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County OKs $600,000 settlement in police torture case

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County taxpayers will fork over $600,000 to close one chapter of an ongoing police torture lawsuit that will put former Mayor Richard M. Daley on the hotseat later this summer.

This week, Cook County commissioners signed off on the $600,000 settlement with Michael Tillman, who spent 23 years in prison for a murder he says he didn’t commit but confessed to only after police tortured him.

The county was targeted in the suit because, according to court papers, an assistant state’s attorney was in and out of the room during three days of days of brutal questioning at a South Side police station where Tillman was beaten with a phone book, punched in the face and stomach, had a plastic bag placed over his head and soda pop poured into his nose.

By settling the case, the county does not admit any liability, said Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin.

“If it went to trial, our exposure could have been greater,” Suffredin said.

Tillman’s attorney thanked county commissioners and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle “for reaching a fair and reasonable settlement.”

Asked whether his client felt it was proper compensation, attorney G. Flint Taylor said: “He would not have taken the settlement if he wasn’t satisfied with it. This is a small fraction of what he’s entitled to.”

Taylor said the federal lawsuit involving the city — including Daley and Chicago police — goes on. That includes attorneys questioning Daley under oath as part of sworn, pre-trial testimony. The deposition is scheduled for July 13.

In a 49-page document filed in U.S. District Court back in March, Daley denied that he knew anything about what the attorneys who filed the case say was a conspiracy to cover up police torture of African Americans at the hands of former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his underlings.

Daley repeatedly denied knowing anything about the alleged torture of numerous defendants while he was Cook County state’s attorney and later when he became mayor. Daley also denied a claim that he tried to block or undercut efforts to expose or prosecute Burge and his men.

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