U. of C. lawyers win settlement for homeless man

The City of Chicago last week awarded a $45,000 settlement to a homeless man who was allegedly knocked unconscious and falsely imprisoned by a police officer in 2001 outside the Stateway Gardens public housing complex, centered at 35th and State Streets.

The Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School filed the federal civil rights brutality case on behalf of 45-year-old Anthony Boatwright.

This settlement is a huge relief, said Boatwright, who now lives in transitional housing on the North Side. But despite the victory, Boatwright and his pro bono attorneys are outraged that the officer who blindsided him and left him toothless faces no criminal charges and remains on the police force.

Until the police department holds its officers accountable, there will likely be more frequent and perhaps more severe abuse by frequent and perhaps more severe abuses by Chicago police officers, complained Erica Guyer, a U. of C. law student who helped represent Boatwright in court.

Boatwrights attacker, eight-year veteran Officer John Gregoire, continues to work in the public housing unit of the Chicago Police Department, which is headquarted inside one of the last remaining Robert Taylor highrise buildings at 4947 S. Federal Ave.

Police would neither permit the Outlook access to Gregoire nor release a photograph of him for this article.

Gregoire has incited an eye-opening number of police abuse complaints during his tenure as an officer, according to Craig Futterman, associate clinical professor of law at Mandel. Futterman said he could not elaborate on these complaints as the documents were not public information.

Futterman said he unsuccessfully lobbied the Cook County States Attorneys Office as well as the polices own internal investigation department. Office of Professional Standards, but neither conducted investigations that led to disciplinary action for Gregoire.

The officer who did this has a history of doing this, and still hes out on the street, said Futterman. According to police spokesman David Bayless, the OPS investigation concluded there was insufficient evidence of any wrongdoing.

The Mandel clinic, which several years ago opened a satellite office at Stateway Gardens in response to a litany of police abuse allegations, filed suit against Gregoire and the city last winter, more than a year after the incident.

On the morning of Sept. 6, 2001, according to the suit, Boatwright was visiting a friend at Stateway when five unmarked police cars drove up as part of a planned drug raid. Gregoire, who did not identify himself as a police officer, reportedly charged Boatwright from behind and slammed him face-first onto the concrete, knocking him unconscious, breaking his nose and uprooting his front teeth, according to witnesses.

Adding insult to injury, the suit states, Gregoire claimed in his official police report that Boatwright tripped on the sidewalk while trying to flee from police, and falsely charged him with criminal trespass and soliciting unlawful business. All charges were dismissed by the Cook County Criminal Court on Oct. 10, 2001.

I treat the police with the utmost respect, Boatwright said recently. But he assaulted me to the fullest and thought nothing of it. I hate that he has the authority and he abuses it.

In recent years, the U. of C.s Mandel clinic has won a number of cases against police for abuses against tenants of Stateway Gardens, including a $10,000 settlement to Stateway activist Kenya Richmond who was falsely arrested by police.

Former public housing police Comdr. Ernest Brown is named in a high-profile lawsuit filed by Mandel that charges police with illegally raiding a basketball game at Stateway in Feb. 2001. The case is expected to go to trial early next year.