A homeless man who claimed to have suffered a broken wrist at the hands of a Forest Park police sergeant was awarded $50,000 in a settlement with the village after taking his grievance to a federal court in 2004. The outcome of that case is one of four such agreements reached on behalf of Sgt. Michael Murphy, a 17-year veteran of the police department, more than any other officer who has served since 1990.
The circumstances surrounding that 2004 civil claim are now the subject of a federal indictment alleging Murphy abused Sidney Hooks during the course of an arrest in August 2003. The criminal complaint also accuses the officer of falsifying a police report on the incident to cover his tracks.
Murphy was placed on paid administrative leave when the indictment was handed down by a grand jury in late October and is facing a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.
A request for municipal records detailing the sums of seven out-of-court settlements reached on behalf of various police officers since 1994 was partially granted this month. For three of those cases, Village Clerk Vanessa Moritz said Forest Park has no record of the settlement amount and efforts to collect the data from the plaintiffs’ attorneys were unsuccessful.
One of those cases, settled in 2004, named Murphy as a defendant.
A settlement reached in 1995 following a jury trial, but prior to a verdict being delivered, saw $5,500 paid to the plaintiff, according to village records. Murphy was one of three officers named in the case.
Information on a settlement reached in 1994 in which Murphy was also named as a defendant is exempt from public scrutiny, according to the village.
Forest Park paid $2,500 to settle another case in 2002. The name of the officers accused in that case were listed by the plaintiff as “unknown.”
Earlier this month village and police officials defended Murphy’s more recent conduct on the job and said he has not been the subject of any local complaints. Village Administrator Mike Sturino has been with the municipality since early 2005 and said he is not aware of any citizen complaints filed against Murphy since that time.
Police Chief Jim Ryan said this streak dates back to August of 2003, the same month Hooks was allegedly assaulted. Though Hooks eventually filed suit in federal court, he never registered a complaint with the village, according to Ryan.
In an effort to verify those claims, the Review requested copies of any complaints filed with the village against Murphy. That request was formally denied this month.
Village officials have also declined to speak about disciplinary action that may have been taken against Murphy during his career in Forest Park.
Murphy, 42, has entered a plea of not guilty on the criminal charges and is free on personal recognizance.