Crime & Courts

Settlement deal involves Joliet paying $93,000 over mayor’s altercation

Lawsuit over 2020 altercation at protest-turned-riot comes to a close

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk speaks at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon about his involvement in a scuffle with two protesters on May 31. Later at a City Council meeting Tuesday night, O'Dekirk said he has heard from thousands of people offering their support.. t

The settlement between two men and Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk at a protest-turned-riot involves a payout of $93,000 by the city of Joliet.

That amount is what the deal says the city would pay to brothers Victor Williams and Jamal Smith to drop their federal lawsuit against O’Dekirk and five police officers over the May 31, 2020, altercation, according to the settlement agreement released by city officials.

The incident took place at a protest over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The protest devolved into a riot. The altercation represented one of the most controversial periods in O’Dekirk’s mayoral tenure, leading to further protests and calls for his resignation.

More than a dozen protestors protested Mayor Bob O'Dekirk and demanded his resignation Tuesday, Jun. 9, 2020, after a press conference addressing O'Dekirk's use of force against 23-year-old Victor Williams and 28-year-old Jamal Smith on June 1, after a mob began assaulting police near the intersection of Jefferson Street and Larkin Avenue in Joliet, Ill.

After a lengthy Illinois State Police investigation, Special Prosecutor Bill Elward ultimately declined to file charges against O’Dekirk, but nevertheless criticized him for his “poor judgement in the incident.”

O’Dekirk did not respond to calls Thursday that went directly to his voicemail.

David Mathues, an outside attorney for Joliet, said the city considered the costs of continuing the litigation and made a “purely economic decision to reach a settlement.”

The brothers’ attorney, Lawrence X. O’Reilly, declined to comment because the settlement agreement prohibits the parties in the case from commenting beyond what it already states.

Jamal Smith and Victor Williams pose for a portrait Monday, Jun. 8, 2020, in front of city hall in Joliet, Ill.

In a previous settlement involving the mayor, an insurer for the city paid a woman $50,000 to settle her 2019 lawsuit against O’Dekirk, who crashed into her car while driving his stepdaughter to school in a city vehicle.

As part of the latest settlement, Williams and Smith agree to drop all claims against O’Dekirk and the five police officers listed as defendants in the case.

The brothers’ lawsuit said O’Dekirk of grabbed Williams “in and around the neck area and about the body and forcefully drove him backwards and subsequently threw him to the ground.”

The lawsuit said Smith came to the defense of Williams to stop O’Dekirk’s “unprovoked attack,” and Smith and Williams were “thrown to the ground” by officers and beaten “about their head and bodies as they lay defenseless on the ground.”

Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk (left) grabbing Victor Williams by the collar at a May 31 protest in Joliet.

Attorneys for the city of Joliet denied the allegations. O’Dekirk himself said he “only acted to defend myself because I felt my personhood was threatened.”

The lawsuit case remained open as of Thursday. Both parties may file a joint status report by Feb. 22, court records show. If the parties file dismissal papers before the March 1 status hearing, they are not required to make a court appearance.

Following the May 31, 2020, altercation, the Illinois State Police investigated allegations of official misconduct and reckless conduct against O’Dekirk.

The 259-page case file released by state police lists 20 witnesses, including 12 police officers, but only four of the witnesses give an account of the initial contact between O’Dekirk and Williams that sparked the incident, and two of them are from O’Dekirk and Williams.

Protesters meet with Mayor Bob O'Dekirk and members of the city council Tuesday, June 2, 2020 about O'Dekirk's use of force in a scuffle with protesters two days earlier.

O’Dekirk initially said he had been pushed by Williams but later told investigators that he grabbed Williams because Williams raised a clenched fist toward his face and he felt threatened.

O’Dekirk claimed – without evidence – that the video of the incident “has been tampered with.”

Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow passed the case off to a special prosecutor after he was accused by O’Dekirk’s attorney, Jeff Tomczak, of not allowing investigators to gather evidence showing O’Dekirk was the “victim of an aggravated battery during an apparent riot in the city of Joliet.”

Glasgow’s prosecutors said the accusation was false.

Elward has refused to explain why he decided not to file charges.

Prosecuting Attorney Bill Elward makes his final closing statements in the Sheley murder trial Thursday in Rock Island.