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US 7th Circuit Affirms Judgment for Defense in "Tawdry Tale"

US 7th Circuit Affirms Judgment for Defense in "Tawdry Tale"

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed in April 2012 the decision of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, granting summary judgment to the four named defendants, “a truly unique web of characters,” only just able to match in misconduct the Plaintiff, whose alleged inappropriate behavior extended even to his sister-in-law. David L. Lewis, a part time police officer for the Village of Belgium (pop. 400), Illinois, filed a §§1983 and 88 First Amendment claim against the defendants for allegedly conspiring to prosecute him for an array of sexual offenses in retaliation for his suspected cooperation with an FBI investigation.

The defendants in the civil suit were: a) Larry Mills, First Assistant State Attorney for Vermillion County, Illinois and subject of the FBI investigation; b) Todd Damilano, Deputy Investigator for Vermilion County Sheriff’s Department; c) Scott Corrie, owner of a now defunct strip club and alleged drug deal; d) Clint Gray, Lewis’ brother, Corrie’s friend and patron at Corrie’s club, the Playpen.

Lewis misused his station, stopping women, mostly dancers at the Playpen with his cruiser and forcing himself on them to one degree or another. Between March 2006 and March 2007 eight women (six of whom were Playpen dancers, including his sister-in-law; the other two were waitresses) registered complaints with the sheriff for various degrees of sexual crimes. A sheriff’s investigation of Lewis started after the first complaint, Defendant Damilano as investigator, but went nowhere.

During this time, Larry Mills found himself being investigated by the FBI for trading lenient charges for drugs and sex. The FBI agent was seen talking to Lewis and suddenly the investigation against Lewis found new life, resulting in charges. There were veiled threats from Mills and Gray. Lewis maintained his innocence. Finally, Lewis was charged with 49 felonies. He stayed in jail 14 months, pled down to one year, time served, got out, sued.

Lewis’ suit alleged a conspiracy of retaliation, that all of the charges he received were made up. Lewis offered no evidence, just conjecture and allegation. The district court found that a) Mills was entitled to absolute immunity; b) Damilano was entitled to qualified immunity; c) there was no evidence on Gray, and; d) despite testimony that Corrie encouraged his girls to make up stories about Lewis, there was no evidence on him either. District court held for Defendants.

The court of appeals could do little more than shake its head at the depths to which a significant part of the infrastructure of a whole town could sink, and affirm the district court. See: Lewis v Mills, 677 F.3d 324 (7th Cir. 2012).

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Related legal case

Lewis v Mills