Protesters Against Police Violence Sue Chicago Police for Racially Motivated Police Violence

November 19, 2020

Protesters Against Police Violence Sue Superintendent Brown, CPD and City of Chicago for Racially Motivated Police Violence

60 People – – including members of Black Lives Matter, #LetUsBreathe Collective, GoodKids MadCity – – join together to file an unprecedented lawsuit seeking justice after they were viciously attacked by Chicago Police Officers at the historic protests against racist police violence this summer. 

60 protesters have joined together to file a civil rights lawsuit against Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown, other Chicago Police Officers and the City of Chicago for the violence they all endured when they were exercising their constitutional rights protesting anti-Black police violence at the protests in Chicago this summer. 

The Plaintiffs filed a 200+ page legal complaint in federal court alleging they were repeatedly attacked by Chicago Police Officers who unjustifiably beat them with batons, tear gassed and pepper sprayed them, tackled them to the ground, and kettled them on public streets without giving them the required orders to disperse. The Plaintiffs alleged they were attacked and beaten in strikingly similar ways at eight different protests that occurred over the summer, in the Loop, Hyde Park, Grant Park, Uptown, and Old Town, on May 29-31, June 1, July 17, and August 15, 2020.  

The Plaintiffs are represented by People’s Law Office attorneys Joey L. Mogul, Ben Elson, Janine Hoft, Jan Susler, and Brad Thomson, along with Vanessa Del Valle of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center; Sheila A. Bedi of the Community Justice and Civil Rights Clinic at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law; Brendan Shiller, Sierra Reed, Tia Haywood, and Wayne Slaughter of Shiller Preyar Jarard & Samuels. 

Miracle Boyd, a member of GoodKids MadCity, is one of the Plaintiffs who was viciously attacked when punched in the face by a Chicago Police Officer causing her to lose two teeth, when attending the Black, Indigenous Solidarity Rally (Decolonize Zhigaagoong) in Grant Park on July 17, 2020, said “CPD used violence to try to stop our movement. But we won’t be silenced. This lawsuit is about holding police accountable for all the harm they inflicted on us this summer. But it’s also about the righteousness of our demand to defund CPD. We need to invest in our communities, not police who beat young people trying to remake their world.” 

Many of the protesters suffered concussions or broken bones after being repeatedly hit with batons on their heads and other parts of their bodies, requiring medical treatment. Several Plaintiffs needed stitches to bind the gaping wounds in their heads and on their bodies. Others sustained bruises that lasted for weeks.  [See the complaint for pictures of injuries].

“Chicago Police Officers used lethal force, time and time again this summer, when they repeatedly hit protestors on their heads with their batons.  This excessive force was not only unconstitutional, and illegal, but violates the CPD’s own policies regarding the use of “impact weapons,” said Plaintiff’s lawyer Joey Mogul of the People’s Law Office.   These officers need to be fired from the CPD so they cannot harm any others, and the City needs to compensate people for these substantial injuries. 

Adding insult to serious injuries, many protesters were also falsely arrested and charged with crimes or violations of Chicago municipal ordinances based on false allegations, resulting in their prolonged detention in CPD lock ups amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  All the charges/violations brought against these plaintiffs have been dismissed. 

The complaint also alleges that the CPD effectuated racially motivated arrests of protesters, even though the protests were attended by multi-racial crowds of people, the majority of whom were white.  According to CPD records, during the initial weekend of protests (May 29 – 31), CPD arrested 2,172 people and 70% of those arrested were Black, even though Black people compromise only 32% of the City of Chicago.

“During this summer’s uprisings, CPD used every tool they had to beat us, detain us, to punish us for demanding a world without police. Police officers brutalized me, pushed around my children, and left my friends laying in the street covered in their own blood. said Amika Tendaji, Lead Organizer for Black Lives Matter Chicago. This kind of violence can’t be reformed. This isn’t about a lack of training. It’s about policing being rotten to the core.” 

