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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Two Accused of Setting Stage for Rape Duck Suit

CHICAGO (CN) - A federal judge has dismissed claims against two police officers who released a disturbed young white woman into a high-crime, black neighborhood where she was raped and badly brain damaged.

Former UCLA student Christina Eilman was arrested on May 7, 2006, outside Midway Airport for creating a disturbance. Officers found Eilman near a rail and bus terminal "singing loudly, ranting about the price of oil, and screaming at other persons with her face only inches from theirs," 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner summarized.

Eilman had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder a year earlier and had failed to take her prescribed psychotropic medicines for several days. She did not tell police about her condition while being arrested.

Though the arresting officer recommended evaluation from a doctor, and Eilman had her psychotropic medications on her at the time of the arrest, the police did not summon a medical authority.

Officers also ignored warnings from Eilman's stepfather and mother, who called the station repeatedly, about the woman's medical condition. While in custody, Eilman alternated between calm and manic conduct. She was transferred to a holding cell 7.3 miles away from Midway and later released on bond at approximately 6:30 p.m.

The station sits beside the crime-infested Robert Taylor Homes project. Sexual assaults in the area around the police station are 15 times more likely than around Midway Airport. Eilman had no cellphone and no idea where she was.

After the police left, Eilman wandered around and eventually accompanied several young men into one of the project's high-rise buildings. There, she was raped and either jumped or was pushed from a seven-story window. The fall left Eilman with a shattered pelvis, several broken bones and serious brain damage.

Today Eilman has the mental capacity of a child and lives with her parents in California. Eilman's mother filed suit, naming more than a dozen Chicago police officers as defendants.

Attorneys for the family say officers denied Eilman's right to medical care while in custody and placed her in gratuitous danger by releasing her when and where they did.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall granted judgment for some of the officers, but refused to dismiss others, leading 10 of 13 officers to appeal for qualified immunity.

The 7th Circuit largely ruled in Eilman's favor, affirming that six of the officers could be sued for placing Eilman in such danger.

After refusing to rehear the case, the court directed Judge Kendall to determine whether two officers, Lt. Carson Earnest and lockup guard Pauline Heard, should receive immunity.

Kendall ruled in favor of the two officers Thursday.

Though Earnest was responsible for the decision to release Eilman, the lieutenant did not act unreasonably because he was not informed of her medical condition, Kendall found. Heard meanwhile lacked decision-making authority in releasing Eilman at the station parking lot.

The Eilman family, represented by Segal, McCambridge, Singer and Mahoney, seeks $100 million in damages. Claims against the six remaining officers will go to trial.

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