CHICAGO (CN) – Fifteen people sued Chicago and a police officer who they say preys upon gay people by citing sober drivers for drunk driving to earn overtime pay from court appearances. The 15 plaintiffs say Officer Richard Fiorito wrote 230 DUI tickets in 2007 alone – many against sober drivers – and abused them with “anti-gay animus.”
In November 2009, the Cook County State’s Attorney announced that “there are serious questions regarding Fiorito’s credibility,” and that Fiorito would not be used as a witness to prosecute his arrests, according to the complaint.
Fiorito had been removed from patrol duties one month before that, the complaint states.
The plaintiffs say Fiorito preys on drivers near gay bars in Chicago’s “Boystown,” as part of his “anti-gay animus.” Fiorito often refers to his arrestees as “fag,” “faggot” or “dyke,” and torments them about their sexual orientation, the complaint states.
The plaintiffs say that after Fiorito stops an unimpaired driver, he often refuses to administer a breath or blood test, and then falsely claims that the person failed a field sobriety test.
They say that Fiorito lies in court, claiming that drivers were swerving, or did not have their headlights on, or were not wearing seatbelts.
Fiorito insisted on working the midnight shift in Chicago’s 23rd District because he got overtime for court appearances, the plaintiffs say. They say Fiorito appeared in court every day and had an “overwhelming volume” of arrests.
One plaintiff says that after being arrested by Fiorito on false DUI charges, the transporting officer told him to “(a)sk around about Fiorito, that he “can get off this,” and added that “Fiorito is an overtime whore.”
The plaintiffs say that in 2006, “four of the seven most prolific DUI writers were midnight shift traffic enforcement officers in Chicago,” including Fiorito.
And they say that from 2005 into 2008 those officers refused to have video cameras in their police vehicles.
The plaintiffs say the city encourages overtime abuse because it allows police officers to earn overtime from court appearances, does not limit the overtime an officer can accumulate, removed the Court Sergeant position from DUI courtrooms and does not have a system to identify officers who regularly make false arrests.
They say the city failed to ensure that its most “prolific DUI writers” use video cameras, and did not respond to accusations made against Fiorito by his colleagues.
The plaintiffs Fiorito falsely arrested them, and that charges against them were dismissed.
The complaint is one of numerous lawsuits filed against Fiorito on similar allegations in the past year, NBC reported.
The 15 plaintiffs demand damages from Fiorito and the City of Chicago for civil RICO conspiracy, false arrest and imprisonment, civil right violations, malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
They are represented by Jon Erickson with the Civil Rights Center, of Chicago.