Rialmo’s Suit: Just Cop Intimidation
Feb. 9, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — When lawsuits for defamation started to affect free speech, many states responded with new legislation, called anti-SLAPP* laws. The purpose of the SLAPP suit is not to win, but to intimidate those who would participate in a public process. It is to censor critics, to shut them up and to penalize them for speaking out or for petitioning the government for a redress of grievances.
So in Chicago, that bastion of police integrity, full of cops who put the truth above the blue wall of silence, ah, that city in Illinois long known for corruption, they have out-done themselves this time.
On December 26, 2015, Chicago Police officer Robert Rialmo shot and killed 19‑year‑old Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones, a mother of five.
Rialmo claimed that LeGrier was coming after him with a baseball bat and that he was in fear of his life. On the other hand, Jones was not threatening anyone, and was a truly innocent bystander.
Rialmo has since filed a $10 million dollar lawsuit against the estate of LeGrier, claiming that he has been traumatized. Rialmo claims that LeGrier was within four feet of him, LeGrier’s father says that his son was more than 20 feet away, and that Rialmo was outside of the house. Technically, Rialmo’s action is a counter-suit.
It hardly seems fair. Rialmo gets to claim qualified immunity and is indemnified by the city for any judgment against him, but at the same time gets to claim damages from the shooting victim?
Which brings me to my next thought. Now I know that I’m considered a baby lawyer, untutored in the ways of the actual practice of law, but it seems to this simple Texas boy that a person filing a lawsuit against the state or a state employee is petitioning the government for a redress of grievances, as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and applied to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment.
You see, in Illinois, like in Texas, the original document filed in a court case is not a complaint, it is a petition.
And that brings me back to the anti-SLAPP statute. Rialmo’s counter-suit is designed to shut up those who would petition the government for a redress of grievances, perfectly meeting the SLAPP requirement.
So hypothetically, what would happen if the plaintiffs filed an anti-SLAPP motion? It puts all discovery on hold, and forces Rialmo to prove by clear and convincing evidence that his lawsuit is proper. It changes the whole playing field.
Further, if Rialmo loses an anti-SLAPP motion, then Rialmo is on the hook for attorney fees.
As a bonus, if he is on the hook for attorney fees, the city isn’t going to come through and indemnify him—he did not file the counter-suit as part of his police duties and the city has no responsibility to cover any judgment against him. It would conceivably mean that Rialmo could have to pay it out of his own pocket.
It may be possible to turn this around on the officer who is quite simply trying a new technique to intimidate those who see accountability.
But what do I know…I’m a baby Texas lawyer, not an Illinois lawyer. All I can tell you is that from a cop perspective, this is pure intimidation.
*SLAPP = Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation