City News

Family of Tony Robinson to receive $3.35 million in settlement

A historic $3.35 million settlement was reached Thursday between the family of Tony Robinson, an unarmed nineteen-year-old who was shot and killed in 2015 by Madison Police Department officer Matt Kenny, and a city of Madison insurer.

Image By: Morgan Winston

Early Thursday morning—nearly two years after Tony Robinson, an unarmed 19-year-old, was shot and killed by Madison police officer Matt Kenny—a lawsuit filed against the city of Madison by the Robinson family concluded in a $3.35 million settlement. The lawsuit is the largest settlement in the case of an officer-related shooting in Madison’s history, according to the family’s attorneys.

The historic settlement was announced and discussed by the Robinson family and their attorneys at a press conference held Thursday on the east steps of the Capitol building.

“That settlement figure does nothing for the Robinson family to fill the void of losing Tony. What that figure does do is it gives them vindication,” Robinson family attorney Anand Swaminathan said.

Swaminathan, fellow prosecuting attorney David D. Owens and the Robinson family consider the large settlement an attempt by the city at avoiding a trial in which a jury may be presented with incriminating evidence that could have potentially proven Kenny, who was not charged with unlawful behavior and remains on the police force, of wrongdoing.

According to a statement by the Madison Police Department, Kenny was “cleared of any criminal culpability” after an independent investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation and was found “to have acted within MPD’s Code of Conduct and Standard Operating Procedures” after MPD’s internal review investigation.

Over the coming weeks, the Robinson family and their representatives plan to publicize evidence that would have been presented had the case gone to trial so that the Madison community can “weigh in on whether they want to see something done.”

The evidence includes an image that captures part of Kenny’s pursuit of Robinson, and details from Robinson’s autopsy regarding the nature of his fatal injuries, both of which were presented at the press conference.

“We’re going to tell this story and we’re going to tell the truth until everybody has had a chance to judge it because, unfortunately, folks have been told and sometimes believed a lie,” Owens said.

Swaminathan commended the city for concluding the case and sparing the family from “reliving” the details of Robinson’s death through a trial. He also acknowledged the city’s recent policy change in which he said officers must wait for backup except in the rarest of circumstances.

However, the Robinson family is still dissatisfied with the conduct of the investigation.

According to Swaminathan, Kenny’s story was “demonstrably false” in accordance with the audio and visual documentation of the incident, and he was asked “zero questions” by MPD’s internal investigators.

“There is a truth, and the internal investigation process of the city of Madison absolutely failed the Tony Robinson family, and it absolutely failed the citizens of Madison, and that process needs to be fixed and it needs to be changed, and that’s one of the things that needs to happen going forward,” Swaminathan said.

Two separate investigations were conducted regarding the Robinson case, one by the Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation and one by the MPD.

The DOJ investigation is a process in which a district attorney determines whether or not a crime was committed and can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. MPD’s investigation, according to Swaminathan, involves assessing an officer’s conduct and determining its accordance with training, policy and standards.

The settlement received criticism from both city and state police associations.

Chief Koval and other police officials had hoped the civil case would proceed to trial, according to a MPD statement.

“Officer Kenny could be cleared in this additional venue, however they understand that attorneys, insurance providers and risk managers have reached a business decision based on factors other than the actual facts of the case,” Koval said.

Wisconsin Professional Police Association Executive Director Jim Palmer released a statement Thursday on behalf of Kenny.

“Given the fact that the tragic death of Tony Robinson was more exhaustively, independently, and transparently investigated than perhaps any officer-involved death in the history of Madison, we are extraordinarily disappointed that the city’s insurance company chose to make a business decision that was more concerned with the costs of litigation than the facts of the case,” Palmer said.

According to Swaminathan, although the district attorney was unable to prove crime beyond a reasonable doubt, he did not agree with the logic of Kenny’s story.

“I think that DCI did a thorough job. They did what was asked of them. My opinion is that if the district attorney wanted to get to the bottom of some of these questions, he could have asked more,” Owens said.

Owens states that he contacted federal investigators regarding this case in August and plans to contact them again. He also intends to provide the district attorney with all of the evidence they have collected in support of their case and “implore him to re-evaluate the situation.” Swaminathan added that they also intend to request that MPD “conduct the investigation it never conducted.”

“All we want is truth, and if you accept the truth, that is how you fix communities,” Owens said.

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