Chicago Police Officers also regularly took or destroyed protesters’ personal property, including their bicycles, cameras, eyeglasses, goggles, backpacks, and phones.  Some were deprived of medication while locked up resulting in further unnecessary injuries.

An astronomical number of complaints alleging Chicago Police Officers engaged in brutality and misconduct at the summer protests have been filed with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (“COPA”). Of the 520 complaints received, 58% of those complaints alleged Chicago Police Officers used excessive force and 9% alleged verbal abuse. The number of protest complaints is so large that COPA formed a specialized team of investigators solely dedicated to investigating these allegations.  As a result of COPA’s preliminary investigations into the protest complaints, it referred 5 officers to state/federal law enforcement for potential criminal prosecution and has recommended that 8 officers be assigned to modified duty and/or be relieved of police power, but no other officers involved in protest-related abuses have been disciplined thus far. 

“These systemic and ongoing violations continue unabated and undeterred despite the City of Chicago being subject to a Consent Decree for almost two years.  CPD’s failure to comply with the Consent Decree deadlines coupled with its consistently illegal and violent response to the summer 2020 protests demonstrate that the Consent Decree has entirely failed to create any meaningful change in the CPD,” said Sheila A Bedi, one of the lawyers representing the Plaintiffs.

This past summer tens of thousands of people coalesced to protest the unrelenting anti-Black police violence plaguing Chicago and the nation. In doing so, they made history by joining the largest social justice movement the U.S. has ever experienced. The complaint alleges that the CPD and other City agencies responded to these demonstrations with brutal, violent, and unconstitutional tactics that were clearly intended to injure, silence, and intimidate Plaintiffs and other protesters from protesting CPD and other police officers’ racially motivated violence. The CPD also consistently targeted protest leaders, marshals, legal observers, medics, and individuals recording the demonstrations with unlawful, retaliatory, and lethal force.

The lawyers argue that CPD’s response to the summer 2020 protests is consistent with the CPD’s long-standing policies and practices of using abusive tactics and excessive force against protesters for progressive social change.  The lawsuits notes the violence protestors suffered at the hands of Chicago Police Officers when they demanded fair labor practices in 1877; spoke against racism and segregation prior to the 1919 race riots; protested the Vietnam war at the 1968 Democratic National Convention; opposed housing discrimination in 1977; opposed the Gulf War in 1990; acted up for people with HIV/AIDs in 1990s and early 2000s; opposed the Iraq War in 2003; and held a counter demonstration to then Presidential candidate Trump’s scheduled rally at UIC in 2016. 

The lawsuit also documents how costly police violence is for the City of Chicago and how much taxpayer money is expended to compensate people for their pain and suffering and wasted paying law firms to defend the indefensible. The most recent civil rights class action brought on behalf of those beaten and detained en masse at the infamous anti-Iraq war demonstration on March 20, 2003, cost the City of Chicago approximately $15 million, with the plaintiffs receiving over $6.4 million in settlement awards. Around $9 million was paid to attorneys for the plaintiffs and outside counsel hired by the City to defend the CPD and City in fees and costs.  

You can read the complaint here.

Victory in Chicago Freedom School’s Lawsuit Against the City of Chicago

Today, we are proud to announce a victory in Chicago Freedom School’s lawsuit against the City of Chicago.

Today, the City of Chicago rescinded the cease and desist order it issued to the Chicago Freedom School on May 30, 2020!

On May 30, CFS, located in the South Loop, opened its space to provide support (including take-out pizza and store bought snacks for free) and rides home to Black and Brown young people protesting the racist police murders in downtown Chicago.

CPD officers and members of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) showed up at CFS’s door and aggressively demanded to search the premises asserting that CFS was “housing and feeding protestors,” insinuating that was a crime which it is not.

