Chicago Family Files Hate Crime Lawsuit Against Neighbor

Firm News | March 16, 2009

CHICAGO – The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. and Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, today filed a hate crime lawsuit on behalf of the Jesse and Alisa Rodriguez Family against their neighbor, Joseph Marrone.  The Rodriguez Family, which is of Puerto Rican descent, filed the suit in Cook County Circuit Court, alleging that Mr. Marrone has perpetrated a continuing pattern of civil rights violations and torts against the family since 2007, and that these violations have been based upon the Rodriguezes’ ethnicity.  Both parties live on the 3600 block of North New England Ave. in Chicago.  


According to the lawsuit, beginning in the fall of 2007, Mr. Marrone began to harass, intimidate and threaten the family because they are of Puerto Rican descent.  Over the past 18 months, Mr. Marrone has shouted numerous racial and ethnic slurs at the entire family, threatened them with physical violence and sexual assault, and expressed an intent to force the Rodriguez Family to move out of the neighborhood.  In November 2008, Mr. Marrone pled guilty to related criminal assault charges and was sentenced to probation.

The Rodriguez Family’s lawsuit further alleges that they have suffered such significant emotional injuries as a direct and proximate result of Mr. Marrone’s conduct, that they are considering moving.  The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages for loss of civil rights and emotional distress, as well as punitive damages. 

The Rodriguezes are represented in their lawsuit by Katten pro bono attorneys Alex Vesselinovitch and Jenny Leifer, and Betsy Shuman-Moore of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc.

“We are pleased to partner with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee in their important work to improve the enforcement of the Illinois Hate Crime Act,” Ms. Leifer said.  “Our goal is to secure compensation for the denial of the Rodriguez Family's rights and for the extreme emotional distress they have been forced to endure.  We hope that by bringing this suit, justice will be served and others will be deterred from engaging in this type of racist and abusive conduct.”

For 35 years, the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee, through its 40-plus member law firms, staff and legal team, has provided free legal services to challenge discrimination and other civil rights violations in both the public and private sectors. For further information about the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee, contact Clyde Murphy at 312-630-9744, or visit


Katten has a long-term commitment to helping the poor, the powerless and the disenfranchised obtain first-rate representation without charge.  Attorneys and other legal professionals give their time, resources and talent to serve individuals and organizations in need, to engage in important national litigation, and to partner with local legal service providers to ensure access to the justice system.

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