What did Rahm know, and when did he know it? The Daily Beast’s Justin Glawe finds an answer in e-mails provided to him that shows Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel knew what the video depicted in the Laquan McDonald shooting. According to Glawe, Emanuel knew enough to have his attorneys press the McDonald family to keep the video locked away for several years — but settled for long enough to win his re-election bid on April 7, 2015:
Emanuel said last month that Stephen Patton, Chicago’s corporation counsel, briefed him “towards the end of March” about what the dashcam video showed and about the proposed $5 million settlement with McDonald’s estate. After that briefing, Patton’s second-in-command, Thomas Platt, drafted settlement language to keep the dashcam video hidden for at least several years, according to emails reviewed by The Daily Beast (PDF).
Michael Robbins, an attorney for the McDonald estate, balked at the demand.
“The provision as drafted, that we maintain the confidentiality, of the materials—principally the dash-cam-video—until the criminal charges are concluded, which could be in effect for years, is entirely unreasonable,” he wrote to Platt on April 6. “Nor was any such broad sweeping confidentiality provision discussed during our meetings.” …
Emanuel has maintained since McDonald’s death that he has never seen the dashcam video, but the emails prove the mayor knew exactly what the footage showed when city lawyers negotiated a deal that would at least delay the video’s release. Attorneys for McDonlad’s estate sent Platt screenshots of the video and a detailed description:
“After Laquan immediately spun to the ground, graphic puffs of smoke from ricochet shots establishes that Officer Van Dyke continued to fire his weapon for approximately 16 seconds after Mr. McDonald laid helplessly in the street.”
The e-mails show that the attorneys representing the McDonald family agreed on the day after the election to keep the video from emerging publicly. As Glawe notes, a week later the city council approved a $5 million settlement with no debate.
This doesn’t reflect particularly well on the McDonald family, but Emanuel has by far the biggest problem from these e-mails. It’s also not the only time when it has become clear that Emanuel’s administration has tried to keep evidence of police abuses from becoming public knowledge. Today’s Chicago Sun-Times editorial scolds Emanuel for this pattern of secrecy and dishonesty:
The reality this time was a ruling Monday by a federal judge that a lawyer for the city intentionally withheld evidence in a civil suit against two police officers accused of wrongfully shooting a man to death in 2011. Another lawyer for the city, the judge concluded, “failed to make a reasonable inquiry,” as required by court rules, to search for that evidence — a recording of a police radio dispatch.
U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang has cited and rebuked five city attorneys within the last year for withholding evidence in two separate police misconduct cases.
This, to our thinking, amounts to a big new development in Chicago’s police scandal, like a fire jumping from one house to the next. If before a central question was whether a “blue code of silence” protects misconduct by the police, the judge’s rulings raise the possibility that the code of silence reaches into City Hall’s Law Department.
Emanuel on Tuesday said there is “zero tolerance” for any city lawyer who fails to uphold professional standards, and he ordered the city’s top attorney, corporation counsel Stephen Patton, to make sure no city attorney ever again conceals evidence.
Glawe’s exposé makes that a little difficult to swallow now. Not only did the Laquan McDonald shooting video get hidden, Emanuel’s own attorneys were fighting tooth and nail to keep it from ever coming out — at least while Rahm was in office.
Right now, Chicagoans can do little about it until the next election. Perhaps if the Illinois state legislature passes the bill allowing for recall elections, that might change. Or, perhaps Emanuel will do the ethical thing and resign. So far, though, there seems to be little evidence of ethics in Emanuel’s track record as mayor.
That should pose a difficult conundrum for Hillary Clinton, Rahm’s longtime friend and advisor to both Hillary and Bill. What will she say when the media asks her about this attempt to quash evidence right before Rahm’s re-election? Oh, wait, silly me … Hillary’s a Democrat. The media only holds Republicans accountable for questionable behavior from other members of their party.