After searching the premises, BACP members issued CFS an illegal “Cease and Desist” order falsely claiming the CFS was “preparing and serving food” on its premises without a commercial Retail Food Establishment License. CFS staff were threatened with arrest and the CFS fined if they continue to provide youth participants commercially prepared food, thereby shutting down this not for profit organization.

Joey Mogul of People’s Law Office and Sheila Bedi of the Community Justice and Civil Rights Clinic of Pritzker Northwestern School of Law filed a lawsuit in federal court on June 25, 2020 challenging the violations of CFS’s, Executive Director Tony Alvarado-Rivera’s and Wellness Director Jacqulyn Hamilton’s constitutional rights and demanding a preliminary injunction to prevent the enforcement of this illegal cease and desist order.

Today, the BACP formally rescinded the cease and desist order.

Check out CFS’s statement about this victory.

We are proud to represent CFS and we are inspired by their work in supporting young Black and Brown people in the City and their courage in standing up to the City of Chicago, CPD and BACP to demand respect for their rights and work.

50 Years of People’s Lawyering Forum

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A Forum Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of People’s Law Office (PLO), 1969-2019

Panels, presentations and conversations between movement leaders, PLO lawyers, former political prisoners and current and former PLO clients.

12:10-12:30: The Founding of People’s Law Office and the Legacy of Fred Hampton

Former members of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party (TBA) in conversation, moderated by PLO co-founder Jeff Haas

12:40-1:40: Solidarity with Political Prisoners and Prisoner-led Struggles

Speakers:
•Zolo Azania: New Afrikan and former Death Row prisoner
•Nancy Kurshan: long-time activist, co-founder of the Yippies and author of “Out Of Control: A 15 Year Battle Against Control Unit Prions,”
•Mike Africa Jr. of the MOVE Organization and son of two recently released MOVE 9 members
•Ricardo Jimenez: former political prisoner of the struggle for liberation of Puerto Rico
•Benny Lee: One of the “Pontiac Brothers” of the Pontiac Rebellion and activist working with former prisoners
•Dennis Cunningham: PLO co-founder

Facilitated by PLO attorney Brad Thomson

1:50-2:50: Legal Support for Struggles Against Colonialism and Occupation

Speakers:
•José Lopez of Puerto Rican Cultural Center
•Dima Khalidi of Palestine Legal
•Hatem Abudayyeh of U.S. Palestinian Community Network
•Alberto Rodriguez: former political prisoner of the struggle for liberation of Puerto Rico and retired PLO paralegal

Facilitated by PLO attorneys Michael Deutsch and Jan Susler

3:00-4:00: Justice for Survivors of Chicago Police Torture

Speakers:
•Anthony Holmes: one of the first police torture survivors and member of Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM) and Board Member of Chicago Torture Justice Center (CTJC)
•Alice Kim: Co-founder of CTJM and Co-Director of Community Building for Prison + Neighborhood Art Project
•Darrell Cannon: police torture survivor, member of CTJM
•Aislinn Pulley: Co-Director of CTJC and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Chicago.

Facilitated by People’s Law Office attorneys Joey Mogul, John Stainthorp and Flint Taylor

4:10-5:00: Lessons of Movement Lawyering: For Today and the Future

Speakers:
Damon Williams of #LetUsBreathe Collective, Page May of Assata’s Daughters, and more TBA, in conversation with Christian Snow: Organizer and attorney with PLO

Light lunch and refreshments to be provided.

Janet and Janine Africa of MOVE 9 Released From Prison

May 25, 2019

People’s Law Office and the Abolitionist Law Center are proud to share that Janet Holloway Africa and Janine Phillips Africa of the MOVE 9 have been released from Pennsylvania state custody after more than forty years of incarceration. Earlier this morning, the MOVE sisters were finally released on parole from SCI Cambridge Springs and are now with family and friends. The sisters have been battling for their freedom after being consistently denied parole for a decade despite an impeccable disciplinary record and extensive record of mentorship and community service during their time in prison.

