Police officer sentenced last month to 25 years in prison for sex assault
By Angela Rozas and Gary Washburn
February 26, 2008
A woman raped by a Chicago police sergeant tentatively settled a federal lawsuit against the City of Chicago for more than $1 million, sources said Tuesday.
John Herman, 42, was sentenced last month to 25 years in prison by a Cook County Criminal Court judge who found him guilty of aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping and official misconduct. DNA evidence tied him to the 2004 sexual assault. He contended the sex was consensual.
The woman, listed in court documents as “Jane Doe,” sued the city and Herman, contending that her civil rights were violated. Prosecutors said Herman picked up the woman while he was on-duty and drove her to her home to retrieve her identification. Prosecutors said he raped her and used his police baton in the assault. The victim is now 42 and lives in Texas.
The woman’s attorneys, Benjamin Nwoye and Matthew Belcher, said she has tentatively agreed to a settlement recommended by the federal judge presiding over the case. The lawyers, however, declined to discuss the amount publicly because the City Council needs to approve the settlement.
One source who spoke on condition of anonymity said the settlement called for the city to pay more than $1 million. A City Hall source put the settlement at $1.5 million.
“Our client is excited to move on with her life,” Nwoye said. “We hope this is a wake-up call for the . . . Police Department that they will do whatever it takes to ensure what happened to our client . . . will never happen again.”
Belcher said that although they were not “completely satisfied” with the amount of money, they felt it was best to settle in order to avoid a lengthy trial process and the trauma of the woman having to testify again about the attack. Belcher said the settlement was an important one for the department and the city, one he hoped would result in more reform.
“This takes it outside of the realm of the individual, bad, lone officer who’s a bad apple and makes the whole system appear to be bad,” Belcher said. “I think the City of Chicago has taken steps forward to correct that. However, if they don’t complete the process, we will be back in this situation again.”
As part of the settlement, the woman dropped from the suit two other police officers who the woman alleged humiliated her when they took her back to her home the night she reported the assault and made her re-enact it.
In December the judge who convicted Herman at the criminal trial said his testimony that he and the woman, an admitted past drug user, had consensual sex was bordering on “perjury.”
Two police detectives had testified on Herman’s behalf, including one who claimed that the woman solicited a bribe to drop the case. Judge Joseph Claps said he did not believe the officers’ testimony, criticizing it as “unreasonable.”
Chicago police said they were conducting an internal investigation into the actions and testimony of one of the officers, Detective Constance Besteda. The other detective who testified retired.
A police spokeswoman pointed out that the department brought Herman’s case to the state’s attorney’s office for charging.
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