We have another large settlement involving the Chicago Police Department this year. The Chicago police will pay $22.5 million to compensate a mentally-ill California woman who was released by police into a high-crime area where she was kidnapped and raped before she fell from the seventh floor of a public housing apartment building. Christina Eilman, 27, survived and will be given the largest settlement in Chicago’s history (the prior record was $18 million).
Eilman was arrested and held overnight after she was found behaving strangely at Midway Airport. She was having a bipolar meltdown. She continued to display obvious signs of mental illness when the police simply released the former UCLA student into the high-crime neighborhood around the Wentworth District police station. She was wearing short shorts and a cut-off top and was near the exceptionally dangerous Robert Taylor homes project.
The fall from the building left her with a devastating brain injury and several broken bones, including a shattered pelvis. She now requires around-the-clock care .
While the city argued in court that she was viewed as competent, several officers to their credit testified under oath and said that the woman was clearly showing signs of mental illness. Other officers admitted that a supervisor ordered that she be taken to a hospital for evaluation but no car was available.
We have previously criticized Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez for extreme legal views in favor of the police. It appears that the Chicago Law Department shares the same tendency and fought hard to dismiss the case and leave the woman with nothing in damages.
The Chicago lawyers may have believed that they scored with a panel headed by conservative Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook on the Seventh Circuit. If so, they were wrong. In Paine v. Cason, 678 F.3d 500 (7th Cir. 2012), Easterbrook slammed the Chicago police and the arguments of the Cook County lawyers. The court recounted how the police ignored calls from her parents about her condition:
Eilman, 21 and in college, had been in an auto accident the previous year. She recovered physically but developed bipolar disorder, spending 37 days in a mental hospital. (Whether the accident caused the bipolar disorder or just aggravated an existing condition is not important.) Eilman failed to take prescribed psychotropic medicines and had relapses. Experts in this litigation concluded that, during May 5 to 8, 2006, Eilman was in an acute manic phase. She did not tell the police about her mental-health background, however, and was uncooperative after her arrest—sometimes refusing to answer questions, sometimes screaming, sometimes providing false or unresponsive answers. Phone calls from her mother and her stepfather told officers in Chicago that Eilman [**3] had bipolar disorder, but the officers did not believe the stepfather (they thought that the call was fake), and the officer who took the calls from Kathleen Paine, Eilman’s mother, failed to tell anyone else or record the information in Eilman’s file. While Eilman was in custody, some officers thought that she was just being difficult, some thought that she was on drugs (expert reports relate that methamphetamine could cause similar symptoms), some thought that she was no worse than the r
Easterbrook noted that anyone could see that she was in danger and speaks frankly about the dangers of a white young woman in a black neighborhood with a high crime rate (I can say that growing up in Chicago, one of my sisters was stopped while driving in one of these areas by an African-American police officer and told that the area was not safe for a white person to even drive through due to their race):
It was evening; the police station was close to the Robert Taylor Homes, a public-housing project with an exceptionally high crime rate; the police had not returned her cell phone, so she could not easily summon aid; she was lost, unable to appreciate her danger, and dressed in a manner that attracted attention (a cutoff top with a bare midriff, short shorts, and boots); and she is white and well off while the local population is predominantly black and not affluent, causing her to stand out as a person unfamiliar with the environment and thus a potential target for crime. Officer Pauline Heard saw Eilman standing, with a puzzled look, in the station-house’s parking lot. Heard pointed toward 51st Street.
The court said that the police showed no care or concern for this helpless individual:
They did not warn Eilman about the neighborhood’s dangers. They did not walk her to the nearest CTA station (parallel to driving Stevens to a phone), from which she could have reached a safer neighborhood in minutes. They did not drive her back to the airport, where she [**19] could have used her ticket to return to California. They did not put Eilman in contact with her mother, who had called the stationhouse repeatedly. Her mother could have called a car service to pick Eilman up and drive her to a hotel (or the airport), and told her to remain at the stationhouse until the car arrived. They did not even return Eilman’s cell phone, which she could have used to summon aid. They might as well have released her into the lions’ den at the Brookfield Zoo. See Bowers v. DeVito, 686 F.2d 616, 618 (7th Cir. 1982), which anticipated DeShaney but added that throwing someone into a snake pit would violate the due process clause.
Also named as defendants in the action were Chicago Police Sergeant David Berglind, Police Officers Teresa Williams and Pamela Smith and Detention Aides Sharon Stokes, Cynthia Hudson and Catonia Quinn as defendants in the lawsuit filed by Eilman’s parents.
The police charged a man in the rape. It appears that a crowd surrounded Eilman and she was led to a vacant apartment on the seventh floor. Several men demanded Eilman perform oral sex, but she refused and said that she would jump out the window if anyone laid a hand on her. Eventually, reputed gang member and convicted felon Marvin Powell entered the apartment and reportedly demanded that everyone else leave the apartment. He was convicted of abducting and sexually assaulting Eilman.
What is striking is how there is no indication of any disciplinary action taken against any officer for this calamity. Likewise, there is no criticism of the attorneys who fought to dismiss this case for six years. Six years of litigation that sought to deny all damages to this woman and the parents who will now have to care for her for life. That was done in the name of all Chicagoans. As a native Chicagoan, I feel nothing but shame and anger at the litigation efforts of the city.
In the meantime, a woman will require a lifetime of care and the citizens of Chicago will pay $22.5 million.
Source: Chicago Sun Times