Janine Africa (left) and Janet Africa (right) of the MOVE 9, shortly after their release from prison

Following their 2018 parole denial, attorneys from Abolitionist Law Center and People’s Law Office filed petitions for habeas corpus seeking their release from prison. The habeas petitions challenged their parole denials on the grounds that the decisions were arbitrary and lacking in any evidence that Janet or Janine presented a risk to public safety. Under pressure from litigation and with a court date for May 28 looming, the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (board) granted Janet and Janine parole on May 14, 2019, just one day after the anniversary of the notorious May 13, 1985 bombing of the MOVE home.

“The release of Janet and Janine is a victory not only for them and their loved ones, but also for the MOVE Organization and the movement to free all political prisoners,” said attorney Brad Thomson of People’s Law Office. “Janet and Janine were excellent candidates for parole. They have been described by DOC staff as model prisoners and neither of them has had a single disciplinary incident in over twenty years. While in prison, they have participated in community fundraisers, and social programs, including training service dogs. They are remarkable women and they deserve to be free.”

Janine Africa (left) and Janet Africa (right) with People’s Law Office attorney Brad Thomson (center)

Like Debbie and Mike Africa, who were released last year, Janet and Janine are now able to experience holding their loved ones outside of prison walls for the first time in decades. The release of Janet and Janine after forty years is the culmination of the MOVE organization, public support, legal action, and policy changes.

Three other members of the MOVE 9 remain incarcerated (Chuck, Delbert and Eddie Africa), while two others (Merle Africa and Phil Africa) died in custody. Abolitionist Law Center and People’s Law Office represent Chuck, Delbert and Eddie in the struggle for their freedom. To support the fight, you may donate to the MOVE9 Legal Fund.

Press Contact:

Mike Africa Jr.,MikeAfricaJr [at] gmail.com

Brad Thomson bradjaythomson[at]gmail.com 773-297-9689

People’s Law Office Files First Amendment Lawsuit against IDOC for Shutting Down Debate Program

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 15, 2019

CONTACT: Brad Thomson, People’s Law Office, (773) 235-0070 ext. 123

Illinois Prisoners File First Amendment Lawsuit Demanding Return of Debate Program

IDOC officials opposed prisoners addressing Illinois legislators regarding parole and they retaliated by cancelling a debate program

Five prisoners at Stateville Correctional Center have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against officials from Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) for violating the prisoners’ First Amendment right to free speech.

The lawsuit was filed in the Northern District Court of Illinois on May 15, 2019 by the plaintiffs’ attorneys Brad Thomson and Michael Deutsch of People’s Law Office, along with Joshua Herman of the Law Offices of Joshua G. Herman.

The plaintiffs: Lester Dobbey, Joseph Dole, Raul Dorado, Benard McKinley, and Eugene Ross, were all students in a debate class taught at Stateville, a maximum security prison operated by IDOC.

The debate class, which ran from approximately October 2017 to May 2018, had 14 students, all with very lengthy prison sentences. The class was taught by a volunteer instructor who is well respected in the competitive debate community.

The plaintiffs and other members of the debate class decided to debate how Illinois might implement a parole system to provide opportunities for parole to Illinois prisoners with long and/or life sentences.

IDOC officials approved their request to have a public debate, which occurred in March 2018 and was attended by approximately 18 members of the Illinois General Assembly. A number of journalists, IDOC officials, members of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, and other members of the public also attended.

Members of the public responded positively to the debate and the event was followed by a question and answer session in which state legislators posed thoughtful questions to the debaters.

After this highly successful public event, defendant Gladyse Taylor, assistant director of IDOC, expressed her opposition to the plaintiffs communicating with Illinois legislators regarding parole. Defendant Taylor made it clear that she would take steps to prevent the plaintiffs from expressing such messages. Defendant Taylor, along with other IDOC officials, then cancelled the debate class and another scheduled debate event.

