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article imageLawyer quits amid police scandal in Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Chicago

By Megan Hamilton     Jan 6, 2016 in Politics
Chicago - A top attorney in Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration stepped down Monday after a federal court judge alleged he hid evidence in a fatal police shooting. This is the latest wrongdoing allegation amid scrutiny about how the city handles such cases.
The city agency responsible for investigating police shootings is also vowing greater transparency, announcing Monday that it will start divulging more details of active cases in an effort to bolster public confidence, The Washington Post reports.
Chicago has been dealing with a firestorm of controversy after a video was released in November that showed a white officer fatally shooting black teen Laquan McDonald. The video spurred protests and a led to a sweeping civil rights investigation of the city's police department by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Laquan McDonald (L) was shot and killed by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke (R) on October 20  ...
Laquan McDonald (L) was shot and killed by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke (R) on October 20, 2014.
To that controversy add the sudden departure of Senior Corporation Counsel Jordan Marsh, who resigned after a U.S. District Judge overturned the jury's verdict in a lawsuit brought by the family of Darius Pinex, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Judge Edmond Chang ruled that Marsh concealed key evidence during the trial and alleged that the attorney lied about his reasons for covering the evidence up.
Chang also imposed sanctions against the city and Marsh, ordering that the attorney's fees be used to pay the plaintiffs. Most likely this will amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars before the retrial can take place.
"Attorneys who might be tempted to bury late-surfacing information need to know that, if discovered, any verdict they win will be forfeit and their clients will pay the price," Chang wrote in his opinion. "They need to know it is not worth it."
Pinex was fatally shot during a traffic stop on Chicago's South Side in January, 2011, Gawker reports. Officers Raoul Mosqueda and Gildardo Sierra testified during the trial that they pulled Pinex over, who was driving an Oldsmobile, because the car matched the description of a vehicle that was wanted in connection to another shooting. However, evidence emerged that showed this to be untrue.
The Tribune reports that the officers allegedly blinded Pinex with the spotlight on their marked squad car, then boxed his car in from the front and got out of the squad car with guns drawn. The officers alleged Pinex ignored their orders and gunned his car in reverse, throwing passenger Matthew Colyer out of the car and almost running Mosqueda over. Sierra fired at least eight shots at the Oldsmobile as it backed into a light pole. Then, on the passengers side of the car, Mosqueda allegedly fired several times, fatally striking Pinex in the head, court documents show. Later, a loaded pistol was found under the driver's seat.
Initially, it's alleged that Marsh said he had found out about the recording that day, but then later said he learned about it the week before the trial. Chang asked Marsh why he didn't disclose the existence of the recording as soon as he found out about it from a police sergeant, the attorney allegedly backpedaled and said it didn't cross his mind that this might have been helpful to the plaintiffs.
"My thought process was, I want to see what is on that (recording)," he said. "You know in retrospect I think I should have, but I wanted to talk to the sergeant and to see whether it was even relevant."
Chang said, in his ruling that Marsh "intentionally concealed" the existence of the emergency call and followed that up by misleading the court about his reasons for withholding it, the Tribune reports.
In his ruling, the judge wrote:
"After hiding the information, despite there being numerous times when the circumstances dictated he say something about it, Marsh said nothing, and even made misleading statements to the court when the issue arose."
Marsh's co-counsel, city attorney Thomas Aumann also came under fire when the judge found he reportedly failed to make a reasonable effort to seek out the dispatch recording in the initial discovery process. When he sanctioned the city for Aumann's actions, Chang said practices conducted by the Law Department placed its attorneys "at risk" for violating discovery rules because of improper training about requesting and collecting evidence and documents.
Marsh's resignation was announced by the city law department, which noted it "does not tolerate any action that would call into question the integrity of the lawyers who serve" Chicago, The Washington Post reports. The department also said it is reviewing procedures used for training and evidence-gathering.
A spokesman for the law department told the Post he didn't have a way to leave a message for Marsh seeking comment, and there wasn't a public telephone listing for anyone named Jordan Marsh in Chicago. And the Tribune reports that the attorney who represents Marsh, Thomas Leinenweber, didn't respond to an email or phone call seeking comment.
During a news conference, Emanuel, Chicago's embattled mayor, called for "zero tolerance" for a city employee not upholding professional standards, "especially an individual representing the city in a courtroom," The Associated Press reports.
But Steve Greenberg, an attorney for the Pinex family, tells a different story. The city, he said, plays a role in covering up police misconduct.
"It shows the city hasn't just fought to protect officers, it also fights tooth and nail to protect its lawyers," Greenberg said. "I don't think they cared that (Pinex) got killed, they didn't care what the truth was and they didn't care they cheated (with the evidence)."
The mayor has been in damage control mode since the video that aired showing a police officer shooting McDonald in the back 16 times, and is trying to rebuild confidence in his leadership while also suppressing calls for his resignation.
Prosecutors charged the officer, who is white, with first-degree murder in McDonald's death, just hours before the dashcam video was released. However, that, coupled with the removal of the police superintendent, and Emanuel's proclamations of reform hasn't subdued his critics, The Associated Press notes.
During Tuesday's press conference, the mayor didn't say what steps he plans to take regarding Marsh and also didn't say whether he will order a full review of Marsh's work, but he did note that his legal adviser, Stephen Patton "is going through the pieces right now in that area."
There's nothing to indicate that Emanuel's job is in immediate trouble, but he has faced numerous protests and plenty of criticism over the police issues. Now Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has chimed in, saying he is "very disappointed" with the way Emanuel, a Democrat, has handled the police misconduct cases, and that if he has the chance, he will sign legislation that would allow voters to try to recall the mayor.
Emanuel says he has no plans to step down. The Associated Press notes there is no current law that allows for his recall. Plus, the majority of those calling for his resignation are grassroots activists and residents, not the city's powerful.
At the news conference, Emanuel also noted the city has started paying $5.5 million in reparations to victims who were tortured by police during the 1970s and 1980s, Time reports.
The city agreed to pay 57 people, most of them black, who had been tortured by police while they were in custody. Jon Burge, police commander at the time, was fired and in subsequent civil suits was convicted of lying about the use of torture.
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