Attorney says officer ‘hung out to dry’ in settlement

Insurance company settled over Kenny objection
Attorney says officer ‘hung out to dry’ in settlement

Attorneys for Madison police Officer Matt Kenny said a settlement with the family of Tony Robinson was made over Kenny’s objections, and does not mean that the officer did anything wrong.

The family of Tony Robinson, a biracial man fatally shot by Kenny in 2015, filed a lawsuit against the officer and the city of Madison.

Attorneys announced that suit had been settled Thursday for $3.5 million.

The suit, in part, alleged Kenny lied about getting into a March 6 altercation as justification for shooting Robinson as he responded to calls that the 19-year-old had attacked two people and was running in traffic.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne declined to charge Kenny, calling the officer’s use of force at 1125 Williamson St. “lawful.” At that time, Ozanne said Robinson had a combination of Xanax, mushrooms and marijuana in his system, and said multiple witnesses confirmed Robinson’s violent behavior.

An internal Madison Police Department review also cleared Kenny in June, saying the officer had followed the department’s deadly force protocol.

Kenny’s attorney said Thursday that the officer was anxious to go to trial and clear his name in court, but that the city of Madison’s insurance company, Wisconsin Municipal Mutual Insurance Company made the unilateral decision to settle.

“Here we have an officer who has been exhaustively independently and transparently investigated by multiple agencies, and cleared of any wrongdoing, by all accounts has done his job and frankly he’s being held out to dry because of a business decision by an insurance company,” Wisconsin Professional Police Association Executive Director Jim Palmer said.

While WMMIC is the city’s insurance company, the city of Madison was not involved in the decision to settle. In fact, the federal judge hearing the lawsuit case ruled Feb. 13 that the city was no longer liable for Robinson’s death because there had not been evidence to show problems with training or investigations.

Palmer said Kenny was surprised to learn that WMMIC intended to settle the case Wednesday night.

“It is still technically the insurance company’s lawsuit and they could decide to settle it without any involvement from him,” Palmer said. “We think that’s very unfortunate and as anyone can expect he’s upset.”

In a statement, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin reaffirmed Thursday that he and city attorneys were not involved in the decision and no longer had standing in the case.

“I understand there was tremendous pressure on the remaining parties to the lawsuit to settle the case, rather than have this matter continue with no end in sight,” Soglin said. “I do not suggest that we forget this event but I do recommend that we learn from the settlement and move forward to build a stronger, better community.”

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval told reporters at an unrelated news conference Thursday morning that he repeatedly said he did not want to settle the case, believing that Kenny would prevail at trial.

“This is an officer that has had his career marooned and placed on a desert island for the last two years subject to the court of public opinion,” Koval said. “So to that extent does this have a chilling effect on policing? Yes. From a recruiting standpoint, of course it does.”

The settlement will pay the family of Robinson $3.35 million, but not all of that money will come from taxpayers.

adison City Attorney Mike May told News 3 that the city paid a $300,000 “retention,” or deductible over time and that the settlement will be paid in full by WMMIC. The effect of the settlement on the city’s insurance premium is unknown. May said premiums have ranged from $364,723 in 2010 to as high as $436,345 over the last seven years, with those numbers going up and down over time.

Kenny was a 12-year veteran of the police department at the time of the shooting and remains assigned to MPD’s Training Section and Mounted Patrol.