The lawsuit seeks for the debate program be reinstated and other relief related to the alleged violations of the Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights to free speech.

“These men were exercising their right to freedom of speech,” says Brad Thomson, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys with People’s Law Office. “The fact that they were using their Constitutional right to effectively advocate for parole to legislators angered certain IDOC officials. When state actors use their power to retaliate and shut down speech because it differs from their personal political agenda, it is an abuse of their authority and a violation of the Constitution.”

One of the plaintiffs, Benard McKinley went to prison at the age of 16. In describing the debate program, he says, “For decades, IDOC officials have felt the need to paint this negative picture to the citizens of Illinois that all those who are incarcerated behind these walls are to be considered dangerous and unredeemable. Being part of the debate team, and being able to deliver this positive message, but needed message, to the citizens of this state in our first ever live debate, I was able to see that what we was showing and saying at this debate was contrary to IDOC’s negative narrative.” 

Like Mr. McKinley, all the plaintiffs in the lawsuit went to prison at very young ages and are serving an extensive prison sentences and currently have not opportunity for parole. They have all actively sought out educational and programmatic opportunities to foster their rehabilitation, which is why they were selected for the debate program.

Joseph Dole, one of the plaintiffs, says, “Prison debate teams have been around for decades. They have universally been seen as important rehabilitative tools across the country.”

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People’s Law Office is a civil rights law firm headquartered in Chicago that has been defending our clients’ Constitutional rights and fighting against police misconduct, wrongful convictions, and governmental abuses of power since 1969. 

People’s Law Office Obtains Certificate of Innocence for Torture Survivor Alonzo Smith

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Alonzo Smith with People’s Law Office attorneys Brad Thomson (left), Joey Mogul (second from left) and Flint Taylor (right)

Today, Circuit Court of Cook County Judge Erica L. Reddick granted Alonzo Smith’s petition for a Certificate of Innocence. Mr. Smith was represented by a team of attorneys from People’s Law Office, led by Joey Mogul, along with Ben Elson, Flint Taylor, and Brad Thomson.

Mr. Smith has consistently and persistently contended he was tortured by Detective Peter Dignan and Sergeant John Byrne, members of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge’s notorious Midnight Crew. Burge threatened Alonzo, telling him they has ways of making people talk. After they brought Alonzo to the basement, Dignan and Byrne handcuffed him behind him back and repeatedly suffocated him with a plastic bag and beat him about his body with a baton and flashlight while they made racist comments and laughed at his pain. Bloodied, bruised, and fearing for his life, Alonzo relented and falsely confessed to a murder and robbery he did not commit, the details of which were fed to him by Dignan and Byrne.

The tortured confession was then used to secure his wrongful conviction and close to 20 years of incarceration, separating him from his wife and four young children.

In 2013, attorneys from the People’s Law Office filed an amended post-conviction petition on behalf of Mr. Smith, setting forth a wealth of newly discovered evidence to corroborate his torture allegations. This evidence consisted of reports, testimony and court decisions which unequivocally established that Burge and the men under his command systematically tortured and abused suspects and witnesses at Area 2 and 3 Police Headquarters from 1972 through 1991. The new evidence also demonstrated that Dignan and Byrne have been accused of torturing scores of Black people, just as they did Mr. Smith at Area 2.

In 2015, attorneys from our office represented Mr. Smith in an evidentiary hearing before Judge Reddick to determine whether police physically coerced Mr. Smith into making a confession. Judge Reddick ruled that the police violated Mr. Smith’s constitutional rights, finding that the evidence showing he was tortured was “staggering.” With her ruling, Judge Reddick granted Mr. Smith’s post-conviction petition, vacated his conviction and ordered a new trial. The State subsequently dismissed all charges against Mr. Smith.

