COOK COUNTY JUDGE AND JURIES CONDEMN HATE CRIME IN THREE CASES IN CIVIL COURT IN APRIL AND MAY 2004
In three separate cases this spring, a Cook County judge and juries awarded plaintiffs nearly $1.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages for racially motivated attacks that occurred in Chicago in 2000. On April 19, Judge Daniel J. Kelley ordered defendant Pierre Legg to pay plaintiffs Antonio Ray and Jennifer Klans $280,000. On April 22, a jury in Judge Maureen Durkin Roy’s courtroom awarded plaintiff Richard Burrell $152,500 against defendant David Marutzky. On May 20, a jury in Judge Edward Burr’s courtroom awarded plaintiff Ronald Ross $1,017,312 against defendants Jad Akroush and Jawad Akroush.
In the first case Ray, who is African American, and his girlfriend Klans, who is white, were attacked by Legg and three others, all of whom are white, as they rode their bikes near Harlem and Addison in October 2000. The group shouted racial epithets at the two and threatened to kill and hang Ray. The four beat Ray while another man held Klans. One of the group members displayed a swastika tattoo. The plaintiffs privately settled their claims with the other defendants.
In the second case, Richard Burrell, who is African American, sued Marutzky for ordering Burrell and his white friend to leave a restaurant near Lawrence and Nagle because of Burrell’s race in July 2000. Marutzky and Burrell were restaurant patrons, not employees or owners. Burrell and his friend left, but Marutzky and two other males, all of whom are white, followed them. Marutzky continued yelling racial slurs and threatened to hang Burrell and his family. Marutzky then put Burrell in a headlock and beat him. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office charged Marutzky with hate crime, and he was convicted.
In the third case, Ronald Ross, who is also African American, was driving a CTA bus near Clark and Delaware in December 2000 when the two defendants drove up and asked Ross for directions, which he provided. The two men, unprovoked, yelled racial epithets at Ross, blocked the bus with their car, and got out of the car. One man kicked the bus door, breaking a window, as he tried to enter the bus and attack Ross. Both men struggled with Ross to open the bus driver’s side window, injuring Ross. The defendants pled guilty to criminal charges.
Ray and Klans are represented by Neil Holmen and Chris Stathopoulos of Winston & Strawn, LLP. Burrell is represented by William Gantz and Steven Hunter of Piper Rudnick LLP. Ross is represented by David Greenwald and Derek Witte of Jenner & Block and Zubair Khan of Grippo & Elden. Betsy Shuman-Moore of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee also represents all of the plaintiffs.
Clyde E. Murphy, Executive Director of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc., said: “Hate crime is discrimination at its most extreme. These judgments demonstrate that those who perpetrate hate crimes will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
The Illinois Hate Crime Act allows people injured in these crimes to press criminal charges and file civil lawsuits against those responsible. The Bias Violence Project of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee provides free legal representation to victims of hate crime in civil suits like these. The Project also organizes community forums and provides professional training on the subject. For 33 years, the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee, through its 40-plus member law firms and staff legal team, has provided free legal services to challenge civil rights violations.
May 24, 2004
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Contact: Art Menke
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Damages Awarded Today in Suit Filed Under Illinois Hate Crime Act
CHICAGO — A jury in the Circuit Court of Cook County awarded more than $1 million this afternoon to an African-American CTA bus driver who was the victim of a racial attack in December 2000. Ronald Ross filed his lawsuit in 2002 under the Illinois Hate Crimes Act because of the attack’s racial motivation. The defendants, Jad Akroush and Jawad Akroush, pled guilty in February 2001 to criminal charges of aggravated assault brought by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
"The jury awarded larger punitive damages than we requested," said David Greenwald, the volunteer attorney from Jenner & Block which represented Mr. Ross. "The message was loud and clear: racial hatred will not be tolerated in Chicago." Also on the legal team were Associate Derek S. Witte, former Firm Associate Zubair Khan, and Elizabeth Shuman-Moore, Director of the Project to Combat Bias Violence, a project within the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. (CLC). Hon. Edward R. Burr presided over the case.
Filed on November 14, 2002, the lawsuit sought compensatory and punitive damages, for the physical injuries and emotional anguish he suffered as a result of the incident. Mr. Ross was driving a CTA bus near Clark Street and Delaware Avenue on the evening of December 23, 2000, when the two defendants drove up in their car. One of them asked Mr. Ross for directions to a specific location, which he then gave to the defendant. The two men suddenly yelled racial epithets at him and the driver in turn pulled his car in front of the bus, blocking its path.
Both men got out of the car and one of the men kicked the bus door, eventually kicking in one of its windows, in an attempt to break into the bus and attack Mr. Ross. Both men engaged in a struggle with Mr. Ross to open the bus driver’s side window, during which the victim’s hand and face were injured. Police arrived on the scene and arrested both defendants.
The Illinois Hate Crime Act allows those injured in hate crimes to press criminal charges and file civil lawsuits against those responsible. "The jury understood Mr. Ross’ suffering," said Ms. Shuman-Moore of the CLC. "The size of this award clearly reflects the community’s rejection of bigotry in the Chicago area."
The CLC Hate Crime Project provides free legal representation to hate crime victims, both in criminal prosecutions of offenders and in civil suits like Mr. Ross’. The Project also works to prevent bias violence through organizing community forums and training law enforcement and other professionals in identifying and investigating hate crimes.
For 33 years, the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee, through its 40-plus member law firms, including founding member Jenner & Block, and staff legal team, has provided free legal services to challenge discrimination and other violations of civil rights in both the public and private sectors. Jenner & Block this year was awarded Illinois’ highest honor for pro bono legal service to those in need, the John C. McAndrews Pro Bono Award from the Illinois State Bar Association.
For further information about the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee, contact Clyde Murphy at 312-630-9744, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit its web site at www.clccrul.org.
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