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$731,000 Jury Award to Illinois DOC Prisoner Held 23 Months Beyond Release Date, Over $210k in Fees Awarded As Well

by David M. Reutter

An Illinois federal district court found that a prison records clerk deprived a former prisoner of his liberty and caused him to serve 721 days beyond his sentence. A federal jury awarded the former prisoner $721,000 in compensatory damages and $10,000 in punitive damages.

That result was reached in a lawsuit by former Illinois prisoner Walter Brzowski, which he filed on December 28, 2017. According the complaint, in 2010 Brzowski was convicted and sentenced in two separate criminal cases. In the first case, he received two concurrent one-year sentences and four years of mandatory supervised release (MSR). In the second case, he was sentenced to two concurrent terms of three years and four years MSR. The two sentences were run consecutively for a total of four years and four to eight years of MSR. Brzowski completed his sentences on September 10, 2013 and was released.

Brzowki was arrested on October 1, 2013, for violating his MSR and he returned to the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) on November 29, 2013. He was found not guilty on October 10, 2014, of the offense that triggered his MSR violation. He then filed a habeas corpus petition stating that he had served his time and should be released. While that petition was pending, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed both of Brzowski’s original convictions. He was subsequently resentenced to the three-year term on the second case and the first case that resulted in the one-year term was nolle prosequi on July 22, 2015, as part of a plea deal.

At the new sentencing hearing, the State’s Attorney informed the court that Brzowski had served his time. The Court found he was due to be credited for 1,452 days time-served, which meant he had eight days to serve before his sentence was fully served.

Brzowski was returned to IDOC’s custody. In a counseling summary, defendant Brenda Sigler incorrectly indicated that Brzowski was received into IDOC custody on July 28, 2015, rather than the correct date of July 30, 2011.

A June 8, 2017, order from the Illinois Appellate Court determined that Brzowski was to be released immediately. However, he was not released until six weeks later, on July 20, 2017. To add insult to the injury, Brzowski spent 17 of those 24 months in segregation.

Brzowski, represented by Chicago-based attorneys Victor P. Henderson and Alexandra H. Hoffman, sued in federal court. He alleged violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, false imprisonment, and failure to intervene. A jury trial found Sigler liable. See: Brzowski v. Sigler, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 115054.

In addition to the jury award, on September 21, 2021, the court, in a separate ruling, awarded Brzowski $206,994 in attorneys’ fees, $4,487.30 in costs. See: Brzowski v. Sigler, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 179128 


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Related legal case

Brzowski v. Sigler