Court: No pension for ex-Chicago officer convicted in attack

Posted at 4:54 PM, February 9, 2022 and last updated 7:59 PM, July 14, 2023

CHICAGO (AP) — A former Chicago police officer convicted of battery for attacking a bartender in 2007 during a drunken rage captured on video cannot collect his pension, a state court of appeals has ruled.

The ruling issued Monday overturns a Cook County judge’s 2019 finding that Anthony Abbate was entitled to his pension because there was no clear link between his job and the bartender’s beating, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Though Abbate was off-duty when he kicked and punched Karolina Obrycka, the three-judge appellate panel found that he felt his status as an officer gave him impunity to act as he pleased and that he used his police connections to try to avoid arrest following the attack.

Abbate was convicted of aggravated battery in 2009 and sentenced to probation for the beating, which was captured on security video. He was fired from the Chicago Police Department.

A federal jury awarded Obrycka $850,000 in 2012 from the city, finding that Abbate’s fellow officers tried to protect him during the criminal investigation and that a code of silence among officers encouraged misconduct.

Abbate filed paperwork with the pension board to collect his pension in 2018, when he turned 50. The board ruled the following year that he was disqualified from receiving benefits, but was entitled to a refund of pension contributions made during his slightly more than 12 years on the force. Abbate would have been eligible for payments of $539 per month.

Cook County Judge Anna M. Loftus ruled in 2019 that the pension board had not established a clear link between the crime that cost Abbate his job and his status as a police officer.

But in Monday’s decision the appellate panel called that ruling “erroneous.”

“Looking at the totality of the evidence presented before the (pension) board, Abbate’s felony conviction for aggravated battery was related to or connected with his service as a policeman,” Appeals Court Judge Aurelia Pucinski wrote.

She cited evidence introduced in Abbate’s federal civil rights trial, including that he assaulted two different bar patrons in separate incidents before he attacked Obrycka, and that no one contacted police.

“While he was at the bar, he announced that he was a Chicago police officer and repeatedly displayed his ‘muscles’ to the other bar patrons. After these two physical assaults, no one called the police to report Abbate’s misconduct. When he was beating Obrycka, he announced that ‘nobody tells me what to do,'” Pucinski wrote.

The Associated Press left a message Wednesday seeking comment from Ralph Licari, the attorney who handled Abatte’s appeal.

Obrycka’s lawyer, Terry Ekl, said in an email that the appeals court’s ruling “corrects the erroneous decision in the trial court to provide Abbate with a taxpayer-funded pension.”

“A tremendous amount of evidence was presented in the federal civil rights case to demonstrate his use of his position as a police officer to attempt to cover-up his beating of Ms. Obrycka,” Ekl added.