Family: $22.5M police settlement 'bittersweet'

AP News
Posted: Jan 17, 2013 6:08 PM
Family: $22.5M police settlement 'bittersweet'

CHICAGO (AP) — The parents of a California woman who was raped and severely injured after Chicago police released her from custody in a troubled neighborhood despite her obvious mental illness said Thursday that a $22.5 million settlement with the city is a "bittersweet victory."

The settlement that will pay for Christina Eilman's extensive ongoing therapy is the largest in a police misconduct case in Chicago history. The City Council also signed off Thursday on a $10.25 million settlement in another police misconduct case in which a man spent 26 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit. It was the largest award to come from the investigation into a notorious police unit that framed innocent black men in the 1970s and 1980s.

After the council's action, Christina Eilman's mother and stepfather, Kathleen and Richard Paine, released their first public statement in years about the case. They described how the events that culminated in their daughter falling or being thrown from a 7th-story window had devastated her life.

"No amount of money will bring back the daughter we knew, the lovely young woman who was full of life and accepting of all people," the Paines wrote. "Her life was dramatically changed after she came to Chicago and found herself in the grasp of several insensitive and uncaring police officers and detention aides who humiliated her, directed cruel and insensitive comments toward her, ignored her desperate need for help and placed her in harm's way."

Eilman's federal lawsuit against the city was scheduled to begin next week. Her family initially was seeking $100 million, but agreed to the lower figure during extensive negotiations with the city.

Chicago Alderman Edward Burke says the city could have lost $80 million or more had a jury learned of all that Eilman went through and the nine desperate calls her mother made to police in the 27 hours. She had begged officers not to release her daughter because her daughter was bipolar and having a breakdown, but to no avail.

Jurors might also have heard from Eilman herself. Her attorney, Jeffrey Singer, said Eilman doesn't remember the events leading up to her fall, but she speaks the way one might expect from a "pre-adolescent" and could have testified about her life and dreams.

"She always wanted to be a dancer," said Singer, who said Eilman also talks about other jobs she'll never be able to do, such as being a lawyer or talk show host.

Eilman was a 21-year-old college student when she was arrested at Midway International Airport in May 2006 because she was acting strangely and violently.

Despite doing things like babbling incoherently and smearing menstrual blood on the holding cell walls, and after her parents' frantic calls, Eilman was released to fend for herself in a high-crime area. She ended up in a nearby public housing building, where a man raped her at knifepoint before she fell from a seventh-story window.

Singer said at the time the family filed the lawsuit, she was just coming out of a coma, and was still hooked up to machines to feed her and keep her breathing.

"We thought that her medical expenses could be $1 million a year and her life expectancy was going to be close to 60 years at that time," attorney Jeffrey Singer said.

But Eilman made a substantial recovery to the point where the various expenses to care for her are not expected to be nearly as high, Singer said. He also explained that because a big chunk of the $22.5 million will be invested, the settlement amount could climb to $45 million or more.

Singer said Eilman did receive various kinds of therapies over the years but, because she relied on public assistance for care, her treatments have been limited.

Now, though, "Christina will be able to have the gold standard of therapies that she's not had access to over the past 6 1/2 years," he said. "Now she will be able to go to certain rehabilitation centers that are the kind you would want for your daughter to go to."

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Singer said all Eilman's parents wanted was the best care for their daughter "and by prolonging 6 1/2 years (the city) delayed their daughter getting access to the kind of care she really needed and could have really helped her," he said.

Singer also questioned the assertion by the city's top lawyer that "several thousand officers" have received crisis intervention training since Eilman was injured. He said until the department trains all its officers, "There is a good chance there will be another Christina Eilman."

Alton Logan, who will receive $10.25 million settlement, was one victim of the city's notorious police torture scandal involving officers under former Lt. John Burge. While Logan was never tortured as others were to get them to confess to crimes they did not commit, another man was tortured until he provided crucial evidence against Logan.

Logan's eyes welled with tears Tuesday afternoon, after a city council committee approved the money. He said, "nothing, no amount of money will ever make up for the time I lost.... I lost everything."

In settling the cases, the city will pay $15 million of the Eilman settlement with city insurance paying the rest. But the city will have to pay the entire settlement in the Logan case, meaning that the two cases nearly exhaust the entire $27 million set aside for 2013. But the mayor's office explained that, as it has done in the past and as was expected this year, bond funds will be used to cover settlements and that no city services will be affected.