City Settles Chasse Case

From the Portland Mercury, May 10, 2010

The city has settled the James Chasse Jr. lawsuit today—bringing one of its most controversial ever legal battles over police brutality to a conclusion.

The Mercury has confirmed the story with an off-record source, and one named witness to Chasse’s beating who had been subpoenaed to appear at the trial beginning June 4.

Attorney Mark Ginsberg was among the witnesses to Chasse’s beating by police on September 17, 2006, and has maintained a stoic distance from the case ever since. But he was contacted this afternoon by a legal assistant to the Chasse family’s attorney, he says, who told him that the case had been resolved at a settlement conference with the city in Federal court today.

“I asked if the case had been resolved,” says Ginsberg. “They said, yes, it had settled, and that the media would be informed over the coming days. But they would not tell me how much the city had agreed to pay.”

It’s not clear whether the settlement includes a standard gag order, which would prevent the family from disclosing any details about the case. Such orders are standard in settlements over police brutality cases.

“Whether the case settles or goes to trial, we need all the facts accumulated during the discovery phase to be presented to the public so that we understand what happened to James Chasse,” says Jason Renaud with the Mental Health Association of Portland.

The news comes six weeks after the city’s insurance company hired big name lawyer Anne Bremner to represent the city at trial, and after the city failed to get the case tried out of state because of all the media interest.

Multnomah County settled its portion of the case for $925,000 in July last year, meanwhile American Medical Response, the ambulance company, settled its portion for around $600,000 in January.

The Mercury was the first paper in Portland to run a photograph of Chasse lying in the street, taken by an eyewitness to his beating report on eyewitness accounts of Chasse’s beating. Chasse, who suffered with schizophrenia, suffered 26 breaks to 16 ribs following his altercation with police.

Tom Steenson, the attorney for the Chasse family, was unavailable for comment this evening, as was the city attorney, and the mayor. We’ll have updates for you as soon as we have more.

Update, 10:24: “I would be very pleased to hear that we have settled this case,” says Mayor Sam Adams. “And I think that is the proper thing for us to do.”

He expects to be briefed by the city attorney’s office tomorrow morning.

READ – Money isn’t everything, we hope, Jack Bogdanski, May 11, 2010
READ – City reportedly settles with Chasse family in death-in-custody case, The Oregonian, May 11, 2010
READ – Chasse Settlement: Case Dismissed, Portland Mercury, May 11, 2010
READ – Motion to Dismiss, Chasse v Humphreys
READ – Read The Document: City Settles Chasse Case, Willamette Week, May 11, 2010
READ – Chasse case to be settled? City, family’s lawyers working on statements, Portland Tribune, May 11, 2010
READ – Police settle Chasse custody lawsuit,
READ – Portland to pay $1.6M to Chasse family,
READ – Portland Police Custody Death Lawsuit Settled,