City Agrees to Pay $9.3 Million For Wrongful Conviction Tied to Burge Detectives

James Kluppelberg is released from Menard Correctional Facility in Chester on May 31, 2012, after 20-plus years in prison for charges in a fatal fire.

Chicago officials have agreed to pay $9.3 million to a man wrongfully convicted of setting a 1984 fire that killed a mother and her five children, a crime he confessed to only after he was allegedly beaten by detectives working under disgraced Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge.

The proposed settlement in the federal lawsuit brought by James Kluppelberg marks the latest in a string of massive payouts by the city involving cases of alleged police misconduct.

It also adds to the ever-mounting costs of the torture scandal involving Burge and his “midnight crew” of detectives, which has stained the city’s reputation and so far cost taxpayers at least $115 million in lawsuit settlements, judgments and other compensation to victims.

The $9.3 million deal, made public Wednesday but reached as the trial over Kluppelberg’s lawsuit was set to go to trial in August, will be considered by the City Council’s Finance Committee at its meeting Friday. If approved , the full City Council will vote on the proposal next week.

A spokesman for the city’s Law Department had no comment.

Kluppelberg, 52, spent nearly 25 years in prison for setting the fatal blaze that killed Elva Lupercio, 28, and her five children, ages 3 to 10, in their home in the 4400 block of South Hermitage Avenue. The building was destroyed. Testing did not find any signs of accelerants.

Fire investigators originally labeled the cause undetermined and said it appeared to have been an accident. But the case was reopened more than four years later when a man arrested on burglary charges told police that Kluppelberg had set the fire. The man’s girlfriend had left him for Kluppelberg a few weeks after the fire, Kluppelberg’s attorney told the Tribune after his conviction.

Kluppelberg was arrested and later confessed to the arson. The lawsuit filed by Kluppelberg in May 2013 alleged that he confessed only after being beaten so badly by Chicago police detectives working under Burge that he urinated blood. Doctors found signs of trauma to his back and kidneys, and a trial judge later threw out Kluppelberg’s confession but not the underlying charges.

Kluppelberg’s attorneys at the law firm of Winston & Strawn and the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School had argued that the fire was not intentionally set, citing their expert, who found that it might have been accidental.

The man who first implicated Kluppelberg recanted and said in a sworn statement that he had lied to get leniency in his burglary case. And Kluppelberg’s attorneys alleged that authorities had concealed information about a woman who admitted setting a fire to a home on the same night about a block away. The woman, who was convicted of that arson, told officials she had been too drunk to remember whether she had set the fire blamed on Kluppelberg.

It wasn’t until 2012 that Cook County prosecutors dismissed the charges against Kluppelberg, saying they no longer could meet their burden of proof.

Kluppelberg left prison that year with $14.17 in the pocket of his gray sweatpants. He moved to Indiana to be close to his son and daughter-in-law, who supported him while he unsuccessfully looked for work. He later told the Tribune he felt “lost,” struggling to adjust to life on the outside and sleeping only three or four hours a night.

“I thought my life would be moving forward by now,” Kluppelberg said in the 2013 interview. “In a way, I feel like I’m still locked up.”

For full story visit: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-wrongful-conviction-jon-burge-20180110-story.html

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‘It’s Worse Than a Wrongful Death.’ Family of Brain-Damaged Man Sues Sacramento Police


The family of a man left with the mental capacity of a preschooler after a March encounter with Sacramento police has filed an excessive force lawsuit against the city.

The suit stems from a March 6 incident in which police responded to the parking lot of the Rite Aid in the 1100 block of Alhambra Boulevard, where John Hernandez, 34, was reported to be belligerent and attempting to fight passers-by.

The suit alleges that after a foot chase, officers used their Tasers “upwards of nine” times on Hernandez, hit him repeatedly in the back and neck with batons and used their body weight to hold him down.

“This person was perfectly healthy when he came into contact with police,” said attorney John Burris, who filed the federal suit Friday on behalf of the the wife and 8-year-old daughter of Hernandez. “He came away with significant brain damage.”

Sacramento city spokeswoman Linda Tucker said the city had not yet seen the suit and could not comment.

