UPDATED: Possible settlements involving Champaign police total more than $3.7M

UPDATED: Possible settlements involving Champaign police total more than $3.7M

CHAMPAIGN — Two men who sued the city of Champaign and some of its police officers stand to collectively receive more than $3.7 million in settlement payments, with the bulk of the money going to a man claiming to have been wrongfully incarcerated for nearly 18 years.

The payments will be paid if the Champaign City Council approves their settlement agreements Tuesday night.

If the deals are approved, nearly all the money would be paid out by the city’s liability insurers, but the city would still be responsible for $470,000 — its share of settlement payments and/or attorney fees — in the two cases, according to City Attorney Fred Stavins.

One agreement would approve a $3.5 million settlement payment to Teshome Campbell, who spent nearly 18 years in prison in connection with the 1997 murder of James Shephard.

Campbell sued the city and six police officers after his 1998 murder conviction was vacated and he was released from prison in 2016.

The first $1 million of his settlement would be paid by National Casualty Company, and the balance paid by Westport Insurance Corp. to Campbell and Elgron Inc. doing business as Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law.

The second agreement would approve a $220,000 payment for Alton Corey, who sued the city and two of its police officers over police use of force on him when they were summoned to a 2017 domestic dispute at an apartment on Edgebrook Drive.

Stavins said the city has a retained risk, akin to a deductible, level of $250,000 per claim, meaning it pays the first $250,000 of a settlement or judgment and attorney fees per case.

In the Campbell case, the entire $250,000 retained risk level was met by more than $300,000 in attorney fees to outside counsel — leaving the rest of the attorney fees plus all of the settlement to be paid by insurers, Stavins said.

In the Corey case, the city would pay the entire $220,000 settlement from its retained risk fund, plus attorney fees that have totaled less than $10,000, he said.

Both settlement agreements say the city isn’t admitting to any liability or wrongdoing in either case, and that the settlements are being made solely to resolve disputed claims and avoid litigation. In fact, the officers named in the Campbell case were dismissed from the lawsuit, according to one of two memos to the council from City Manager Dorothy David.

Still, clearly the city could face financial exposure on both the Campbell and Corey lawsuits, David wrote.

“While the amount of the settlement is significant, the cases and other settlements in cases of this type indicate an exposure of $1 (million)-$2 million per year of incarceration,” David said in explaining the larger proposed settlement for the Campbell case.

“It’s always an economic decision,” Stavins said.

The city has continued to maintain that its officers performed well in both cases, he said.

“The city stood behind its police officers and continues to,” he said.

Stavins also said it’s not just the city at the table in lawsuit negotiations. Its insurers also have a say.

“It’s not just the exposure of the city but exposure of the insurance companies,” he said.