Judge orders deposition for ex-CPD Supt. David Brown in lawsuit by mentally ill man body-slammed by cop
CHICAGO - Former Chicago Police Supt. David Brown will be questioned under oath by lawyers for a schizophrenic man who suffered brain injuries when he was body-slammed by a police officer.
At a hearing last week, Judge Gerald Cleary ruled city lawyers withheld evidence from lawyers for Bernard Kersh by failing to turn over a letter in which Brown said that Officer Jerald Williams used excessive force when he slammed Kersh onto the sidewalk after, Williams claims, Kersh spit on him.
Brown in 2020 signed off on a letter that confirmed the finding of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability that Williams had used "massively excessive" force against Kersh, with the superintendent calling for a longer suspension than the one recommended by COPA. But Kersh’s lawyers said they only learned of the letter and damning COPA report in February after seeing a news report about Williams allegedly abusing a detainee.
During a hearing last week, city attorneys said they had not looked at Brown’s letter or the COPA reports, and that COPA made its findings in Kersh’s case public by posting them to the agency’s website.
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"The court is confounded about how the city operates with regard to discovery in these types of cases. Confounded of the fact that inside city attorneys don’t keep track of COPA and the COPA records, and things that are developed … letters like the superintendent’s. They don’t keep track of it …. They don’t — it’s all to the detriment of the plaintiffs," Cleary said according to a hearing transcript.
The judge noted that despite the findings of excessive force by COPA and Brown, city lawyers have argued that outside experts hired to defend the case said Williams’s actions were justified.
"The court had to spend numerous amounts of hours reviewing that motion to decide that summary judgment, wherein the city said, there’s no evidence whatsoever of willful, wanton conduct or excessive force," Cleary said. "Yet they were sitting on this letter from Superintendent Brown."
The judge ordered that Kersh’s legal team will be allowed to depose expert witnesses they had questioned before the city turned over Brown’s letter and also question Brown. The city will be required to reimburse Kersh’s lawyers for the costs and fees for the additional depositions as well as preparing their motion for sanctions against the city.
Kersh’s attorney Andrew M. Stroth said Wednesday that the city has been sanctioned for discovery violations in other cases and the Kersh case was part of that "disturbing" pattern.
"Bernard Kersh was almost killed by a cop, caught on video, and lawyers for the city failed to share material evidence in a timely fashion," Stroth said. "When the senior executive for the Chicago Police Department says in writing that this force is excessive, that’s material evidence."