CLEVELAND-- After the death of her son at the hands of a Cleveland police officer in 2012, Shauna Smith thought she finally had a small measure of justice.
A federal court jury came back in about two hours and awarded $5.5 million in her lawsuit against the officer who shot and killed her 20-year-old son, Kenny.
"I honestly said 'This is it. This is the end. I feel vindicated,'" Smith said now.
But even if the verdict is upheld on appeal, the I-Team learned that it may be questionable whether Smith will ever see a dime of the money that the jury awarded her.
To try to scheme and connive to use the bankruptcy laws to dissolve that judgment for that officer is disgraceful," said Terry Gilbert, the Smith's family attorney.
The I-Team obtained a document that shows, late last year, the city of Cleveland contracted to pay a bankruptcy attorney up to $10,000 for "representation of (Officer) Roger Jones in bankruptcy matters resulting from (the) jury verdict against him."
The city's contract with the police union caps its liability to indemnify at $1 million regarding judgments against its officers.
The jury's verdict is against the officer personally, and not the city. The city appears to be preparing for the possibility that Officer Jones will file bankruptcy. That could possibly wipe out his obligation to pay the judgment.
"Knowing it should be paid by the city, why would he go bankrupt?" Gilbert said. "Unless something is going on there putting pressure on him."
"State law is the city must indemnify us - period," said Steve Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association.
The union said it believes there is no cap on the city's obligation to pay judgments rendered against officers who were doing their jobs.
Loomis said he's not sure what the city is doing by retaining a bankruptcy lawyer, but adds, "certainly, the city of Cleveland does not have our officers' best interest at heart when making these decisions, and that's blatantly apparent."
The city agreed to pay out more than $1 million in recent cases involving police officers, but those were cases that settled without going to trial.
The city declined to comment on the record for this story because of the pending appeal in the case.
A judge reduced the verdict to $4 million, but the Smith's attorneys plan to appeal that decision as well.
We have reached out through the police union to Officer Jones, but have not heard back regarding an interview.
"This thing is so outrageous that no court has ever had to deal with it in a direct way," Gilbert said. "There's a point where it's just wrong. It's illegal, it's immoral, it's disgraceful."
"They're not being held accountable for their actions," Shauna Smith said. "It's been four years. enough is enough."