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Robinson family attorneys: Don't be fooled by the City's "spin"

(NBC15)
Published: Feb. 23, 2017 at 8:17 AM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)—Attorneys representing the family of a man killed by a Madison police officer say the city’s mayor should not lie about how a federal lawsuit was settled.

The family of Tony Robinson Junior was awarded a $3.35 million settlement after filing a lawsuit against the City of Madison in August.

Robinson was shot and killed by Officer Matt Kenny in March 2015. Witnesses said Robinson, who was high on mushrooms, had assaulted two people moments before the encounter.

Kenny was later cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne. An internal investigation by the Madison Police Department found he did not violate any police policies.

At a press conference on Thursday, Robinson’s family was joined by their attorneys. They claim the city would never have settled if they did not believe they were wrong. They also claim the city would have lost if the lawsuit went to trial.

However, city leaders say the settlement was a business decision made by the city's insurance company, Wisconsin Municipal Mutual Insurance Company, which will pay the claim.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin released a statement saying in part:

“The City’s insurance carrier, WMMIC, Officer Kenny and the plaintiff settled the case and neither our office nor the City Attorney were involved in the settlement. Let me be clear in asserting that the City of Madison, who was not a party to the case, had no standing and no ability to influence the court or the parties in approving a settlement. Any statement to the contrary is false.”

On Thursday night, the attorneys for the Robinson family responded saying in part: “The citizens of Madison should not be fooled by the City’s ‘spin.’ The City was fully involved in the decision to settle this case. Under state law, the City is responsible for paying any verdict or judgment against Officer Kenny; the City had to approve the settlement; and the City had to contribute financially to the settlement. Any claim to the contrary is false.”

Robinson’s mother, Andrea Irwin, spoke to NBC15 saying no amount of money can make things right, but the family hopes not having to relive Robinson’s last moments at trail can give them some peace.

“Hopefully there will be some change because god forbid anybody else has to go through this,” said Irwin. “Believe me, money just makes us feel even worse. I want my son. I couldn't care about a dollar. I want my baby back."

Jim Palmer, Kenny’s attorney, says he wishes the lawsuit would have gone to trial so he would have the opportunity to defend himself before a jury of his peers.

The US Attorney's Office for the Western District of Wisconsin told NBC15 Thursday afternoon the Robinson shooting is under review by their office, and by the US Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2017: WMTV

MPD statement on settlement:

 

"The Madison Police Department was not involved in any of the negotiations that resulted in today’s announced settlement in the Estate of Tony Robinson v. Matt Kenny case, or in the ultimate decision to settle the case.  Officer Kenny was cleared of any criminal culpability by the Dane County District Attorney (after an independent investigation conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Justice – Division of Criminal Investigation), and was found to have acted within MPD’s Code of Conduct and Standard Operating Procedures after an internal review.  Chief Koval and other department leaders had hoped the civil case would proceed to trial so Officer Kenny could be cleared in this additional venue, however they understand that attorneys, insurance providers and risk managers have reached a business decision based on factors other than the actual facts of the case.  The settlement does not express or even suggest an admission of wrongdoing, and does not alter MPD’s view on the matter. Officer Kenny remains assigned to MPD’s Training Section and Mounted Patrol.
 
Judge Peterson clearly rejected the assertion that MPD’s policies, practices or training were inadequate, and Chief Koval continues to have great confidence in the men and women of the Madison Police Department."

 

Madison Police Union issues statement regarding settlement of Tony Robinson lawsuit:

 

"The trial over this lawsuit was going to be Matt’s opportunity to confront the false accusations made against him, and now he will never get that chance. The outrageous decision by the city’s insurance company to settle this lawsuit over Matt’s objection is tantamount to throwing him under the bus. Despite the fact that he and his conduct have been rigorously scrutinized by multiple agencies, the Robinson family has done their best to drag his name through the mud. Frankly, given how the plaintiffs in this case have publicly demanded justice, I’m actually shocked that they would settle it short of having their day in court.  Not only does this offensive settlement unfairly undermine Matt’s service and commitment to the people of Madison, it’s certain to hurt the morale at our department as well. The city’s insurance company shouldn’t risk compromising an officer’s credibility and reputation for the sake of its bottom line, particularly when that officer did their job in accordance with their training and the law. Matt Kenny, and all of the officers in the Madison, deserve better." ---Dan Frei, president of the Madison Professional Police Officers Association (MPPOA)

