CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) - The Chicago Police officer who shot and killed Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier has started an online campaign to pay for his legal defense — against misdemeanor charges stemming from a bar fight, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
In an appeal for donations to a GoFundMe account opened this week, an attorney for Robert Rialmo claims the officer has been targeted by the city’s police oversight agency and the department because of political pressure over the 2015 shooting of Jones and LeGrier, and because Rialmo has bucked the city Law Department by hiring his own lawyer to defend him from a civil lawsuit, according to the Sun-Times.
“The Mayor and the City were set on throwing Officer Rialmo under the bus in order to have the appearance that they were ‘holding officers accountable,’ and they were not going to let the facts get in the way of their goal not losing votes,” reads the solicitation on the GoFundMe page, written by attorney Joel Brodsky. “However, Officer Rialmo fought back.”
Rialmo has largely charted his own legal strategy since he and the CPD were sued by the LeGrier and Jones’ families shortly after the 2015 shooting. Rialmo took the rare step of firing the law firm the city had hired to represent him and signing on with Brodsky, a lawyer best known for defending Drew Peterson.
Brodsky claims the Citizen Office of Police Accountability pressed to have charges filed against Rialmo for allegedly punching two men in a bar fight in December. Rialmo, who had been on desk duty since the shootings — though he was briefly returned to patrol last summer — was stripped of his police powers this week, after misdemeanor battery charges were filed against him.
COPA officials have ruled that the 2015 shooting of Jones and LeGrier was unjustified, and has recommended that CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson fire Rialmo. Brodsky said the misdemeanor case is intended to further pressure the chief to fire Rialmo.
The GoFundMe campaign has a $50,000 goal, a steep price to defend a misdemeanor case, but Brodsky said the stakes are higher for Rialmo.
“This could cost him his job,” Brodsky said. “I want to have the funds for a full-blown defense” that includes expert witnesses, enhancing surveillance video and finding investigators to locate dozens of bar patrons.
The city has refused to pay Brodsky for representing Rialmo against a civil lawsuit filed by Jones and LeGrier’s families, which Brodsky said violates the city’s contract with the Fraternal Order of Police. City attorneys this week said that they are only required to pay for lawyers who “cooperate” with their defense.
The split between the city and Rialmo has been clear since he hired Brodsky, who filed a countersuit against LeGrier’s family that put blame for the shooting on LeGrier, 19, who Rialmo said was swinging a baseball at him. The countersuit also claimed the city had failed to provide adequate training for Rialmo, and that police dispatchers did not warn him that LeGrier had mental health problems before Rialmo and his partner arrived at LeGrier’s home.
The divisions between Rialmo and his employer were on full display at a court hearing Wednesday, when Brodsky announced he had offered a $25 million settlement to the Jones family — to be paid for by the city — a deal city attorney Matt Hurd said he had only learned about 24 hours earlier.
While the Jones family attorney, Larry Rogers, seemed eager to explore a deal, Hurd said Brodsky had no authority to dole out city money to settle the case.
Cook County Judge James O’Hara said Wednesday he would wait for city lawyers to respond to Brodsky’s payout offer.
“He (Rialmo) never in his life … wanted to hurt an innocent person,” Brodsky said outside the courtroom. “The guilty party here is Quintonio LeGrier. He’s the one that came down the stairs swinging a bat.”