The Brown’s Chicken killer was awarded $451,000 in a lawsuit against a former jail guard. Former deputy Thomas Wilson is accused of punching James Degorski in the face while he was in custody at the Cook County, Illinois, jail. The punch reportedly broke the inmate’s eye socket and cheekbone.
On January 8, 1993, Degorski and an accomplice entered Brown’s Chicken and Pasta in Palatine, Illinois. The two men robbed the eatery of less than $2,000. Before they left the building, they shot and killed seven people.
The victims include owners Richard and Lynn Ehlenfeldt, employees Michael Castro, Guadalupe Maldonado, and Rico Solis, and patrons Thomas Mennes and Marcus Nellsen.
Although authorities spent years investigating the mass murder, they failed to develop any solid leads. In 2002, the Palatine Police Department finally got a break. Degorski’s former girlfriend revealed that Degorski and his friend Juan Luna committed the crime.
Using evidence preserved from the scene, authorities confirmed that Degorski and Luna were involved in the Brown’s Chicken murders. Both men were charged with and convicted of seven counts of murder. Degorski and Luna were both sentenced to life in prison.
Following his arrest, Degorski was incarcerated in the Cook County Jail, where he reportedly had an altercation with deputy Thomas Wilson. As the inmate was injured during the assault, he filed a civil lawsuit against the guard and the facility.
After a three-day trial, the jury awarded the Brown’s Chicken killer $451,000. Cook County was ordered to pay the convicted killer $225,000. Additionally, Wilson was ordered to pay the inmate $226,000 in punitive damages.
Degorski’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, applauded the decision. She explains that her client’s status as an inmate should not override his civil rights:
“I think it’s a beautiful day for civil rights when a jury can put aside emotions and say we are all entitled to our civil rights… It’s about protecting the constitutional rights of the least among us.”
As reported by Huffington Post, attorneys for the defendant were disappointed as U.S. District Judge Robert Dow denied testimony about Degorski’s conviction. Although the jury was aware that the inmate was convicted of murder, they were not informed of the details.
Degorski was awarded nearly $500,000. However, it is unclear whether he will see any of the money. The Chicago Tribune reports that the Illinois Department of Corrections and the victims’ families could petition the court to seize the award. They may be entitled compensation for housing the inmate, and the families could sue for damages.
The Brown’s Chicken killer won his civil lawsuit. However, the DOC and the victims’ families have vowed to make sure he never sees a dime.
[Image via chicagotribune.com]