 

 WPPA Executive Director, Jim Palmer, releases statement on behalf of Madison Police Officer Matt Kenny

 

"Given the fact that the tragic death of Tony Robinson was more exhaustively, independently, and transparently investigated than perhaps any officer-involved death in the history of Madison, we are extraordinarily disappointed that the city’s insurance company chose to make a business decision that was more concerned with the costs of litigation than the facts of the case.
Multiple investigations were conducted into this matter, and all of them confirmed that Matt’s actions on March 6, 2015 were lawful and in response to a deadly threat, from which Matt sustained numerous injuries. Though we expect that there will be those who will attempt to portray the insurance company’s settlement as some sort of victory, nothing about this agreement, which includes no admission of wrongdoing, changes the fact that he has been fully and repeatedly exonerated. Matt strongly believes that this lawsuit should have gone to trial, and he deeply regrets that he is being deprived of the opportunity to defend himself before a jury of his peers. While we continue to extend our sympathies to Mr. Robinson’s family, they have made some outrageous claims about Matt that will never be resolved. We would have preferred that they demand that the case go to trial, because rather than offer any amount of closure, this settlement only serves to further cast a pall over Matt’s devotion and service to the community, and that of the dedicated men and women of the Madison Police Department. Since the shooting occurred, Madison has shown its uniqueness when compared to similar events around the country. The police department is diverse, its officers are highly trained, especially in areas such as de-escalation tactics and cultural awareness, and Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to require that police shootings be independently investigated in a transparent manner. Likewise, the community has peacefully voiced its concerns regarding the systemic inequalities that exist within our criminal justice system. Just as Madison demonstrated that it wasn’t Ferguson two years ago, the same remains true today."

  Statement of Madison Mayor Paul Soglin on Matt Kenny, Tony Robinson Estate Case:

 "The City’s insurance carrier, WMMIC, and the plaintiff settled the case and neither our office nor the City Attorney were involved in the settlement. Let me be clear in asserting that the City of Madison, who was not a party to the case, had no standing and no ability to influence the court or the parties in approving a settlement. Any statement to the contrary is false. Officer Kenny was forced to make immediate decisions in dangerous circumstances which led to tragic consequences. I have serious questions about some of the rulings by the Court in the last week which may have improperly affected the officer’s ability to defend his actions. Again, the City of Madison, having been dismissed from the case, has no standing, no say in the matter. I understand there was tremendous pressure on the remaining parties to the lawsuit to settle the case, rather than have this matter continue with no end in sight. I do not suggest that we forget this event but I do recommend that we learn from the settlement and move forward to build a stronger, better community. Unfortunately, the way the case was concluded leaves the public and all local governments still struggling to understand how police officers are to proceed in dangerous situations when confronted by individuals who are impaired by substance abuse or mental health issues. We know that more officer training will help. We know that the City of Madison, its police department, and its residents will continue to find solutions. Tragically, as long as mental illness goes untreated, as long as substance abuse is ignored, these tragedies will continue to confront us."

 

Robinson family attorneys respond to Mayor Soglin's statement:

 

  “The citizens of Madison should not be fooled by the City’s “spin.” The City was fully involved in the decision to settle this case. Under state law, the City is responsible for paying any verdict or judgment against Officer Kenny; the City had to approve the settlement; and the City had to contribute financially to the settlement. Any claim to the contrary is false.

 “The City decided to approve a record settlement – $1 million more than has ever been paid to resolve a police shooting in the State of Wisconsin – because it knew it would lose at trial. It knew it would lose because it was Officer Kenny’s shifting story versus the objective and scientific evidence that Robinson never punched Kenny and instead was more than three feet away when the first shots were fired."

 “To the extent an insurance company contributed financially and recommended a settlement, that is because those professional risk assessors reached the same conclusion: that Kenny’s story was a fantastic lie." 

   “Rather than deny involvement, the Mayor should do the opposite and get involved. He should start by taking seriously all of the evidence that caused the City and its insurer to want a settlement. If he wants, we would be happy to present it to him. He should also demand the internal investigation that was never done. And he should get a cop that has shot and killed two Madisonians off the street.”

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