A Chicago juror in a civil lawsuit stemming from a 1988 industrial accident at a former Illinois plastics factory was arrested Aug. 25 and charged with bribery solicitation. According to law enforcement officials, the juror allegedly sought $2,500 from the defendant to ``fix'' the case, in which $1.8 million in damages later were awarded the plaintiff.
The U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago said 31-year-old Seifullah Muhammad was a member of a federal jury hearing testimony in a personal injury case involving a one-time employee of now-defunct Colver Leasing Inc. of Waukegan, Ill., a commingled plastics recycler.
The employee, an undocumented alien from Mexico, lost part of his left hand when it was snagged in a 1964-model, 14-inch pelletizer manufactured by Cumberland Engineering of South Attleboro, Mass.
Cumberland's Chicago lawyer, Thomas J. Doell of Galliani Doell& Cozzi, said the case was filed originally in a state court, but was refiled in federal court for reasons of ``diversity of citizenship.'' Cumberland, a division of John Brown Plastics Machinery,is a Rhode Island corporation.
Doell said the company received several telephone calls during the trial from someone who reportedly wanted to know ``what the case was worth'' to Cumberland. Doell, who said in a recent telephone interview that he had ``never had this happen before,'' reported the alleged bribe to the visiting trial judge, U.S. District Judge Paul V. Gadola of Detroit.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office said the FBI arrested Muhammad before the jury began deliberations and after he allegedly accepted down-payment money for the bribe from an undercover fed-eral agent.
Muhammad, who could be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in jail, is free on $50,000 bond.
``I'm not in a position to comment,'' said his lawyer, Susan Bogart, who declined to provide any information about Muhammad.
On Aug. 28 the jury returned a $1.8 million judgment against Cumberland, but decided the injured worker was 51 percent at fault for the accident. It deducted that amount plus $100,000 previously paid in a worker's compensation claim from the award, according to Doell. He said the company plans to appeal the decision.