CHICAGO (CN) – The 7th Circuit upheld a $100,000 verdict against a Chicago police officer who repeatedly punched a handcuffed defendant in the face hard enough to make him pass out several times, coercing a false confession to possession of a stolen vehicle.
Jeremy Kunz borrowed a friend’s car to deliver some drugs and grazed a parked car, prompting a witness to call 911. The call gave rise to a low-speed car chase and a “brutal interrogation” by Officer Richard DeFelice, the ruling states. Kunz initially refused to pull over and then tried to flee on foot, tossing packets of drugs as he ran. Police took him down as he was scaling a chain-link fence and arrested him.
Several officers kicked Kunz while he was handcuffed on the ground, breaking one of his ribs. They took him back to the police station, where DeFelice pummeled him until he confessed to knowing about the stolen car.
Kunz was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, aggravated flight and leaving the scene of an accident, but was convicted only of possessing a controlled substance because the prosecutor wanted to expedite the trial.
Kunz sued the city for excessive use of force and failure to provide medical treatment, among other charges.
After a four-day trial, the jury found DeFelice liable for $10,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages, which the district court reduced to $90,000. The jury held the city responsible for $15,000.
Judge Wood, writing for a three-judge panel, rejected DeFelice’s appeal, saying he failed to show any evidence that the lower court had abused its discretion, “much less the prejudice that would be necessary to upset the jury’s verdict.”
The court also dismissed Kunz’s cross-appeal, which challenged summary judgment for the city and officers on other charges, and affirmed the district court’s ruling “in its entirety.”