Mandel clinic wins $22,500 settlement from city of chicago for plaintiff in police brutality lawsuit

The Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School represented Peter Vargas, a computer graphics student, in a $22,500 settlement finalized December 29, 2003 of his police brutality lawsuit against Chicago Police sergeant David Blyskal and the City of Chicago.

The lawsuit alleged that August 3, 2001, Blyskal encountered Vargas, then 19, with three teen-age friends, in the alley of 106th and Avenue E in Chicago. Vargas lawsuit charged that Blyskal physically abused him and violated his Constitutional right to be free from excessive and unreasonable force. Upon observing Vargas and his friends in the alley, Blyskal waved his gun at Vargas and ordered him over to the squad car. When Vargas asked Blyskal why he had his gun drawn, Blyskal did not respond and instead slammed the door of the squad car into Mr. Vargas' mid-section. Blyskal then grabbed Vargas, forced his head into the metal body of the police car and then placed Vargas into a chokehold, depriving him of the ability to breathe.

The lawsuit also charged that after handcuffing Vargas, Blyskal threw him inside a police wagon, beat him about his face and body, flung him back and forth against the walls of the wagon, and shoved Vargas head into a Plexiglas partition. After the beating, Blyskal left Vargas in the police wagon, half-naked and in handcuffs.

Vargas was eventually taken to the police station and held overnight. When he was released to his parents the next morning, his family arrived with a video camera to document the numerous bruises and cuts on his body, as well as the gashes on his head. The video is on file at the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic.

One of Vargas attorneys at the Mandel Clinic, Craig B. Futterman, said, Sergeant Blyskal remains on the force supervising and teaching other officers in the Chicago Police Department. Real change will not occur until the States Attorney and CPD hold their officers accountable for police brutality.

Futterman and Herschella Conyers, Clinical Professors of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, supervised a number of law students who worked on the case. Professor Conyers notes, This type of case allows students to see first hand the impact of police brutality in our communities. The harm to the community and police relations cannot be measured in money alone. Police brutality creates a climate of fear and undermines public faith in the criminal justice system. University of Chicago law students who contributed to Mr. Vargas victory include Shana Wallace, Dan Gilbert, Carl LeSueur, Victor Boutros, Judith Bonilla, Traci Belmore, Alicia Schmitt, and Jeff Mandell.

Vargas is a 1999 graduate of Thornton Fractional North High School in Chicago and currently studies computer graphics at the West Side Technology Institute in the city. "I'm thankful for my family, friends and the Clinic for supporting me," Vargas said. "It's sad that this had to happen this way. But I still don't understand why Blyskal is still out on the street. And nothing happened to any of his officers who covered up for him. If he were any other person, he would be in County jail. I'm still living in fear about him doing this again to me or getting another police friend to abuse me. This fear will probably be with me for the rest of my life. I also fear for the many other people who have been abused but don't have the power to do anything about it."

Peter Vargas' father, David Vargas, is a long-time activist in the Southeast side of Chicago, who volunteers with at-risk youth and works on issues related to police accountability.