Cicero to settle with ACLU

Chicago Sun-Times,  Jun 28, 2000  by CARLOS SADOVI 

A Cicero town law allowing the vehicles of alleged gang members to be seized will be thrown out as part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The town also recently has filed two $11 million lawsuits against more than 200 alleged members of the Satan Disciples and La Raza street gangs, claiming they are a public nuisance. In 1999 it filed suit against the Latin Kings and Noble Knights. Those suits are pending.

The ordinance, passed last year, allowed the west suburban town to seize and impound a vehicle belonging to an alleged gang member. It was part of a multipronged attack that also allowed gang members to be evicted from the town. The eviction law has yet to be enforced pending legal review of the law, said Cicero's spokesman, David Donahue.

By July 28, 1999, when the ACLU lawsuit was filed, 63 vehicles were impounded. In response to the suit, the town stopped enforcing the law but already had collected nearly $315,000 in fines.

The settlement will be formalized July 12. As part of the settlement of the suit, certified as a class action after it was filed, the town must return any car or fines collected under the law, ACLU spokesman Ed Yohnka said.

"The larger issue was to protect that central notion that the government couldn't seize someone's property without an underlying crime," Yohnka said.

The settlement also calls for any record linking the vehicle owners to the gang seizures to be removed from police files.

Cicero officials refused to comment.