Sheriff's deputy prevails in personal injury trial

Christina Stueve Nov. 2, 2011, 4:34pm




Jurors found Madison County Deputy Timothy Mudd not negligent in a civil lawsuit that accused him of injuring Godfrey resident Jeffrey Owen during an arrest in October 2008.

The jury's decision came after a three-day trial in Madison County Associate Judge Tom Chapman's court.

Owen had sought damages of $200,000 for injuries he claimed to have suffered when deputies came to his home to take custody of his cousin Debbie Frakes' 15-year-old daughter, Maggie, and transfer the child to her father, Mark Frakes.

Owen is the executive director of the Hayner Public Library System in Alton.

Mudd and his attorneys, John Gilbert and Heidi Eckert of Hinshaw Culbertson in Belleville, smiled and congratulated each other when they heard the verdict, while Owen, his family and his attorneys silently left the courtroom.

"We believe the jury decided the case correctly, and in this case, justice was served," Gilbert said. "I think the jury's verdict vindicated the deputy, who was in a very difficult situation and rightfully so."

Madison County Sheriff Robert Hertz was present for a portion of the trial.

"I'm satisfied and pleased with the verdict," Hertz said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. "It's unfair that we have to go through all this, but it shows that law enforcement does the right thing. At times we have to make a split second decision on behalf of people we serve. In this case it was nice that there were 12 people that agreed with our position on this."

Mudd was the last person on the witness stand before attorneys made closing arguments.

He testified that on Oct., 18, 2008, the sheriff's department received a call to meet with Mark Frakes, who advised deputies his ex-wife was arrested for domestic battery involving her daughter, Maggie.

Mark Frakes wanted his daughter as he had joint custody of Maggie, Mudd testified.

"Mark Frakes received information (that) Mr. Owen wasn't a very decent guy," Mudd said during direct examination by Gilbert.

Deputies then responded to Owen's home. Deputy Ben Martin knocked on the door. Owen answered, and deputies told Owen that Mark Frakes indicated he had joint custody of the girl. Officers told Owen they needed to check on her welfare, according to Mudd.

Owen also told deputies he would have to contact Debbie Frakes and that he would have to call a lawyer, Mudd told the court.

"I kept trying to tell him to let us go talk to Maggie and check on her welfare," Mudd said.

"The father wanted his daughter back," Mudd said.

Mudd testified that Owen took his hands and pushed him.

Mudd said he performed one knee strike to Owen, who fell and kept trying to get away. Owen's mother, who was at the scene, said, "'Jeff, just do what they told you'," according to Mudd.

Mudd testified that he had asked the girl if she had a problem going with her father.

"She said 'no'," Mudd said.

During closing arguments, Owen's attorney, Jarrod Beasley of Belleville, asked the jury if they thought it was possible for Owen to push Mudd.

"This is a man who has to take his pants off to put his belt on," Beasley said. "Do you think a man like that could push Deputy Mudd?"

Beasley said that visitation was a right that Mark Frakes had not exercised in three years.

"The defense will get up and tell you that police have a difficult job, and they do," Beasley said.

Beasley described Mark Frakes as a "guy who wanted to twist his knife in his ex-wife. He saw this as an opportunity to go over and cause trouble."

Owen wanted to call Debbie Frakes before turning Maggie over to Mark, Beasley said. Owen also wanted to call an attorney.

Beasley told jurors the deputies came barreling into the house. Mudd knee-struck Owen and took him to the ground, he said.

Owen had testified that during the arrest he was required to put his arms in a position which exacerbated a medical condition.

"This testimony of Deputy Mudd doesn't even pass the sniff test," Beasley told jurors. "Jeff and his mother told Deputy Mudd about his condition. Deputy Mudd was angry, and Jeff was made to pay," Beasley said.

"We put our trust in people like Deputy Mudd. He abused his power that night and acted like a madman.

"We ask that Deputy Mudd be made to pay for what damages he caused. I'm not asking for millions of dollars. We have suffering. We have Jeff going to jail. What is that worth?"

Madison County Case Number 09-L-522.

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