The Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. and Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP announced that the Circuit Court for Kankakee County (Illinois) on January 31, 2011 awarded $1.44 million to three young African-American men who were brutally beaten by a mob of white men in a racially motivated and unprovoked attack that took place outside the Manteno, Illinois, home of a longtime white friend in February 2005.
"We and our clients are extremely pleased with the judge's ruling in this case, which represents an episode of racist violence that would have shocked the conscience in the 19th century, much less in the 21st," said Pamela G. Smith, a Katten partner on the team that represented the plaintiffs, pro bono. Co-counsel Betsy Shuman-Moore, director of the Project to Combat Bias Violence at the Chicago Lawyers' Committee, said, "The amount of damages is large, but fair, given the heinous nature of the attack and the impact on the Coileys. It demonstrates that the people of Kankakee County condemn racially-motivated violence."
Plaintiff Kenyon Coiley said, "Despite the judgment, we'll always remember that horrible day. We thank the Katten Muchin law firm and Chicago Lawyers' Committee lawyers, who did a wonderful job. We hope that this judgment deters people from thinking and acting the way the people who attacked us did." Judge Kendall O. Wenzelman of the Kankakee County Court entered the judgment for $240,000 in compensatory and $1.2 million in punitive damages. Two other defendants in the case previously settled with the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit, Kenyon Coiley, et al., v. Larry Delawder, et al., established that an unprovoked mob of white men, including defendants Larry Delawder, Jeremiah Spainhour, Jason Stinebring and Richard Rybolt, viciously attacked Vantis Coiley, his brother Isaiah and their cousin Kenyon Coiley because they are African-American. "The Coileys simply intended to visit a friend as they had done many times before, and they could not possibly have anticipated what happened next," Ms. Smith explained. "The Coileys heard racial slurs being shouted at them from inside the house and attempted to flee, but once the door was opened, the attack on these three young men by nearly 20 white men was instantaneous and vicious."
The mob used fists, feet, bricks, knives and hammers as weapons to savagely beat the Coileys and prevented them from escaping by slashing their car's tires and jamming a screwdriver in the ignition. Despite being severely injured, the Coileys eventually were able to escape and drive their damaged car to a hospital.
The Coileys have suffered and continue to endure physical and emotional injuries as a result of the attack. Their lawsuit was brought under the Illinois Hate Crime Act. In 2005, a jury convicted Stinebring of felony criminal charges, and in 2006 Delawder and Spainhour pled guilty to felony criminal charges for the attack. The court found Delawder, Rybolt, Stinebring, and Spainhour in default and held that they are legally liable for the racially motivated attack.
Also on the Katten legal team were Monica J. Mosby, Laura A. Brake, Brian J. Poronsky and Sonja Clayton-Pedersen.
The Chicago Lawyers' Committee's Project to Combat Bias Violence is the only comprehensive resource center on hate crime prevention and response in the Midwestern United States. The Project advocates for strong criminal prosecutions of perpetrators of bias violence, litigates civil cases for hate crime victims, mobilizes community support for them, educates community residents and professionals about applicable laws, and advocates for improved enforcement of the Illinois Hate Crime Act. For further information about the case and the Project to Combat Bias Violence, contact Betsy Shuman-Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org; for information about Chicago Lawyers' Committee, contact Jay Readey at email@example.com.
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