On that March afternoon, a responding officer found Hernandez sitting on the curb, based on police accounts and video footage released by the city. Hernandez fled when a second officer arrived and ran inside a nearby Sutter medical facility. Officers pursued Hernandez and caught him in a narrow back hall, where three officers initially attempted to restrain him.

The officers tackled Hernandez and were met with “violent resistance,” according to a recent report by the city’s Office of Public Safety Accountability, which reviewed the incident.

Four additional officers soon arrived and attempted to restrain Hernandez during a confrontation that lasted three and a half minutes, according to the OPSA report.

Officers eventually handcuffed Hernandez and said he was alert and conscious when he was detained, but he quickly stopped breathing and became unresponsive.

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Family of Luke Stewart Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Euclid Police Officers

23-year-old unarmed motorist Luke Stewart (l); and Euclid Police Officer Matthew Rhodes (r).

The family of Luke Stewart filed a federal lawsuit today against the city of Euclid and the two police officers who were directly involved in his March 2017 shooting death — including Matthew Rhodes, the officer who “entered into Luke’s car and beat, tased, and shot Luke multiple times, killing him.”

In August, a Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to indict Rhodes for his role in Stewart’s death.

The lawsuit comes seven months after the shooting, the details of which remained rather murky during an ongoing state investigation. The state admitted early, however, that Stewart was unarmed when he was shot and killed. He was not accused of committing a crime that day, when officers approached him while he slept in his car in Euclid. A brief chase ensued before Rhodes climbed into Stewart’s car and shot him.

The family seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as certain reforms from the Euclid Police Department that target the “policies, practices, and customs shown to encourage the use of excessive and unreasonable force and the extrajudicial shooting of civilians, particularly African-Americans …”

A response from the city is expected within three weeks.

For several months now, community members have joined the Stewart family in demanding answers from the city of Euclid. While the investigation was being handled by the state attorney general’s office, city leaders tended to pass the buck onto the BCI. Now, however, the spotlight remains firmly on the city and police department’s ability to communicate what comes next and how they plan to heal the deepening divisions.

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Cops stomp, taser, and suffocate mentally ill man in county jail; parents sue for wrongful death

    

Surveillance footage, released to the Reno Gazette-Journal through a public records request, shows the terrifying final moments of 35-year-old Justin Thompson, a man in the midst of a mental breakdown. For 30 minutes, nearly a dozen Washoe County Sheriff’s deputies took turns kicking, tasering, insulting, and crushing the wind from Thompson — who noted multiple times that he could not breathe through the spit mask over his head. After the seeing the video, Thompson’s parents are now suing the county for the wrongful death of their son.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court last Friday and it asks the county to pay wrongful death damages, the cost of Thompson’s funeral, and other damages.

As RGJ reports, Peter Goldstein, the lawyer representing Thompson’s parents, claims in the lawsuit that Thompson was no danger because he had been medicated at the hospital, making him docile. Goldstein also said deputies ignored Thompson’s repeated warnings that he could not breathe.

“As seen in the video, the staff and deputies of the jail kicked, kneeled upon, burked and applied torturous arm bar holds, and refused plaintiff’s pleas for help,” he wrote. “When decedent stated he could not breathe, they did not provide any help or even begin to appreciate the level of danger and harm decedent was experiencing.”

The lawsuit notes the severe injuries incurred by Thompson, including a broken rib, and cuts and bruises all over his body.

The suit also alleges that the sheriff’s office has no policy or training in place to teach deputies on how to deal with inmates who may “lack the capacity to understand the consequences of their actions” due to a mental illness or altered mental state.

According to RGJ, this is the second lawsuit of its kind to hit the county after a two-year spike in deaths was uncovered by the paper’s investigation.

The Washoe County Medical Examiner has since listed Thompson’s cause of death as a homicide — due to complications of physical restraint.

The tragic incident began to unfold on August 3, 2016, when Thompson was arrested. His family and girlfriend reported that Thompson is bipolar and had been off his medication for some time. During the bipolar episode, Thompson, who has no previous criminal record, was arrested on charges of domestic battery.

