Council to consider lawsuit settlement

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign City Council will consider Tuesday whether to pay $110,000 to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit brought against the city by the family of Gregory Brown, who died in October 2000 after a struggle with several Champaign police officers.

Under the proposed settlement, the city would contribute $110,000 to the settlement of the case, and the city's insurance company would pay another $75,000.

The council will consider whether to approve the settlement at its meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.

The suit was filed in March 2001 in Champaign County Circuit Court by David Brown, the brother of Mr. Brown.

Mr. Brown died Oct. 8, 2000, in an alley south of the 300 block of West Clark Street in Champaign after a violent struggle with police officers, 14 of whom were named in the lawsuit.

The encounter between Mr. Brown, 45, and police began about 5 a.m., when Officer Tim Atteberry stopped to check on Mr. Brown, who appeared to be hiding behind a trash bin. Atteberry said Mr. Brown threatened to kill him and a struggle ensued when Atteberry tried to arrest him.

Mr. Brown later choked another officer, John Kim, who had arrived to help Atteberry. Kim eventually freed himself and Mr. Brown continued to struggle with several other officers who had arrived.

Mr. Brown was eventually overpowered by police, who restrained him with his stomach down and his hands cuffed behind his back.

His ankles were also cuffed together.

Mr. Brown turned purple and quit breathing while on the ground.

Champaign City Attorney Fred Stavins said the settlement makes sense for the city. To take the case to trial would cost at least another $60,000, and the city would run the risk of having to pay damages and punitive damages, as well as the attorneys' fees for David Brown, he said.

"We don't think the police officers did anything wrong," Stavins said. "We never have and still don't. But there's always a risk at trial."

The settlement also dismisses the case against the 14 city police officers, Stavins said. That's important because state law prohibits the city from reimbursing employees for punitive damages.

"To pay a small amount to provide police officers protection from liability is something we believe is important," Stavins said.

The city hired the Champaign law firm of Thomas Mamer & Haughey to represent it in the case.

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