GLN IN THE PRESS
'You don't get justice unless you protest'
Gay victory against brutal sheriffs
By Bill Massey
After more than two-and-a-half years of struggle, the Cook County Board approved a $65,000 settlement for Terry Phalen on June 5. Deputy sheriffs at the Cook County Jail had savagely assaulted the Chicago gay man on Oct. 27, 1999. Phalen had suffered hairline fractures in both wrists and two ribs and bruises over most of his body.
Two beefy white deputies had worked him over, punching him in the face, then knocking him down with his hands cuffed behind his back. Both cops proceeded to kick his ribs, head, back and legs. "I was hit maybe 25 to 30 times, three or four with fists, the rest with their feet. They were wearing black combat boots," Phalen stated.
The assault on Phalen was part of a pattern of systematic physical attacks by guards at the intake jail. For one or two hours after he was attacked, Phalen lay crumpled on the floor.
Phalen, who is white, witnessed two assaults on African American inmates by the guards. "There was another, younger Black guy in his twenties who they knocked to the floor and beat so much that there was a big pool of blood. They kicked him when he was down. Then there was an older Black man, he had to be 50 or 55. They broke his glasses when they hit him in the face, and kicked him in the back when he went to retrieve his glasses," Phalen said.
With his victorious civil suit, filed by Hoft and Joey Mogul of the People's Law Office, Phalen will finally get help rebuilding his life after the brutal beating. But he got far less than the full justice he deserves.
The bigoted deputies never faced criminal prosecution from Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine, a protégé and friend of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. The guards remain employed by the Sheriff's Department, where they are free to carry out their violent attacks on gay people and people of color, and are even encouraged to do so by the system's inaction.
State's Attorney Devine has yet to prosecute a single Chicago cop for brutality against a civilian. But he routinely prosecutes the victims of police torture, 10 of whom sit on Illinois death row while 60 others are serving long prison sentences.
Public protest forced the firing of Police Commander John Burge in 1993 for his 20-year reign of torturing prisoners. That was how he obtained "confessions."
Yet Devine has refused to prosecute Burge and fights tooth and nail against reopening the cases of Burge's victims.
Since just a few days after Phalen's beating, the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network (CABN) has championed his case, repeatedly taking the Cook County Merit Board and Devine to task for their apparently intentional bungling of the case against the deputies.
Most importantly, CABN organized many protests in the streets to bring attention not only to the brutal cops but also to their brutal bosses who sit at the highest levels of both Chicago and Cook County government.
CABN co-founder Andy Thayer said, "You do not get justice unless you protest."
For more information, visit www.cabn.org.
Reprinted from the June 27, 2002, issue of Workers World newspaper