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Chicago cop whose home was raided is
awarded $565,000 in damages

August 10, 2012|By Annie Sweeney, Chicago Tribune reporter

When Chicago police broke into his Austin home with guns drawn and a search warrant, Markee Cooper Sr., a cop himself, and his family could only look on as drawers and closets were searched for crack cocaine based on an alleged informant’s tip.

On Friday, a federal jury awarded Cooper and his family $565,000 in damages after finding one officer at fault for a falsified warrant and two others responsible for the illegal 2007 search.

The officer and his wife testified at the trial that their two young sons, Markee Jr., 13, and Zion, 8, were traumatized at seeing their father confront a roomful of cops with guns before kneeling to the living room floor and handing over his badge and weapon.

“It’s a horrible experience for a child to see or even think about,” Cooper’s wife, Sherita, said after the verdict was announced. “I’m just glad that justice was served.”

The city of Chicago will have to pay $450,000 in compensatory damages awarded by the seven-woman, three-man jury, said Cooper’s attorney, Brendan Shiller. The jury also assessed punitive damages against three of five officers — money they will be responsible for paying, Shiller said.

Officer Sean Dailey, who testified that he secured the warrant based on information from an informant named “Lamar” who told
him crack was being sold out of the second-floor apartment in the Cooper’s building, was assessed by far the most — $100,000. Sgt. Salvatore Reina was found liable for $10,000 and former Lt. Dennis Ross for $5,000.

Gregory Mitchell, an attorney for the officers, declined comment on the verdict.

The often murky use of confidential informants by police was at the center of the two-week trial.

Cooper’s legal team argued that Dailey either made up the informant or was reckless by making no effort to try to verify the tip. They pointed to the sketchy information Dailey initially had about Lamar’s background — no last name, phone number or address.

“I think this verdict shows that the informant didn’t exist, and he made it up,” Shiller said of Dailey. “And if he made up
an informant, the city needs a better policy to prevent this from happening again.”

The officers’ attorneys argued that Dailey played by the rules, informing the Cook County state’s attorney’s office before going to a judge for the warrant. Dailey testified that the same informant had given him three previous tips that led to criminal charges. That the information turned out to be bad was not intentional, the defense argued.

“That’s called, ‘I ain’t perfect,'” Mitchell said during closing arguments Thursday. “Was it serious? Yes. Was it malicious?

Cooper, a nine-year police veteran, is assigned to the department’s elite Organized Crime Division, working undercover investigations that often involve getting warrants.

He testified at trial that he thought he was the victim of a home invasion when he first heard someone breaking into his residence, only to find about a dozen plainclothes officers with guns drawn.

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The Chicago firm of Erickson & Oppenheimer, Ltd. specializes in criminal defense and civil rights.

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