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Remus drops suit over Sheahan, settles with county

Sunday, September 10, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

Six months after he failed to win a shot at becoming Cook County sheriff, Richard Remus is dropping his claims that Sheriff Michael Sheahan violated his civil rights.
Cook County commissioners approved a settlement agreement Thursday to pay Remus' attorney fees -- $9,999 -- and he withdrew his case.
In a 2005 federal lawsuit, Remus said he was ordered to get rid of evidence of a 1999 mass beating at the county jail, while he was also ordered to make donations to Sheahan's political campaigns.
Remus alleged Sheahan's cousin, Cook County Judge James Ryan, gave those orders and at one point pocketed one of Remus' $1,000 donations.
Remus also claimed he was ordered to "take the fall" for Sheahan and others in the wake of reports on the beating.
Costly trial
Neither Remus nor his attorneys, Dana Kurtz and Roy Brandys, could be reached.
But sheriff's spokesman Bill Cunningham said the paltry settlement was the most cost-effective way of disposing of a frivolous lawsuit.
"Taking this to trial would have been more costly," he said. "But I think it's clear, based on the settlement amount, that if we'd gone to trial, we'd have won."
Remus ran the jail's Special Operations Response Team, which came under fire when a grand jury found its members regularly beat inmates, including the brutal 1999 incident.
Remus refused to testify about his role in the beatings.
He made an unsuccessful run for the Democratic nomination for sheriff in March, losing to Sheahan's hand-picked successor, Tom Dart.
Leading to that contest, there were allegations that Remus supporters had helped stage a jailbreak in order to bring bad publicity to Dart. The jail guards accused in that incident are also represented by Kurtz, Brandys and his partner Chris Mammel.
$500,000 settlement
Also Thursday, the County Board approved paying $500,000 to a former administrative assistant in the state's attorney's office who claimed she was wrongfully terminated after developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Marlene Copeland was accused by the county of using too much sick time while campaigning for the 34th Ward alderman in 1995, while also carrying a tape recorder into private staff meetings.
But Copeland said she was terminated only after developing a disability -- something supported by the Illinois Human Rights Commission and the Appellate Court of Illinois.
Copeland's attorney, David L. Lee, said supervisors "showed an inordinate amount of interest" in her injury before firing her.
Commissioner Peter Silvestri said "there was so much evidence for a proper discharge, work-related reasons, that were just ignored by the court."

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