Our office then filed the petition for a Certificate of Innocence, which we have aggressively litigated for over a year and a half. Today, announcing her decision from the bench, Judge Reddick ruled that the evidence showed, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Smith was innocent of the crime he was convicted of committing.

Our office also represented Mr. Smith in a federal civil rights lawsuit against Burge, Dignan, Byrne, former Mayor, Richard M. Daley, the City of Chicago and Cook County for their roles in his torture and wrongful conviction. We recently obtained favorable settlements in the case, totaling $5.55 million from the City of Chicago and Cook County.

Mr. Smith was thrilled with the Court’s ruling and relieved he now has proof his innocence. Our legal work to vindicate Mr. Smith is part of People’s Law Office’s decades-long commitment to fighting against racially motivated state violence, including Chicago police torture and representing those who have been wrongfully convicted.

Habeas Petitions Filed to Free MOVE 9 Members

Attorneys from People’s Law Office and Abolitionist Law Center File Habeas Petitions on Behalf of Janet Africa and Janine Africa of the MOVE 9

Janet Africa (left) and Janine Africa (right), two of the MOVE 9 still in prison

October 4, 2018

(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Today, the Abolitionist Law Center and the Peoples Law Office filed Habeas motions in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Janet Hollaway Africa and Janine Phillips Africa of the MOVE 9, to appeal the decision of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (board) to deny them parole in May of 2018. Despite maintaining favorable recommendations and receiving no disciplinary infractions for decades, Janet and Janine were denied parole even though others similarly situated were released by the board.

In May of 2018, the board ruled the petitioners should not be granted parole due to their lack of remorse, minimization of the offenses committed, and an unfavorable recommendation of the prosecutor.  One of the many issues the petitioners, through their attorneys, raise is the erroneous justifications used to deny them parole because the board’s false allegations are contradicted in the record.  While the board stated there was opposition to their release, there was in fact support from the district attorney’s office. As such the motion argues the board violated substantive due process rights of Janet and Janine by denying them appeal for reasons that do not include rehabilitative and deterrent purposes. Not only do the petitioners have a favorable recommendation in support of their release, they also have family and community support, employment options, and access to stable housing. Moreover, the petitioners have accepted responsibility for their actions before the board, in their community,and with their advocacy works.

The Parole Board’s decision to deny Janet and Janine was completely arbitrary and lacked any rational basis. The justifications provided by the Board are contradicted by the evidence, including the false claim that the District Attorney’s Office opposed parole. Janet and Janine are well deserving of parole-DOC staff describe both women as model prisoners, they have not had a disciplinary incident in decades and they’ve both participated in community fundraisers, the dog training program and other social programs inside of prison. ~ Attorney Brad Thomson

In addition to Janet, Janine and Mike Sr., three other members of the MOVE 9 remain incarcerated, as two died in custody. During the August 8, 1978 altercation, a Philadelphia police officer was killed and following a highly politicized trial, the MOVE 9 were convicted of third-degree homicide. All nine were sentenced to 30-100 years in prison. The six surviving members of the MOVE 9 are all eligible for parole.

Contact

Brad Thomson, People’s Law Office, 773.235.0070 ext. 123, BradJayThomson[at]gmail.com

Bret Grote, Abolitionist Law Center, 412.654.9070,  bretgrote[at]abolitionistlawcenter.org

Read the Briefs in Support of the Habeas Petitions:

Janine Phillips Africa v. Oliver – Brief in Support of Habeas Corpus Petition

Janet Holloway Africa v. Oliver – Brief in Support of Habeas Corpus Petition

All Criminal Charges Dropped Against SlutWalk Arrestee Lee Dewey

Yesterday, August 16, 2018,the Cook County State’s Attorneys’ Office dropped all criminal charges against Lee Dewey (they/them). Lee, represented by People’s Law Office attorneys Joey Mogul and Brad Thomson, faced multiple false felony charges stemming from their arrest at the SlutWalk Chicago demonstration in 2017.

