In the Name of Justice: Chicago’s Legal Crusaders

LawIn a town where the topics of the day revolve around sports, politics, corruption and the rising toll of gun violence victims, most of our news soundbites are coming from the attorneys that represent the families of these victims.

Larry Rogers, Jr.

Power, Rogers & Smith, P.C.

Victim: Bettie Jones

Last month, on the morning after Christmas, 55-year old Bettie Jones received a phone call from her upstairs neighbor to let Chicago police officers enter the building due to a domestic dispute with his 17-year old son, Quintonio LeGrier.

Upon entering the West Side residence, Chicago police officers shot LeGrier six times, killing him. They alleged he charged at them with a baseball bat. In the process, they also accidentally shot Jones in the chest, killing her as well.

What happened next would shake an already fragile city, forcing two families to plan funeral services for their loved ones during the holiday season.

Larry Rogers, Jr. is not your ordinary attorney – his reputation as a trial attorney is as prodigious as his record for winning cases for his clients.

In addition to being a part of the legal team on the Sandra Bland case, he was brought on as co-counsel with Sam Adam Jr. to represent the family of Bettie Jones in filing a civil lawsuit against the City of Chicago for her accidental death, caused by the fatal shots from a Chicago police officer.

Although Rogers has worked on previous police misconduct cases and other cases challenging the City of Chicago, the Jones cases is a delicate situation coming on the heels of the Laquan McDonald videotape released to the public just a month before Jones was killed.

Rogers said, “It’s generally my practice to avoid filing suit before a funeral. I don’t like to do that because the family is grieving. But when we didn’t get information as timely as I thought we should and when another lawsuit was filed, I didn’t want something to happen in that situation that would impact their case.

“So, I filed that Monday and the funeral was Wednesday. That way I could be sure that nothing was occurring that would impact the case, that I wouldn’t be able to interject.”

Before Jones was laid to rest, Rogers spoke with the mayor’s office and the city’s general counsel because it was important to look at key evidence, such as 911 dispatch calls, police audio and video footage as well as neighborhood surveillance.

Rogers said, “I think it is important that they reached out to me in the context of the mayor wanting to meet with the family to relay condolences. I told them what I wanted, which was some information. So, they gave me some information – verbally. I had requested written information, which they had not produced before that meeting and still have not produced. I think largely it’s because of the FOP contract.

“My investigation at this point is requesting things from the department and also doing an independent investigation of witnesses, going to the scene, hiring expert witnesses,” he continued. “Again, there is evidence of bullet entry points on both sides of the door, which suggests the officers are a distance away from the door. The bodies were found inside the door with her lying on her back, the boy lying face down.

“There is factual indication that she was summoned by a doorbell or knock. There are factual witnesses that established that the officer was as far back as the parkway beyond the sidewalk. As well, there are factual indications that the shell casings from the officer’s weapon from the bullets that he fired are as far back as the sidewalk.”

Rogers broke down the process of seeking fair damages when representing the family of Bettie Jones against the City of Chicago. It’s not just about cutting a check, but understanding the nature of the relationships of the children, along with the value of worth earned by the deceased, he explained.

“There are different divisions within the court system, one of which is referred to as smalls claims court,” Rogers says. “Cases under $15,000 go into the municipal division of the courts. The cases that are in the law division are a minimum of $50,000 and you have to sign an affidavit attesting to the fact that the claim is worth $50,000 or more and you have to plead that.

“The plea actually says that the claim is valued well in excess of $50,000, but the press read that we’re asking for $50,000. You can’t identify the value of the claim until you get through the discovery process to identify the nature of the liability, then the nature of the relationship that you’re claiming.

“That requires you to look at the income that was earned, and how much income would’ve been earned over a lifetime, which would require engaging an economist.”

Through the medical examiner’s report, the Chicago police officer Robert Rialmo was identified as the officer who accidentally killed Bettie Jones. Although neither the Chicago Police Department or IPRA has confirmed the officer’s identity, having it released through the media is a testament of the system’s ongoing non-transparency.

Sam Adam, Jr.

Sam Adam, Jr. Law Office

Victim: Bettie Jones

Sam Adam, Jr. has become one of the most familiar faces on the legal and media landscape, representing high-profile clients like music superstar R. Kelly and former Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich.

Currently, he is co-counsel with Chicago attorney Larry Rogers, Jr. for the family of Bettie Jones. His style of staying in front of the camera may be considered vain to some, but Adam considers it strategic.

“The media should be a tool to show what is going on with the government and citizens,” Adam maintains. “This should be brought to light. The greatest disinfectant in the world is sunlight. That is what I’m trying to use the media for in all of these cases – to bring in sunlight to root out all of the evil that is taking place in the areas of the government.”

The ongoing continuous delays by the city’s law department, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) have created multiple delays in the process of getting answers for victims’ families, Adams believes.

He says, “They are interacting with citizens and using that interaction to their own advantage instead of for the citizens they should be protecting. Bettie Jones is that case.

“This is a 55-year-old woman who did everything right – she was a good mother, she was a good grandmother, she was the type of woman who went to the door to answer the call of duty so that she could let in some police officers. She was shot down for it.”


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