The clearly distressed man exhibited severe signs of mental distress and was unable to be booked, so he was placed in a holding cell. For hours after being arrested, Thompson jammed his fingers into his ears. He paced, clutched his head and stuffed toilet paper into his ears. He spent hours on the floor curled up in the fetal position before peeling off his scabby skin to use his own blood to draw on the floor, walls, and camera.

Heavily armored deputies in riot gear then raided Thompson’s cell to drag him out.

Instead of admitting him for psychiatric treatment, Thompson was brought to the hospital and given an injection of Haldol, a powerful antipsychotic drug, and Benadryl, before being sent back to jail.

When bringing him back to jail, Thompson appeared docile until a deputy grabs his face while trying to take a mugshot and shoves it to the side. Thompson, whose arms were chained to his waist, became agitated, slipped out onto the floor and a struggle began.

“How’s this? Does this feel good,” a deputy says as Thompson appears to lie still, his wrists still chained to his belly.

In their attempt to get the mentally ill man in the stretcher to bring him to the hospital, more than a half-dozen deputies took turns kneeling on, kicking, tasering, and insulting him. Yet for 30 minutes, the swarm of officers was unable to subdue the single man.

When Thompson complains that he can’t breathe, a deputy can be heard answering back, “No, you’re not being compliant, Justin. We could’ve just rolled you through the process but you’re being a d**k about the whole thing.”

As the deputies continue to increase pressure on him, both mentally and physically, Thompson becomes more distressed.

“So now we are to this level and you’re going to get carried in a little wrap because you can’t maintain enough thought to go through this process like a man,” the deputy says. “If you hurt my staff, you are going to catch a felony. Understand? We are not going to get injured by you. And if you lash out, I am going to make sure that you remember it.”

For the next 25 minutes, the video shows deputies slowly squeeze the air from Thompson’s lungs until he finally stopped breathing.

Thompson was brought to the hospital where he was put on life support with no brain activity. For five days, no one even told his family where he was.

When Karen Thompson, Justin’s mother called the jail she signed up for automatic text notifications on inmates. On August 7, she received a message saying her son had been released.

They looked for Thompson for over two days.

“I’m frantically calling people,” she said. “I called his girlfriend. She had got the note, too, but hadn’t heard from him. So, we’re calling what friends we had numbers for. I was preparing to drive up there and drive the streets to look for him. We didn’t know what had happened to him.”

But Thompson was not free, he was in a hospital bed — brain dead.

“On Tuesday afternoon — the 9th of August — I have a sheriff’s officer here in Kern County that comes in and tells me that my son had passed away and told me he had died of a massive heart attack,” Karen Thompson said.

Thompson described her son as a caring man who she has never seen act like the person in the surveillance footage.

“Everybody always talked about how he helped them,” she said. “He was always caring for other people.”

As the Reno Gazette-Journal reported, Sheriff Chuck Allen even took the unusual step of criticizing the deputies’ handling of the struggle before the internal investigation was complete, after he reviewed the videos obtained by the Reno Gazette-Journal through a public records request.

“I believe anyone who watches this video will understand why I was concerned about the handling of this incident and why I immediately called for an outside investigation,” he said in a written statement.

“I further, and firmly, believe that some of the actions shown do not reflect the standards of the men and women who work for the Sheriff’s Office. Nor are they in keeping with my often-expressed expectation that employees from this office will always treat the public we serve with fairness, equality and respect.”

Unlike previous in-custody restraint deaths caught on camera at the jail, Thompson was not high on methamphetamine. His stress was induced by deputies, not drugs, and the medical examiner agrees.

As RGJ reports, Sparks police concluded an independent investigation into Thompson’s death in February and found no criminal wrongdoing by the sheriff’s office.

This lawsuit is now the only means of justice Justin Thompson’s parents have.

Below is that horrifying video.

This is two hours of footage from the Washoe Co. Jail showing the entire struggle that led to Justin Thompson’s death. The struggle begins at timestamp 7:44. The struggle intensifies at 24:53. Deputies start life-saving efforts at 41:30. At the 1:28:30 mark, you can see the attack from a more damning angle.

Source Article from https://www.sott.net/article/352807-Cops-stomp-taser-and-suffocate-mentally-ill-man-in-county-jail-parents-sue-for-wrongful-death