicago-based attorney. “The city forced the plaintiff to trial, there's a finding about there being a code of silence — and the city turns around and tries to buy itself out of the jury's finding as if it never happened.”

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