Forest Park attorneys and opposing counsel have reached a settlement agreement in the amount of $2,900 in the Eddie Harkins vs. the Village of Forest Park case that was pending in District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and arose out of events from 2016.
According to Mayor Rory Hoskins in a village council meeting on Nov. 12, “This is an old case. We’re really just closing something out.”
The case arose from the arrest of Eddie Harkins, who claimed he suffered ongoing numbness and loss of feeling in his right hand due to handcuffs secured too tightly when he was arrested by Forest Park police for armed robbery.
On Sept. 16, 2016 police responded to an armed robbery call at the Dunkin Donuts, 7660 Madison St. Officers saw a car fleeing eastbound toward Harlem and turning into the Wendy’s parking lot. A police car blocked the assailant’s car, which spun out. Harkins reportedly ran out of the passenger rear door across Harlem, where police caught him in front of Parky’s Hot Dogs at 329 Harlem Ave.
A search of Hawkins by the police revealed cash and a spring, which was part of a semi-automatic handgun. Officers found a black semi-automatic handgun in the vehicle.
Hawkins was arrested, convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 18 years in the Pinckneyville Correctional Center.
Hawkins, from prison, first filed a lawsuit against the arresting officer, John Reilly, who was recently promoted to sergeant on Nov. 12. Hawkins then amended his complaint on May 31, 2018 in U.S. District Court and added Detective Robert Bryant, Detective Jarlath Heveran and the Village of Forest Park as defendants. Hawkins requested a jury trial.
According to Mayor Rory Hoskins, the village’s initial reaction was to go to court. Eventually, though, and at the urging of the judge, the village decided to settle.
“We recognized that the cost of a jury trial would be greater than the cost of settling at this amount,” said Hoskins.
Village Administrator Tim Gillian said the settlement does not mean the village admits guilt. During a settlement conference, explained Gillian, the federal judge strongly urged the village to settle.
“Our guys did nothing wrong,” said Gillian. “This was a violent armed robbery, and the offender is serving a very long state prison sentence.”
“It was painful to agree to pay even this small amount,” Gillian added. “It was strictly a business decision. It would have cost the insurance company way more to go to trial than to settle for less than $3,000.”
At the village council meeting on Nov. 12 to vote to accept the settlement agreement, commissioners Joe Byrnes and Dan Novak expressed concern that there hadn’t been a closed-session meeting to discuss the settlement prior to the vote at the regularly scheduled village council meeting.
“I don’t know what it is,” said Novak of the settlement agreement.
Byrnes expressed similar confusion. He asked, and Hoskins confirmed, that the settlement was supposed to be discussed at closed session, which was cancelled at the last village council meeting.
“Are you really going to suggest we not settle for less than $3,000?” asked Hoskins, expressing frustration.
The agenda had been available online for several days prior to the meeting, even longer than the required 48-hour advance posting of agendas for public meetings.
“We could go to trial,” said Hoskins, “but it wouldn’t be very popular with the judges. I encourage you all to accept this resolution.”
Hoskins and commissioners Jessica Voogd, Ryan Nero and Joe Byrnes voted to approve the settlement agreement, with commissioner Dan Novak abstaining.