Activist Lee Dewey with People's Law Office Attorneys

Lee Dewey (Center) with People’s Law Office attorneys Joey Mogul (Left) and Brad Thomson (right)

On August 12, 2017, Lee was exercising their Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly at the Slutwalk Chicago march alongside more than 100 other people. During the march, members of the Chicago Police Department attempted to force the demonstrators off the street and onto the sidewalk and arrested several demonstrators in the process. As the remaining protestors were demanding their release, a Chicago Police Officer grabbed Lee’s bicycle, causing both Lee and the officer to fall to the ground. As a result of the aggressive action by the police, Lee’s bicycle fell on top of Lee. Several police officers advanced toward Lee, and while Lee was on the ground, in the midst of being handcuffed, an officer stepped on Lee’s head and ground it into the pavement.

Lee sustained an open cut in the midst of their arrest, and after being transported to the police station, Lee disclosed to the police they are HIV+, out of an abundance of caution and due to their knowledge of the criminalization of HIV/AIDS.

Lee was then falsely charged with Aggravated Battery on a Police Officer (for allegedly biting an officer on his ankle) and Resisting Arrest.

A Cook County Judge gave Lee a $100,000 D-bond that was clearly intended to keep Lee in Cook County Jail. Luckily, Chicago Community Bond Fund immediately posted the $10,000 needed to release Lee.

Lee was the only person arrested at the Slutwalk 2017 who was charged with felonies. All the other individuals arrested were charged with misdemeanors or ordinance violations, and their cases were resolved with fines and/or community service.

If Lee had been wrongfully convicted of the Aggravated Battery charge, a Class 2 felony, they could have been sentenced to serve 3-7 years in prison. If they were wrongfully convicted of the felony Resisting Arrest charge, they could have been sentenced to 1-3 years in prison.

In the course of the criminal case, Lee’s attorneys obtained video from the body-worn cameras of the officers at the demonstration. The footage demonstrated clearly that Lee did not bite or attempt to bite any officer.

Lee’s defense committee organized public support for Lee (#FreeLeeFromCPD), raised funds for their criminal defense, and organized a call-in campaign requesting that Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx drop all the criminal charges.

Organizing on Lee’s behalf, the defense committee also secured the support of 30 local and national LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations. These groups signed onto a letter delivered to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office in July 2018 demanding that all criminal charges be dropped.

After receiving this letter, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office dropped all criminal charges against Lee. In exchange, Lee pleaded guilty to violating the Chicago municipal ordinance regarding public assembly (a non-criminal offense). As part of the resolution, Lee was required to pay a $200 fine and do community service. In a remarkable move, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office recognized that the outstanding organizing that Lee has done for years constitutes community service. The judge agreed that Lee had satisfied all community service requirements in light of their work as the lead organizer for CommunityCave Chicago, as well as their work as the treasurer of the board of Upswing Advocates, and their membership on the community advisory board of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

Lee’s charges in this case fit into a disturbing pattern of cases nationwide where LGBTQ people and people living with HIV/AIDS have been falsely charged or over charged based on their gender identity, sexual orientation, and/or HIV/AIDS status. This problematic trend is often based on homophobic and transphobic notions that LGBTQ people are prone to commit violence or wish to spread disease.

For decades, lawyers from People’s Law Office have represented people criminalized based on their LGBTQ, gender non-conforming, or HIV/AIDS status. In fact, Mogul, who represented Lee, co-authored the book Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States (Beacon Press, 2011) about the policing, prosecution and punishment of the LGBTQ community in the U.S. criminal legal system.

“We are delighted that Lee is now able to return to their life without the threat of prison hanging over their head. While Lee should not have had to endure any prosecution at all, this resolution of a felony criminal case is uniquely positive and was only made possible because of the strength of Lee’s community, including the defense committee, legal team, and supporters. Above all, Lee’s bravery in fighting this case and demanding dismissal of all criminal charges was the core ingredient in this successful outcome,” said Sharlyn Grace, co-Executive Director of the Chicago Community Bond Fund and member of Lee Dewey’s defense committee.

