On July 16, 2014, Benezra & Culver won another First Amendment case. In that case, the firm represented Sergeant Patrick Cillo, who was a 29- year and outstanding police officer at the Greenwood Village Police Department. In 2007, he formed a union. Following the formation of the union, the Defendants repeatedly retaliated against Sergeant Cillo and the union. Ultimately, the Defendants fired Sergeant Cillo in September 2009 for a minor supervisory failure. The evidence demonstrated that non-union members who were more involved in the same incident received minimal punishment. In addition, more egregious violations committed by non-union members in other incidents went virtually unpunished.
The road to trial was arduous. Sergeant Cillo’s internal appeal in 2009 was denied, and Benezra & Culver started the federal lawsuit shortly thereafter. The case encountered another road bump when in 2012 the Federal District Court Judge granted summary judgment and dismissed Sergeant Cillo’s case. Despite these setbacks, Benezra & Culver successfully appealed to the Tenth Circuit, and in December 2013 the Appellate Court agreed that Mr. Cillo’s case should go to trial.
Following a six-day trial, the jury quickly returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff Patrick Cillo, awarding economic damages in the amount of $240,000. Moreover, the jury found that the Defendants acted with evil motive or reckless indifference to Mr. Cillo’s rights and awarded punitive damages totaling $125,000. Sergeant Cillo is also entitled to the reimbursement of roughly $630,000 in attorney fees and costs and another $29,000 in pre-judgment interest.