CHICAGO – A former handyman serving life in prison for the murder of seven people at a suburban Chicago restaurant has been paid nearly $225,000 in damages by Cook County.
James Degorski was punched on the same day he was jailed in 2002 on murder charges in the 1993 killings at a Browns Chicken and Pasta restaurant in Palatine. Degorski filed a federal lawsuit and was awarded $225,000 in compensatory damages and $125,000 in punitive damages to be paid by guard Thomas Wilson, the Cook County Jail correctional officer who allegedly put on leather gloves and struck Degorski in the face.
Degorski had to undergo surgery to install plates in his face after bones were fractured and he was knocked out during the incident, according to Degorski’s lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean.
The Illinois Department of Corrections is seeking to recover about $100,000 of those damages for Degorski’s upkeep, Bonjean told the Chicago Sun-Times.
“It’s not at all unusual for us to seek reimbursement for incarceration costs for those who have the means to pay,” said Tom Shaer, the spokesman for the prison system.
Wilson, who was fired in March, said in a disposition he remains unemployed. Bonjean said she will still go after any assets or wages so she can collect on every penny that’s owed.
It’s unclear how much of the money Degorski will be able to keep because it’s possible the victims’ families may sue for a portion of his damages.
“It seems quite unjust that a man who committed some of the most brutal murders of seven people who pled for their lives should receive a dime,” said Wilson’s attorney, John Winters Jr. “We have already told the families of the victims that we will represent them for nothing in filing a suit against Mr. Degorski to make sure no funds go to him.”