Legal aid clinic at U of C awarded $500,000

It took 2.5 years to win the $500,000 settlement from the Chicago Police Department (CPD), after cops raided a Stateway Gardens field house and body searched up to 300 men, women and children, including probing into infants" diapers looking for drugs.

The officers found no drugs, according to Craig Futterman, associate clinical professor of law for the Civil Rights Police Accountability Project of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic, University of Chicago in 2000, which he founded. The settlement was a victory for those residents who were simply attending an annual, traditional sports outing, he said.

However, Jenny Hoyle, a spokeswoman for the city's Law Department, said in reaching the settlement it "is not a concession by the city that there was any wrongdoing on the part of the Chicago Police Department or individual police officers, but a resolution to protracted and expensive litigation. "The searches were not alleged to be unreasonably intrusive, sexually offensive, or any different than what people generally experience at airports, sports events, concerts, or any other public place where there are security concerns."

However, Futterman, a graduate from Stanford Law School and the former trial attorney in the Juvenile division of the Cook County Public Defender said, "We achieved a $500,000 settlement of the police raid of the community basketball tournament at Stateway Gardens, in which more than 40 police officers entered the building en masse under the orders from Police Cmdr. Ernest Brown.

"Like a paramilitary operation, they blocked each exit to get out and stopped the games that were in progress and imprisoned all 300 men, women and children who were inside of the field house," he said.

"Over the course of two-hours, they subjected virtually each of the people there, ranging from basketball players in uniform, to moms with young children, even babies -- 7 and 8-year-old babies -- to methodical and invasive searches of their entire bodies."

Specializing in civil rights lawsuits, focusing on matters involving police brutality and racial discrimination, Futterman said this included searches of purses, diaper and gym bags.

"You had parents searched in front of their own children and treated like criminals and children searched in front of their parents who were powerless but to look on." Futterman told the Chicago Defender.

The parents were attending the Stateway Roundball Classic, which is one of the CHA's basketball tournaments that grew out of Midnight Basketball"

"The whole purpose behind the tournament is to promote non-violence, prevent crime and promote community."

Futterman said the program has the support of the mayor and even conservatives. For more than 15 years, he said this event has been a safe place for parents to take their children in public housing.

"You had a mass indiscriminate search with no attempt to differentiate the good vs. the bad guys. Everyone was treated as if they were a member of a criminal conspiracy."

They made only one arrest during the raid, one of his clients, Anthony Jackson, 40, who was a basketball player who brought his 9 and 10-year-old sons to watch him play.

"When he saw police treating his 9 and 10-year-old sons like grown men, like criminals, he objected and told them they didn't have a right to do this." Futterman said because he spoke out he was arrested for disorderly conduct. He said he beat those charges though his client spent a night in jail.

However, since that event, Futterman said, "There hasn't been an organized basketball tournament since this happened." He said this police raid virtually ended a traditional event that was "unadulteratedly good."

He said they sued on behalf of everyone attending that event "to try to change police practices in this community, to try to teach respect and to encourage police officers to treat Stateway residents with the same respect and human dignity as other citizens in the city."

The suit was also filed to address the real harm that was caused to this tournament. "The great news in this settlement, it enabled the Mandel Clinic to give $85,000 back to the Stateway Civil Rights Project to restore the tournaments and to support a human rights monitoring and reporting project that we started with Stateway residents to ensure this won't happen again," said Futterman.

According to Futterman, $100,000 will be distributed to the people who were unlawfully searched, $2,000 each will go to the seven people who filed the suit, $400,000 will be going to the clinics for fees and costs of which $85,000 is being donated back to the Stateway community.

Also working on the case was Randolph Stone, former head of the clinic. "Without Stone, there would be no clinic," said Futterman.

However, neither Stone nor Futterman will get a dime from this settlement. Dr. Carl Bell also donated his time.