Chicago Will Pay $20 Million to Close Code-of-Silence Lawsuit
The City of Chicago has agreed to pay $20 million to settle a code-of-silence lawsuit brought by the families of two men, Andrew Cazares and Fausto Manzera, who were killed in drunk driving accident caused by off-duty police detective, Joseph Frugoli. The $20 million agreement consists of $10 million for each family. It comes after the revelation that key documents involving an alcohol-fueled bar fight in detective Joseph Frugoli’s past had been improperly withheld. The city’s Finance Committee still needs to sign off on the amount before it goes to City Council for a vote, which is expected to occur as early as January 2018. The City may face additional consequences for withholding the documents.
Attorneys for the victims’ families asked the court to sanction the city for failing to provide evidence related to the detective’s bar fight over the course of discovery. Timothy Cavanagh, who represents the Cazares family, indicated he would not pursue the sanctions now that a settlement has been reached. “It’s something that the judge, quite frankly, will still have jurisdiction to look at and see why were these critical documents not turned over during the case,” Cavanagh said. Records show the city has already been sanctioned by judges eight times for failing to turn over records related to police misconduct case since 2011 and discovery issues have cost the city more than $1 million over the past six years.
Frugoli had been drinking for approximately five hours at two bars in April 2009 when he got behind the wheel, hopped onto the freeway at a high rate of speed, and slammed into the back of Cazares’ car where Cazares had pulled over to take care of a flat tire. Frugoli limped away, bleeding from the head, while Cazares vehicle caught fire. The detective was found by Chicago police officers responding to the call of a person fleeing the scene. Frugoli’s blood alcohol level was measured at 0.328 percent, more than four times the legal limit.
When a state trooper arrived at the hospital to arrest Frugoli, “Mr. Frugoli sat up and said, ‘I wasn’t driving. Did you find the other guy?’” testified Trooper Garrett Lindroth. 50-year-old Frugoli was convicted of aggravated DUI and leaving the scene of a fatal accident and is serving an eight-year sentence in state prison.
Frugoli was involved in another similar accident just one year prior that injured two officers, yet he was never issued a field sobriety test or even questioned at the scene, according to testimony during trial. Attorneys for the Cazares and Manzera families argued that the police code of silence improperly protected Frugoli and made him believe he could get away with driving while drunk. Although he had received 18 complaints during his twenty-year tenure with the department, he had never been disciplined.
Frugoli took the stand on the third day of trial and admitted he had been suspended for five days without pay following the bar fight in 1992. The 115-page report with all relevant details was then, finally, produced. One day later, the case was closed.