Chicago cops awash in scandal
Sun Sep 30, 2007 23:09

Chicago cops awash in scandal

By MIKE ROBINSON, Associated Press Writer Sun Sep 30, 2:47 PM ET

CHICAGO - Videotapes of angry officers savagely beating civilians and charges that a murder plot was hatched within an elite special operations unit have Chicago's troubled police department reeling again.

Adding to the department's woes is word from federal prosecutors that they are investigating claims that homicide detectives tortured suspects into confessing to murders that landed them on death row in the 1980s.

Not since club-swinging cops in baby-blue helmets chased demonstrators through clouds of pepper gas at the 1968 Democratic National Convention have Chicago police been so awash in trouble.

The biggest shock came Wednesday when federal prosecutors charged special operations officer Jerome Finnigan with planning the murder of another member of the unit to keep him from talking to the government.

"This kind of stuff on Page One is just horrible," and reinforces a misleading stereotype of police, said Roosevelt University political scientist Paul Green, who taught at the police academy for four years.

"The overwhelming 99.9 percent do their job professionally," he said.

But evidence of deep-rooted problems is piling up.

Finnigan, 44, also is one of six members of the special operations unit, created to crack down on gangs and drugs, who are charged with operating a shakedown operation aimed at civilians. Prosecutors say they have him on tape weighing the possibility of having someone kill a fellow special operations officer to keep him from becoming a witness against him.

Finnigan and his attorney, Michael Ficaro, declined to comment.

In July, three off-duty officers pleaded not guilty to charges that they beat four businessmen in a bar in a videotaped confrontation.

In another videotaped confrontation, off-duty officer Anthony Abbate was seen apparently beating a 115-pound female bartender because she would not serve him another drink. Abbate has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of aggravated battery.

The quagmire is deepened by five federal lawsuits accusing police and city officials of covering up the torture of murder suspects at the Area 2 detective headquarters under violent crimes Lt. Jon Burge in the 1980s. Burge was fired in 1993 after a suspect in the murder of two officers allegedly was abused while in his custody.

A four-year study by two special prosecutors appointed by a Cook County judge, released in July 2006, found that Chicago police beat, kicked and shocked scores of black suspects in the 1970s and 1980s to get confessions. The report said it was impossible to file charges because the incidents were so old that the statute of limitations had long since run out.

On Wednesday, however, U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald announced the federal government was stepping into the torture case, saying it would seek evidence of "perjury, false statements and obstruction of justice by members of the Chicago police department."

"It's political, it's cultural, it's systemic," said attorney G. Flint Taylor, who represents several former death row inmates now suing Burge and city officials.

Attorney Richard Sikes, who represents Burge in the five civil suits, said after Fitzgerald's announcement that allegations against his client "have been fairly investigated by the special prosecutors who found that charges were not appropriate."

The department has been slow to put its best foot forward. Officers in the news affairs office said only department spokeswoman Monique Bond could comment. Bond did not return three calls seeking comment over two days.

Mark Donahue, president of Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, said most officers are doing a professional job but the department's reputation has been hurt by the misdeeds of a minority.

"I subscribe to the few-bad-apples theory," Donahue said. "It is also due to the attention that the few bad apples are getting from the media."

The City Council recently revamped the Office of Professional Standards, which investigates charges that police officers abused civilians. Instead of reporting to department higher ups, as it did for years, the office now reports directly to Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Futterman says such investigations in the past were shoddy and rarely resulted in discipline against the officers.

"If they investigated crimes the way they investigate complaints against police officers they would never close a case," Futterman says.


Daughter-in-law of NYC politician dies in Ariz. police custody

9/30/2007, 11:50 a.m. EDT


The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The stepdaughter-in-law of the city's public advocate, found dead in a police holding cell in Arizona, was a "wonderful" woman and mother, Betsy Gotbaum said.

Gotbaum, the public advocate, spoke briefly to media across the street from her Manhattan building on Sunday, two days after Carol Anne Gotbaum was found in the cell where she had been taken in handcuffs after being arrested at an airport.

Authorities were investigating if Carol Anne Gotbaum choked herself while trying to get free from the handcuffs
"She was a wonderful mother, she was sweet and kind and loving," Betsy Gotbaum said. She added, "It's obviously very, very difficult for us, we are dealing with it as best we can. My number one focus is those children and my stepson. I hope the press will consider our feelings and please, please, please don't ask us any more questions."

The 45-year-old New Yorker was arrested Friday after a conflict with gate crews who refused to allow her to board a plane, said Sgt. Andy Hill, a Phoenix police spokesman.

Officers handcuffed her and took her to the holding room, where she kept screaming, authorities said. Hill said officers checked on her when she stopped screaming and found her unresponsive.

Hill said it appears Gotbaum may have tried to get out of her handcuffs, became tangled in the process and the cuffs ended up around her neck. A cause of death will be determined by the Maricopa County Medical Examiner.

"She was very agitated and irate and angry," Hill said. "These are the things that led to the disorderly conduct arrest."

Authorities said neither a Taser nor pepper spray was used on the woman


WEDDINGS; Noah E. Gotbaum, Carol A. Stiger - New York Times
Carol Anne Stiger, a daughter of Comdr. and Mrs. Henry B. Stiger of Cape Town, was married last evening in Manhattan to Noah Eliot Gotbaum, ...

June 11, 1995
WEDDINGS; Noah E. Gotbaum, Carol A. Stiger

Carol Anne Stiger, a daughter of Comdr. and Mrs. Henry B. Stiger of Cape Town, was married last evening in Manhattan to Noah Eliot Gotbaum, the son of Victor Gotbaum of Brooklyn and Dr. Sarah C. Gotbaum of Chevy Chase, Md. Rabbi Charles Lippman performed the ceremony at the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park.

Ms. Stiger, 33, is keeping her name. She is a senior buyer in London for the House of Frasier, a department store company. She received an M.B.A. from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Her father retired as the commander of the South African Navy Diving School in Simonstown. The bride's previous marriage ended in divorce.

Mr. Gotbaum, 35, is a director of the Central Europe Trust Company, a consulting and investment firm in London. He graduated from Amherst College and received a master's degree in public policy management from Yale University.

His mother is a public affairs and health-policy consultant in Washington. His father, the former executive director of District Council 37 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, is an author and consultant in New York. The bridegroom's stepmother, Betsy Gotbaum, is the executive director of the New-York Historical Society.

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