In response to the resolution of the case, Lee said, “I did not require this firsthand experience in order to dedicate my time, labor, and love to the abolition of the police force and the prison industrial complex, which movement I have long added my voice to. There is much utility in this experience, however, and it will inform my personal activism in our collaborative work for much time to come. All of my love and appreciation to my family, friends, communities, and comrades: I could not have done this without each and every one of you. Positive radical change is not only possible, it is necessary, and together we will change this world. Thank you.”

People’s Law Office Obtains Appellate Court Victory

On August 10, 2018, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in a unanimous decision authored by the Honorable Diane Wood rendered an important victory to the plaintiff in a wrongful death in custody case brought by the People’s Law Office. Not only was the case remanded for a new trial, but in a precedent-setting portion of the decision those responsible for the safety and welfare of pretrial detainees will be held to a higher standard of care requiring them to reasonably protect and provide adequate medical care to those in their custody.

Lyvita Gomes, died in Lake County JailIn late 2011, Lyvita Gomes, an Indian national, was taken to Lake County Jail for not having appeared for jury duty, even though her immigration status made her ineligible for jury duty. She told the arresting officer she was not well and when she got to the jail, she told her jailers she was not going to eat until she got home. She was placed on suicide watch and for the next 15 days, she didn’t eat or drink, and she barely spoke.

 

During those 15 days, the Correct Care Solutions private contractor personnel at the jail watched her as she wasted away, losing weight, becoming dehydrated, unstable on her feet and then immobile. No one intervened to assist her or provide her necessary mental and physical healthcare. The jail psychiatrist diagnosed her with Psychotic Disorder Not Otherwise Specified and reported:

It is obvious that patient is in a psychotic state of mind, whereby her judgment is   impaired. Her responses are not based on reality. She is deemed clinically incompetent to participate in her treatment plan. Patient does not understand the risks of not having adequate nourishment. She is likely to jeopardize her physical well-being by her actions.

He took no action other than warn her she could die. The internist, rebuffing nursing reports that she was deteriorating, did nothing except tell the nurses to continue monitoring her and keep warning a nonresponsive Ms. Gomes that she could die.

On the 15th day, another internist saw her, and shocked that she had been allowed to lapse into a state of severe dehydration and multiple organ failure, called an ambulance to rush her to hospital. At the same time, jail personnel finally went in to court seeking a bond reduction and she was technically released from custody. Tragically, it was too late to save her life and days after her arrival at hospital, Lyvita Gomes died as a result of complications of starvation and dehydration.

At the 2016 trial, Lyvita Gomes’ sister and brother-in-law traveled from London, England to testify and the Estate was represented by a community member who was called into service as a result of outrage in the immigrant and Latinx communities of Waukegan over the death of a woman in the custody of the Lake County Jail. The trial court refused to allow the jury to consider whether the psychiatrist and internist caused her death and whether they failed to protect her from herself. The jury awarded damages of $119,000 against a jail social worker for the pain and suffering endured by Lyvita Gomes over the 15 days on incarceration. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that there was sufficient evidence to hold the psychiatrist and internist liable for Lyvita Gomes’ death, and remanded the case back to the trial court to give her Estate the opportunity to have a jury consider their liability and provide damages for her death, on constitutional theories as well as medical malpractice.

In the decision that changed the analysis of constitutional claims brought by pretrial detainees, the appellate court ruled that the standard of proof for denial of adequate medical care and failure to protect claims  is now and in the future will be “objectively reasonable” and not “deliberate indifference,” holding that the lower standard set forth in  Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466 (2015) applies in this Circuit.

For more information:
Read the Gomes 7th Circuit Opinion

Coverage of the Decision by Courthouse News Service

Our office’swork on jail death cases