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Fuery v. City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 25, 2014

KELLY FUERY, DEBRA SCIORTINO, and NICOLE TOMASKOVIC, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ELAINE E. BUCKLO, District Judge.

This case arises from a violent altercation between Defendant William Szura ("Szura"), an off duty Chicago police officer, and three women who were returning home for the gay pride parade in Chicago, Illinois.[1] Plaintiffs have sued Szura, the City of Chicago, two Chicago police sergeants, and three state police officers seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 and Illinois law.

All Defendants other than Szura have moved for summary judgment.[2] I resolve the motions as follows: the City of Chicago's motion (Dkt. No. 221) is granted only as to the conspiracy claim (Count II); Sgt. Hitney's motion (Dkt. No. 224) is granted; Sgt. O'Malley's motion (Dkt. No. 227) is granted; and the combined motion by Master Sgt. Weyforth, Sgt. Miloslavich, and Tpr. Aragones (Dkt. No. 231) is denied.

I.

The following facts are presented in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs. All evidentiary conflicts are resolved in their favor and I "accord[] [them] the benefit of all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the record." Coleman v. Donahoe, 667 F.3d 835, 842 (7th Cir. 2012). "[My] account of the facts therefore is not necessarily true in an objective sense, but reflects the standard that applies to motions for summary judgment." Id

On June 24, 2007, Plaintiffs Kelly Fuery ("Fuery") and Debra Sciortino ("Sciortino") were traveling home on Interstate 55 around 7:00 pm after attending the gay pride parade in Chicago earlier that day. Fuery encountered a slow moving Honda Accord in the far left lane around the Damen Street exit. Szura, who had patrolled on horseback at the gay pride parade earlier that day, was driving the slow moving vehicle. Id. He was out of uniform and dressed in plain clothes.

After Fuery gave a "courtesy honk, " Szura accelerated, but slammed on his brakes after looking in his rear view mirror. Szura blocked Fuery's attempts to pass him in the center lane and repeated this blocking technique when Fuery moved into the far right lane. Szura's vehicle came to almost a complete stop in the far right lane, which forced Fuery to pull over on the shoulder with the back end of her GMC Yukon still sticking out into traffic.[3]

Once the two vehicles had stopped on the shoulder, Szura jumped out of his car and started swearing at Fuery: "What the fuck is your problem, you stupid fucking bitch?" Fuery Dep. at 45:20-23. Szura also screamed, "[D]o you know who you're fucking with, you stupid fucking dyke?" Id. at 56:13-14. Fuery could not get a word in edgewise during Szura's tirade. His breath reeked of alcohol and his speech was slurred.

Sciortino was still inside the Yukon when she noticed that Szura was carrying a handgun. Szura says he first identified himself as a police officer after Sciortino shouted to Fuery, "He's got a gun." Szura Dep. 168:2-5. In fact, Szura contends that he was acting as a police officer throughout the altercation.[4]

According to Fuery, Szura jabbed his gun into her stomach. Thinking she was about to die, Fuery asked, "What are you going to do, shoot me?" Fuery Dep. 58:15-16. Sciortino then pulled Fuery back and stood in front of Szura's gun. As Sciortino was pleading with Szura to put his gun away, he slapped her across the face and threw her down into the far right lane of traffic. As Fuery was kneeling down to check on Sciortino, Szura hit Fuery in the back of the head, knocking her to the ground. Fuery then heard Szura say, "If you know what's fucking good for you, you stay the fuck down." Id. at 61:6-8.

After Fuery and Sciortino had gathered themselves, Fuery asked Szura, "[D]o you get off on hitting women?" Id. at 62:6-7. Szura responded, "You're not fucking women; you're fucking dykes." Id. at 62:8-9.[5] After Sciortino stepped in the middle, Szura slapped her again. Sciortino then called 911 and did not hang up until police officers arrived on the scene. Meanwhile, Szura chased Fuery in circles around her vehicle as she attempted to retreat.

