Clinic Files Suit on Behalf of Human Rights Worker

Suit filed in alleged false arrest
Annah Dumas-Mitchell
Chicago Defender
March 25, 2002

The Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School filed a suit in the U.S. District Court in Chicago Monday on behalf of a human rights worker who alleges he was falsely arrested and abused at the hands of six Chicago police officers.

Kenya Richmond, an employee of the Neighborhood Conservation Corps (NCC), a community organization at CHA's Stateway Gardens, claimed that on March 19, 2001, officers fabricated evidence and maliciously prosecuted him, after he attempted to document the officer's conduct toward an African American teen.

The officers named in the suit, James Ryle, Jerome Finnigan, Bret Rice, Christopher Hoffman, John McGovern and Carl Suchocki, are all a part of the Special Operations Section of the Chicago Police Department.

No one from the Chicago Police Department was available to comment on the incident.

Richmond's job responsibilities included staffing the Stateway Gardens Rights Project, an initiative of the Stateway Gardens Local Advisory Council (LAC) and documenting police action.

"In the tradition of human rights monitoring, we seek to document police misconduct in order to create the conditions for reform," said Jamie Kalven, advisor to the Stateway LAC.

"Our ultimate goal is to secure for the Stateway community the same quality of law enforcement that various neighborhoods in the city enjoy."

Thus, when an African American teen attempted to flee from the police, Richmond witnesses a police car jump a curb and strike the teen outside the building where he was working. Amidst the crowd, Richmond pulled out a note pad and began to document the incident.

After Richmond witnessed officers arrest the teen and place him in the back of the squad car, Richmond demanded officers take the teen to the hospital.

According to the lawsuit, the officers responded to Richmond's comments, seizing him, handcuffing him and placing him under arrest. They also, allegedly confiscated his belongings and destroyed the notes he had taken, adding that the officers retorted racial epithets at him on the way to the police station.

After his release, Richmond said that the officers filed false reports, citing that he was engaged in directing narcotics traffic. They also fabricated evidence and initiated a criminal prosecution against him, he said, all because he exercised his first amendment rights. Those charges were later dismissed.

The suit seeks to award Richmond compensatory and punitive damages for mental and emotional distress.

"I've known Mr. Richmond for well over a year, and I'll never forget the profound fear and powerlessness that overtook him despite his fortitude and strong character, as we went together to court to answer the false criminal charges," said Craig B. Futterman, Richmond's attorney.

"If you could walk a mile in his shoes and understand all he has been through and risen above, you would know how much he hurt by being falsely labeled a criminal, not to mention the "n" word, by police.

"The real purpose of Mr. Richmond's suit is to stop abusive police practices in his community."

"Mr. Richmond wants for CHA residents no more than what every other person in the City expects from the police, to be treated with the respect and dignity accorded to a citizen of Chicago."