Family calls $22.5 million police settlement 'bittersweet'

Updated 1/17/2013 5:11 PM

Associated Press

The parents of a California woman who was raped and injured after Chicago police released her from custody in a troubled neighborhood despite her obvious mental problems said Thursday that a $22.5 million settlement with the city is a "bittersweet victory" that will help pay for her extensive continuing therapy.

The payout is the largest settlement for police misconduct in the city's history. It was approved Thursday by the city council at the same time as the settlement of another police abuse case, this one $10.25 million to a man who spent 26 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.

After the council's action, Christina Eilman's mother and stepfather, Kathleen and Richard Paine, released their first public statement in years about the case, describing how the events had devastated their daughter's life.

"No amount of money will bring back the daughter we knew, the lovely young woman who was full of life and accepting of all people," the Paines said. "Her life was dramatically changed after she came to Chicago and found herself in the grasp of several insensitive and uncaring police officers and detention aides who humiliated her, directed cruel and insensitive comments toward her, ignored her desperate need for help and placed her in harm's way."

Eilman's federal lawsuit against the city was scheduled to go to trial next week. The family initially was seeking $100 million, but agreed to the lesser amount during extensive negotiations with the city.

Chicago Alderman Ed Burke says the city could have $80 million or more if the case had gone to trial.

Eilman was arrested at Midway International Airport in May 2006 because she was acting strangely and violently. Her parents phoned police from California asking them not to release the 21-year-old college student because she was bipolar.

Still, Eilman was released to fend for herself in a high-crime area of the city. She ended up in a public housing building, where a man raped her at knifepoint before she fell or was thrown from a seventh-story window.

Eilman's attorney, Jeffrey Singer, said that at the time the family filed the lawsuit, she was just coming out of a coma and was still hooked up to machines to feed her and keep her breathing.

"We thought that her medical expenses could be $1 million a year and her life expectancy was going to be close to 60 years at that time," Singer said.

But Eilman made a substantial recovery, and her ongoing care isn't expected to be nearly as costly, Singer said. He also explained that because a big chunk of the $22.5 million will be invested, the settlement amount could climb to $45 million or more.

Singer said Eilman has received various kinds of therapy over the years but, because she was reliant on public assistance for care, so it was limited.

That will all change now, he said.

"Christina will be able to have the gold standard of therapies that she's not had access to over the past 6 years," Singer said. "Now she will be able to go to certain rehabilitation centers that are the kind you would want for your daughter to go to."

Singer said all Eilman's parents wanted was the best care for their daughter, "and by prolonging 6 years, (the city) delayed their daughter getting access to the kind of care she really needed and could have really helped her," he said.

The second settlement approved Thursday was with Alton Logan, who will receive $10.25 million. He was among the victims of the city's notorious police torture scandal involving officers under former Lt. John Burge. Logan's award would be the biggest handed out in any case to stem from the investigation of the Burge unit, which framed suspects and tortured many into confessing.

Logan's eyes welled with tears Tuesday afternoon, after a city council committee approved the money. He said, "nothing, no amount of money will ever make up for the time I lost. ... I lost everything."

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