Jury awards $9.75 million in police corruption suit

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A jury awarded nearly $10 million Thursday to a pair of federal agents who say a corrupt Chicago police officer ruined their lives. The agents claimed the city failed to fire the officer when they blew the whistle on him.

Diane Klipfel and Michael Casali say they have been fighting for 15 years to get someone to believe them. Klipfel a former ATF agent and Casali, who is still with the bureau, investigated former Chicago cop Joseph Miedzianowski in 1992. Miedzianowski has since been convicted of corruption and is serving a life sentence in prison. But at the time Klipfel and Casali were involved in the case Miedzianowski was able to turn their work around to discredit them.

"We were federal agents. I still am, and I mean this happened to us, you can imagine a citizen trying to make a complaint against a bad cop. What would happen to them?" said Michael Casali, plaintiff.

"The Chicago Police Department made some very, very cruel and serious allegations about me and even after it was found that they weren't true, there were still rumors swirling about what happened in my situation, and with this jury verdict I'm free," said Diane Klipfel, plaintiff.

Free and almost $10 million richer. Jurors deliberated for almost two days before reaching the decision Thursday afternoon. They listened to testimony from current police Superintendent Phil Cline and from the former head of internal affairs Ray Risley.

The couple accused Risley and the department of covering up Miedzianowski's illegal activity. And jurors believed them.

"It gets down to, Were we dealing with a crooked Chicago police officer? And was the system protecting him? It sure seemed like it," said Joe Karl, juror.

It took seven more years after Klipfel and Casali first made allegations against Miedzianowski before he was eventually charged and convicted by the FBI, not the city.

City officials Thursday acknowledged this nearly $10 million settlement is a lot of money, but they have not decided whether this is a decision they can or will appeal.

The jury awarded Klipfel $7.75 million for violation of her rights by both Miedzianowski and the city. It awarded her $1 million for defamation of character by Miedzianowski while acting in his role as a city employee.

It also awarded Casali $1 million for Miedzianowski's violation of his rights while acting as a city employee.

Diane Klipfel and Michael Casali's attorney said the city would have to pay the entire $9.75 million because Miedzianowski is believed to have no money. She said the couple's attorneys would ask the court to award them fees in the $1 million range.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report. Copyright 2007. All Rights Reserved.)

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