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Bartender’s lawyer grills officer in police-beating case

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012 9:10 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — CHICAGO — After she had been viciously beaten by a patron she knew as “Tony,” bartender Karolina Obrycka made it clear to the Chicago police officers responding to her 911 call that she believed her attacker was the “police.” She then wrote down his last name — or how she thought it was spelled — on a scrap of paper and pointed out that security cameras at the Northwest Side bar had likely captured the attack.

Yet none of that wound up in the officers’ report. On Tuesday, Obrycka’s lawyer grilled Officer Peter Masheimer about the missing details as he testified at a trial stemming from a lawsuit she brought against the city of Chicago and Anthony Abbate, the off-duty cop who attacked her.

Masheimer, who was later disciplined for lying about withholding the information, testified he didn’t include the alleged offender’s name or the security camera in the report because it was “speculation and assumption,” since Obrycka got the information second-hand.

But Obryka attorney Terry Ekl balked.

“The victim told you the offender’s last name was Abbate, didn’t she? And you’re telling us you didn’t put it in your report because it was unverified?” Ekl asked the officer.

Obrycka contends that Abbate, other officers and higher-ups tried to cover-up and minimize her February 2007 beating as part of a unofficial “code of silence” policy with in the department.

The trial in federal court comes nearly six years after Abbate attacked Obrycka at Jesse’s Short Stop Inn when she refused to serve him more alcohol and he came behind the bar. Concerned by the police inaction, Obrycka’s lawyers released a videotape of the beating weeks later, causing a firestorm of criticism for the department and leading to charges against Abbate being upgraded to felonies. The veteran officer was later convicted of aggravated battery but spared prison. He was then fired by the department.

Much of Tuesday’s testimony focused on allegations that Abbate and his friends tried to intimidate and threaten Obrycka and others at the bar into not pursuing charges or going public with the videotape.

On the witness stand, Abbate repeatedly denied plotting with anyone to cover up the beating.

Abbate told the jury that on the day of the attack he was despondent over news that his dog had cancer, and was “on a mission to get totally inebriated.” He recalled attacking a friend at Jesse’s after the friend made a flip remark about killing the dog. But Abbate said he could not remember much of his attack on Obrycka or the approximately 24 hours that followed.

Abbate gave mostly one-word answers while questioned by Obyrcka’s lawyers. Under cross-examination by attorneys for the city, he testified that the dozens of calls he made to friends in the hours after the beating amounted to “drunk dialing” and “just being a jackass.”

He backed off initial claims, however, that he had acted in self-defense in attacking Obrycka, saying he changed his mond after viewing the videotape.

City lawyers brought out that Abbate had been investigated on misconduct allegations on four previous occasions — all in an effort to show he understood that the department has procedures to punish cops who do wrong.

But Ekl later bore down on the specifics of the alleged wrongdoing, revealing that in 1997 Abbate was accused of handcuffing and dragging a woman who was 8 1/2-months pregnant into a squadrol, telling her he didn’t care that she might go into labor.

The department originally found Abbate at fault for the conduct, but he was later cleared and never disciplined for the allegations, Ekl said.

In other testimony Tuesday, Abbate’s girlfriend, Linda Burnickas, said she was the one who informed Abbate about the videotape of the fight. “He didn’t believe me,” she said.

Burnickas testified she had agreed to call Obrycka to try to calm her down. She said Obrycka was angry and threatened to take Abbate’s badge.

Burnickas, who still dates Abbate, testified that she then asked Obrycka why she kept serving drinks to her boyfriend.

“I said, ‘Drunk is drunk.’ She’s a bartender and if she’s serving him while he’s drinking,” said Burnickas, her voice trailing off.

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