US police officer who 'sodomised black man with screwdriver' allowed to keep working
Chicago police were ordered to pay Coprez Coffie $4m (€3.5m) in compensation, but the officers involved were not prosecuted or even disciplined by the department
A US police officer who was found to have sexually assaulted a man with a screwdriver while another officer watched is still in his job.
A civil court jury decided Chicago police officer Scott Korhonen had committed the assault, while his partner Gerald Lodwich looked on, with the victim, 20-year-old Coprez Coffie, receiving $4m (€3.5m) in compensation as a result.
But journalist and Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King revealed both officers had not been arrested on criminal charges or even sanctioned following an internal police investigation. As a result, neither served time in jail, and both have been allowed to keep working for the force.
On August 28, 2004, Mr Korhonen and Mr Lodwich pulled over a van in which Mr Coffie, who is black, was riding with a group of friends in Chicago's west side area. The officers searched Mr Coffie, his friends and the van, then let everyone but Mr Coffie leave, alleging he had been involved in a drug deal.
The two men handcuffed Mr Coffie, who Mr King reported was employed as a security guard at a local hotel at the time, and drove him to a nearby alley.
Mr Coffie testified at trial that he was then placed against the officers' unmarked car, still handcuffed, and told to spread his buttocks before Mr Korhonen pulled down his trousers and assaulted him by inserting a screwdriver into his rectum.
Mr Coffie, who suffered internal injuries and was left bleeding from his rectum, reported the incident when the officers took him to Cook County jail, where he spent a night detained on drug charges.
The next day, Mr Coffie's mother took him to hospital, where a doctor found a tear in his rectum. Chicago police investigators were summoned to the hospital and Mr Coffie gave a second statement.
Chicago police investigators immediately searched Mr Korhonen and Mr Lodwich's car and found three screwdrivers in their glove compartment. Later testing on swabs taken from the glovebox were positive for fecal material.
However, the City's Office of Professional Standards, which researched the claims of officer misconduct, found the allegations could not be sustained. No disciplinary action was taken against Mr Korhonen or Mr Lodwich and a criminal case was not pursued.
The evidence against the two officers was only revisited when Mr Coffie filed a civil action against the department.
On October 17, 2007, after three days of deliberation a nine-person civil jury found Mr Korhonen conducted an “unreasonable search” of Mr Coffie and Mr Lodwich failed to stop it.
They ordered the City of Chicago to pay Mr Coffie a $4 million settlement plus nearly $675,000 (around €602,613) for Mr Coffie's legal fees.
District Court Judge James Holderman, who presided over the hearing, said in court documents there was a “preponderance of evidence” in Mr Coffie's favour.
“This was a clear case,“ he said, ruling that: ”Korhonen unreasonably inserted a screwdriver in Coffie's rectum in violation of Coffie's constitutional rights and that Lodwich knowingly failed to stop Korhonen's unconstitutional conduct.
“In addition, the evidence clearly showed that Korhonen and Lodwich each knowingly testified falsely at the trial.”
Mr Coffie told journalists at the time: “Justice was served, it was. Now you see what's going on. It's put to the light."
His lawyer Jonathan Loevy described the case as a “black eye” for the police department.
Mr Korhonen and Mr Lowich continue to be employed by the Chicago Police Department, Mr King revealed.
According to the journalist, Mr Lodwich was paid $90,618 by the city last year and Mr Korhonen made $87,384 (€78,012).
Mr King said: “The more I do this work, researching and telling stories of injustice, the more I learn just how unjust this country truly is.“
He prefaced his report by saying that he is contacted by hundreds of families on a daily basis to report incidents of police brutality, but he found Mr Coffie's case to be “so far fetched, so outrageous, so ridiculously unjust, so extreme” that he intially suspected it might be a hoax.
It was not until he reviewed court documents that he came to believe the story.
“This is unthinkable... It is indicative of every single thing that is wrong with policing in America," Mr King said.
"These men should be fired immediately... they must never be in law enforcement again."
Chicago Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Independent News Service