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City of Chicago Settles for $4.7 Million After Jury Finds Police Inflicted Rectal Trauma with Screwdriver

by Christopher Zoukis

A federal jury in the Northern District of Illinois found that the Chicago Police were liable for physical injury and violation of a man's Fourth Amendment rights when they searched his rectum with a screwdriver, resulting in a $4,675,000 settlement.

On August 28, 2004, 20-year-old Coprez Coffie was in a van with friends when he was pulled over by the Chicago Police. After searching the vehicle and his friends, Officers Scott Korhonen and Gerald Lodwich let everyone except Coffie leave. Coffie claimed that the officers handcuffed him and drove him to a nearby alley, where the two officers took him out of the car. Next, he said, Korhonen took a screwdriver from the glove compartment, pulled down his pants and inserted the screwdriver into his rectum while Lodwich stood next to Korhonen.

Coffie was arrested on drug charges. When he was released from the Cook County Jail the next day, his mother took him to a hospital emergency room, where he was treated for a tear in his rectum.

Coffie sued Korhonen, Lodwich and the City of Chicago for unreasonable search and negligence for the assault and failure to intervene. At trial, a forensic science expert for Coffie testified that three screwdrivers were recovered and tested, with one that matched Coffie's description testing presumptively positive for fecal matter. In addition, a general surgery expert testified that Coffie's injury was consistent with that of the insertion of a screwdriver.

The defense counsel said the officers did not assault Coffie with a screwdriver and that there was no screwdriver in the glove compartment of their vehicle. Two defense forensics experts, Keith Inman and Kenneth Pfoser, argued that the finding of Coffie's forensic expert was not completely accurate, and the defense's trauma surgery expert, Gary Merlotti, said that Coffie's injury was not consistent with that of a screwdriver.

The jury found for Coffie, which triggered a pre-negotiated agreement for a settlement of $4 million, plus $675,000 in attorney fees.

 See: Coffie v. City of Chicago, et al., United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Chicago Division, Case No. 05-cv-6745 (Oct. 12, 2007)


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