CLEVELAND - NewsChannel5 Investigators have learned the City of Cleveland has hired an outside law firm to represent the city and 13 officers named in a federal lawsuit filed by the family members of the victims of the deadly Nov. 2012 police chase and shooting.
Roetzel & Andress, a local law firm, will be paid an hourly rate of $235 for associates and $275 for partners, according to city officials.
The city's Chief of Communications sent us the following statement about the hiring of outside counsel. It says:
We do, from time to time, hire outside counsel to either take the lead or assist with a lawsuit in which city employees are named defendants. This helps us to fulfill our obligation to represent employees. Under state law, the City has a duty to defend employees who face legal action as a result of their work. There are few exceptions to this rule.
On November 29, 2012, Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, were killed after leading Cleveland police on a 23-minute chase.
State investigators found 13 Cleveland police officers fired 137 shots into Russell’s Chevy Malibu as the chase ended in the parking lot of Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland.
The 13 officers were subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in November of last year, according to the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association.
These officers are assigned to desk jobs.
Stephen Funk will represent the city in the lawsuit.
The defendants listed in the federal lawsuit include Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Director of Public Safety Marty Flask and Police Chief Michael McGrath.
Attorneys for the administrators of the estates of Williams and Russell submitted the 59-page lawsuit, in which they say their case "challenges the gratuitous, excessive, and objectively unreasonable force members of the Cleveland Police Department" against the two victims.
The lawsuit claims that all of the defendants' acts were "clearly established violations of the United States Constitution and Ohio law."
In June, one supervisor was fired, two were demoted and nine others suspended following disciplinary hearings about their involvement in the chase.
McGrath announced in October that 63 officers had been suspended for their roles in the chase.
That night, 277 officers were working and 104 of those were involved with the pursuit in some capacity.