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Two Police Misconduct Settlements Held Up In City Council Finance Committee

by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Two proposed settlements in lawsuits claiming police misconduct were held up in the City Council Finance Committee on Monday, but could come up for a vote later this week.

The settlements included a proposed $1.2 million payment to the family of 24-year-old Heriberto Godinez, who died in police custody in July 2015, and a proposed $125,000 payment to a witness to the shooting of Laquan McDonald, who claims police tried to get her to change her story.

The Finance Committee was scheduled to vote on those settlements Monday morning, but pushed back the vote at least until Wednesday.

Godinez' family sued the city after he died during an arrest for burglary in July 2015.

Dashcam video of Godinez's arrest showed an officer placing his foot on Godinez's neck for approximately two seconds as he was lying on the ground in handcuffs while another officer restrained him. First Assistant Corporation Counsel Renai Rodney told aldermen Monday that video also showed another officer standing on Godinez's chest for about 90 seconds.

His family sued police, claiming officers used "unreasonable and dangerous methods of force," and showed "reckless indifference" to Godinez's rights.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's office said an autopsy determined Godinez died from cocaine and alcohol poisoning. A second autopsy requested by Cook County prosecutors also blamed Godinez's death on a cocaine overdose, but a third autopsy commissioned by his family blamed his death on asphyxia, pointing to abrasions on his neck, and damage to his carotid arteries.

Most proposed legal settlements are approved as a matter of routine when presented to the City Council Finance Committee, so the delay on a vote on Monday was unusual.

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) raised objections to the proposed settlement in the Godinez case last week, posting on Twitter, "No way in hell I'm voting to give $1.2 Million to the estate of a coked-out gang banger that died resisting arrest!"

Meantime, aldermen also postponed a vote on the $125,000 settlement for Alma Benitez, a witness to the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Benitez says detectives pressured her to change her account of the shooting, claiming dashboard camera video contradicted her assertion McDonald was not a threat to police when Officer Jason Van Dyke shot him 16 times.

Finance Committee Chairman Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said he hopes both proposed settlements will receive a vote when the committee meets next on Wednesday morning.

Two other proposed settlements involving police misconduct lawsuits were approved on Monday:

  • A $1.3 million payment to the family of 18-year-old Tevin Jones-Rogers, who was killed when a stolen SUV crashed into his car during a high-speed police chase in West Pullman. His family accused officers of recklessly disregarding the safety of the public during the chase.
  • An $850,000 payment to Donna Gillespie, the mother of Shaquille Gillespie, who accused police of malicious prosecution. Gillespie claimed police falsely accused her son of attacking them to cover up their use of excessive force when they pepper-sprayed him and threw him to the ground in a West Side alley in March 2013

Any settlements approved by the Finance Committee will go to the full City Council for a vote next week.


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