Shortly after Sciortino called 911, Plaintiff Nicole Tomaskovic ("Tomaskovic") arrived at the scene. Tomaskovic had attended the gay pride parade with Fuery and Sciortino earlier that day and was driving behind them on I-55 en route to a barbeque at their home. After spotting Fuery's vehicle on the side of the expressway, Tomaskovic pulled over at the next accident investigation site and left her vehicle to assess the situation.

When Tomaskovic arrived at the scene, Sciortino warned her to stay away because Szura had a gun. Fuery repeated this warning to Tomaskovic from the driver's seat of the Yukon: "[H]e's got a gun. We have to get Debbie in the car and get out of here." Tomaskovic Dep. 33:18-19. As Tomaskovic turned around, Szura charged at her, pinned her against the hood of the Yukon, and resumed his screaming about "bitches" and "dykes."

Fuery managed to pull Szura off of Tomaskovic and then got back inside the Yukon. As Fuery was attempting to move her vehicle, Szura jumped on the hood while calling 911. He identified himself as a police officer to the 911 operator and said he had "two DUIs." Szura's call resulted in a dispatch saying that an officer needed assistance. Meanwhile, Tomaskovic had also called 911 and reported that her attacker was "posing as a police officer." Id. at 43:24-44:5.

Once Fuery managed to escape and drove the Yukon into the accident investigation site, Szura put Tomaskovic in a choke hold. He threw her into Sciortino, which knocked both women to the ground. Szura then put his knee on Tomaskovic's chest, resumed choking her, and tried to wrestle her cell phone away.

A state police officer, Defendant Martin Miloslavich ("Sgt. Miloslavich"), arrived on the scene while Szura had Sciortino and Tomaskovic pinned on the ground. Szura called out, "I'm a police officer, " and asked for a pair of handcuffs. Sciortino Dep. at 67:13-14. Szura had already warned Plaintiffs "numerous times" during the altercation that they were going to be arrested. Szura Dep. 162:3-9. Sgt. Miloslavich told Szura to back away and then handcuffed Sciortino and Tomaskovic without doing any investigation. He released them after they had calmed down and stopped crying.

Sgt. Miloslavich had already separated the parties when Defendant Gabriel Aragones ("Tpr. Aragones) and Jose DeAvila ("Tpr. DeAvila") reached the scene.[6] Plaintiffs explained their side of the story, as recounted above, to the state troopers. Tpr. Aragones or Tpr. DeAvila responded that they needed to wait for their supervisor, Defendant Stuart Weyforth ("Master Sgt. Weyforth"), to arrive before any decisions could be made.

Master Sgt. Weyforth was the last officer to arrive at the scene. After Plaintiffs were separated, each woman tried telling Master Sgt. Weyforth her side of the story. He was dismissive of their allegations and walked away before they had finished explaining what happened. Plaintiffs then witnessed Master Sgt. Weyforth laughing with Szura and pointing back at them. When Plaintiffs later told Master Sgt. Weyforth that they wanted to press charges against Szura, he responded, "[H]e's one of us. We're going to believe him over you." Tomaskovic Dep. 52:16-21.

Defendant Kathleen O'Malley ("Sgt. O'Malley"), a Chicago police sergeant, was also present at the scene. Other than asking Szura whether he was intoxicated and listening to his side of the story, Sgt. O'Malley merely observed while the state police conducted their investigation. She never spoke with Plaintiffs, who saw her standing around and laughing with Szura instead of asking questions.

The last person Master Sgt. Weyforth consulted before deciding whom to arrest was Sgt. Miloslavich, the first state police officer on the scene. Sgt. Miloslavich said he thought Plaintiffs were the aggressors because they were swinging their arms at Szura, who was standing over them, when he arrived at the scene. Master Sgt. Weyforth then told Plaintiffs that Szura was pressing charges against them and instructed the state troopers to place them under arrest.

Fuery was placed in a squad car by herself with Tpr. DeAvila while Sciortino and Tomaskovic were transported together in a separate vehicle. During their drive to CPD's First District station, Tpr. DeAvila told Fuery to document everything and call an attorney because he did not think the situation was being handled correctly. All three women declined to make written statements at the police station, but answered questions from the ...


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