Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun-Times, January 14, 2013
Chicago taxpayers will spend $22.5 million to compensate a mentally-ill California woman who was arrested and held overnight, then released in a high-crime neighborhood, where she was kidnapped and sexually assaulted before falling from a seventh-floor window of a CHA high-rise.
The settlement to Christina Eilman, now 27, is one of the largest to a single plaintiff in Chicago history — and $4.5 million more than the $18 million paid to the family of LaTanya Haggerty, one of two unarmed civilians shot to death by Chicago Police in 1999 after high-speed chases during the same summer weekend.
A former UCLA student, Eilman was arrested in May 2006 after allegedly creating a disturbance at Midway Airport. At the time, she was suffering from a bi-polar breakdown.
She was taken to the Wentworth District police station, 5101 S. Wentworth, where she was held overnight and continued to behave erratically.
The following day, despite frantic calls from her parents, Eilman was released without assistance or instruction into a high-crime neighborhood while dressed in short shorts and a cut-off top.
She was subsequently lured into the last remaining high-rise at the Robert Taylor homes, where she was sexually assaulted before falling from a seventh-floor window.
Eilman suffered a devastating brain injury and several broken bones, including a shattered pelvis. She now requires around-the-clock care and lives with her parents in California.
An even more devastating blow to the city’s case came last spring.
That’s when a federal appeals court rejected the city’s attempt to dismiss the case and said police “might as well have released her into the lions’ den at Brookfield Zoo” when they ignored frantic calls from Eilman’s parents and allowed the young woman to leave without assistance in the high-crime neighborhood.
In the federal appeals court ruling that turned out to be the death knell of the city’s case, Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook did not mince his words in talking about the cavalier disregard that Chicago Police officers exhibited for Eilman’s safety before her release.
“She was lost, unable to appreciate her danger and dressed in a manner to attract attention,” Easterbrook wrote last spring.
“She is white and well-off while the local population is predominantly black and not affluent, causing her to stand out as a person unfamiliar with the environment and, thus, a potential target for crime.”