Terry Phalen, now 42 and admittedly gay, was awaiting a bond hearing in October 1999 on auto theft charges when three Cook County jail guards Emiliano Valencia, Joseph Passarella and Michael Harrington handcuffed him, threw him to the ground, punched him in the face and repeatedly kicked him in the ribs, head, back and legs. In all, Phalen reports being hit "maybe 25 to 30 times." Phalen suffered hairline fractures to both wrists and two ribs and bruises over most of his body.
Phalen then filed suit against the guards, the sheriff and Cook County under the Civil Rights Act of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleging excessive force, conspiracy, assault and battery and hate crimes violations. According to the suit, the sole motive for the attack was the guards' dislike for Phalen's sexual orientation. Phalen was represented in the suit by attorneys Joey L. Mogul and Janine L. Hoft of the People's Law Office in Chicago.
The out-of-court settlement was reached in early June 2002, after Phalen and the Cook County Board agreed to the $65,000 award. According to Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley, the county agreed to settle the case because, "This, to me, [was] a classic hate crime."
In addition to the lawsuit, a March 2000 internal Sheriff's Department report found the three guards guilty of beating Phalen and then lying about it to their superiors. Their punishment? Each guard received a 20-day suspension. But that suspension was later reversed after the guards appealed, and the State's Attorney, who is responsible for defending the guards in the civil case, was said to have "thrown" the case on appeal. And despite the wealth of evidence, which included six witnesses to the attack, none of the guards faced criminal prosecution.
The assault on Phalen was apparently only part of a systematic pattern of beatings and attacks by guards at the jail. Phalen cites having witnessed two other beatings against black prisoners that were so brutal that "big pools of blood" formed on the floor.
This case was closely monitored by the Chicago gay community and drew the attention of the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network (CABN) and Rev. Jesse Jackson. CABN organized several rallies to protest the brutality. Said Janine L. Hoft, "I think we've got a long way to go but it's our hope that hitting the county in the pocketbook is the way to make somebody stand up and take notice, and move sheriff's deputies towards an understanding that they have to treat [all] citizens with respect." See: Phelan v. Valencia, et al., No. 00-C-5683, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.
Sources: Worker's World, Chicago Tribune
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Related legal case
Phelan v. Valencia, et al
|Cite||USDC Case No. 00-C-5683 (ED IL 2002)|