Trial under way in Alton library director's case against Madison County Sheriff's Department

Christina Stueve Oct. 31, 2011, 2:20pm


Jeffrey Owen, the executive director of the Hayner Public Library System in Alton, testified in court Monday that he was shocked when deputies of the Madison County Sheriff's Department arrived at his home in Godfrey to seize his cousin's daughter in October 2008.

It was a typical Sunday night, his attorney Jarrod Beasley explained during opening arguments of a trial between Owen and deputy Timothy Mudd, other deputies and Madison County Sheriff Robert Hertz.

Owen is seeking damages in excess of $300,000 and costs for injuries he claims to have suffered when deputies arrived at his home to take custody of his cousin's 15-year-old daughter, Maggie, to give custody to the child's father.

The child's mother was in jail at the time, according to testimony.

Beasley said that deputies told Owen, "We're here to take Maggie."

He said that Owen asked if the transfer of Maggie from his house to Maggie's father could wait, since Maggie had already showered and made herself ready for bed.

Owen also said he put his hands forward "like, 'whoa, wait a minute'," and described it as "one of those whirlwind times," according to Beasley.

Owen, 53, testified that Mudd kicked him and told him to "get his hands behind his back."

He said he tried to tell the sheriff's deputy he could not put his hands behind his back, due to a birth defect, known as Thoracic Outlet Compression Syndrome.

Mudd came into the house without a warrant, Beasley said.

"It was shocking to Jeff," Beasley said. "Jeff said Mudd rushed him.

"Mudd put Jeff's hands in a position where they could not go."

Mudd punched and kicked Owen "a couple of times," Beasley told jurors.

"Jeff said 'I can't put my hands behind my back'," Beasley said.

Beasley said his client's injuries required surgery.

Defense attorney John Gilbert told the jury when two Madison County deputies arrived at Owen's home on the night of the incident, they were trying to do their job, but Owen interfered.

"What could have been a simple check on a 15-year-old girl and transfer to her father turned out to be a complete train wreck for which Jeff Owen was the conductor," Gilbert said.

"What you will see is how it could have gone better. These guys had to make a split second decision," he explained.

"When Maggie's dad found his daughter was in Jeff's custody, he wanted to pick up his daughter," Gilbert said.

Maggie's father had a valid custody order and wanted the sheriff's department to accompany him when he picked her up, according to Gilbert.

"No one disputes that Jeff has thoracic outlet compression syndrome," Gilbert said. "He didn't tell officers about his condition."

Gilbert explained that the deputies would say they did not hear Owen say he could not put his arms behind his back.

Gilbert closed his opening arguments by explaining that there was no unlawful entry, and excessive force was not used.

"I will come back and ask you for a verdict in favor of Timothy Mudd," he said.

The case is Madison County Case Number 09-L-522.

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