On Friday, December 8, 2017, Kevin J. Conway of Cooney & Conway, and Timothy J. Cavanagh of Cavanagh Law Group, settled at trial against the Chicago Police Department for a case based on the “Code of Silence.” They argued that such protection contributed to the actions of former homicide Detective Joseph Frugoli, who drove drunk and killed Fausto Manzera and Andrew Cazares in April of 2009.
Conway represented the family of Mr. Manzera, who was 21 years old when he was killed. Cavanagh represented Mr. Cazares. Off duty, Chicago Police Detective, Frugoli, was drunk when he crashed into car causing the fiery deaths of the plaintiffs. Frugoli fled the scene while the boys were trapped in their burning vehicle.
Frugoli is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence for his involvement in that crash.
In a packed courtroom at Dirksen United States Courthouse in Chicago, a settlement was reached during the closing argument of the Plaintiffs. U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall presided over the trial.
"They didn't settle the case because they liked us, they settled the case because we proved it," said attorney Kevin Conway. “We proved there is a code of silence. We proved the accident investigation was improper. And we proved that as a result, Joseph Frugoli, an off-duty policeman, drove drunk. Because he drove drunk, he killed my client, Fausto Manzera, and he killed Andrew Cazares.”
The trial took a significant turn when plaintiffs learned that the City of Chicago withheld important documents regarding past, alcohol-related criminal conduct of Frugoli. The City’s 115-page document was a detailed description from 1992 when Frugoli was involved in a bar fight in which he battered patrons, threw glasses, broke bar stools and pool cues, and yelled “nobody messes with the Frugolis!” He then fled from the police who had asked him to stop.
After Frugoli was stopped by Chicago police in a subsequent car chase by, he was allowed to drive back to the bar in his car. Despite reports that he had been drinking, he was not tested. No Breathalyzer or blood-alcohol tests were administered. He was never questioned or handcuffed, according to the documents. Frugoli was not tried criminally and received five days off without pay as punishment.
Because the city failed to produce the requested documents in a timely manner, the plaintiffs argued they were not given the opportunity to depose or question the witnesses of the 1992 incident. They argued that the documents were the smoking gun in the case showing that the CPD’s “code of silence” still exists today.
The facts and details surrounding the accident which killed Mr. Manzera and Mr. Cazares in the early morning hours of April 10, 2009, were proven by the plaintiff’s attorneys. After drinking for nearly five hours at two bars, Frugoli got behind the wheel of his Lexus SUV. He drove onto the Southbound Dan Ryan expressway at Roosevelt Road at an accelerated speed, striking the victims’ car. The plaintiff’s car was on the far right side of the road, disabled by a flat tire and subsequent electrical malfunction.
A passerby pulled Frugoli from his wrecked vehicle. While that passerby summoned help, Frugoli fled the accident scene. He was ultimately found several blocks away trying to escape.
According to court records, no sobriety test was issued at the scene, but when Frugoli’s blood-alcohol level was taken later at the hospital, it registered almost four times the legal limit. Frugoli testified that the night of the accident was the first time he had driven while intoxicated and that he had no memory from immediately after the collision until sometime after he arrived at the hospital.
Frugoli subsequently entered a guilty plea to aggravated DUI, was found guilty of leaving the scene of a fatal accident in a bench trial. He is scheduled to be released from state prison in April 2019.
Attorneys for the victims argued that the CPD’s code of silence allowed Frugoli to act with impunity prior to the fatal crash because fellow officers failed to properly investigate previous alleged drunk driving incidents.
This is the first case exposing the code of silence against the Chicago Police Department involving drunk driving. Attorneys for the victims’ families argued that if CPD officers were routinely and appropriately held accountable for alcohol-related issues, the two young men would still be alive.
See below for media coverage of this landmark case and check back for more details as they become available.
Chicago Tribune: Editorial: Another City Hall fumble, another blow to police reform
Associated Press: Chicago settles lawsuit alleging a police ‘code of silence’