Konerak settlement is $850,000

Konerak settlement is $850,000

JEFF COLE

The Journal staff

The Milwaukee Common Council likely will approve the proposed payment of $850,000 to the family of Konerak Sinthasomphone one of Jeffrey L. Dahmer’s victims to settle a federal lawsuit against the city and two police officers, officials said Monday.

The city attorney’s office and the Judiciary and Legislation Committee on Monday announced the settlement of the case, pending Common Council approval.

Council President John R. Kalwitz said the fact that the committee and City Attorney Grant F. Langley recommended the settlement “will carry a lot of weight with the full Common Council, and I expect that it will be approved.”

Kalwitz said the council would consider the settlement at its meeting March 27.

The Dahmer episode “has been a shocking and painful experience” for the entire community, and its impact cannot be measured solely in monetary terms, Kalwitz said.

He said he hoped that the community now could put the entire incident behind it.

“There have already been too many victims in this tragedy,” Kalwitz said. “It is time to pull together and continue the healing process.”

Sinthasomphone family attorney Robert Slattery credited Chief Federal Judge Terence T. Evans with getting the two sides to settle.

“I have recommended to my clients that they accept this settlement,” Slattery said. “We decided to settle because none of the participants wanted to see this controversy brought up in a trial.”

Konerak, 14, was murdered by Dahmer on May 27, 1991, after police officers investigating a disturbance returned the bleeding, nude boy to Dahmer’s custody. He was the serial killer’s 13th victim.

After Dahmer’s arrest later in 1991, the Sinthasomphone family filed the lawsuit.

The family argued that police had failed in their constitutional duty to protect Konerak and had discriminated against him because he was Laotian and officers considered him gay.

Officers Joseph Gabrish and John A. Balcerzak were fired for their handling of the incident. The two later were reinstated. Balcerzak returned to the Milwaukee Police Department, and Gabrish now is a Grafton police officer.

In a prepared statement, Deputy City Attorney Rudolph M. Konrad said: “Settlement of this case does not constitute an admission of liability by the city or its individual police officers, but does end the intense controversy surrounding the police contact with Jeffrey Dahmer on May 27, 1991, and avoids further controversy which would ensue during the course of a trial.

“The settlement also avoids having to once again replay before the public the ugly crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer, and spares the Sinthasomphone family the further trauma this trial would cause.”

Milwaukee Police Association President Bradley DeBraska said he had not seen the settlement and declined to comment on it.

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