The Fifth District Appellate Court has upheld a Madison County court finding that Alton homeowner Jacqueline Lumpkins, who was accused of maintaining a property used by a local gang, is liable for damages.
According to background information in the June 1 ruling, Alton police had received over 27 calls to the residence between 2009 and 2014 for reports of disturbances including drugs, guns and first-degree murder, all done 150 feet from a local elementary school.
The name of the gang identified in the ruling was "Flyboyz."
In March 2014, a notice was served to Lumpkins outlining multiple violations that had occurred on the property and informing her that further violations would subject the property to forfeiture. The state sought compensatory damages of more than $50,000, including attorney fees and punitive damages.
Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder ordered Lumpkins to pay $57,819.95 in compensatory damages.
The state also sought an injunctive order prohibiting the defendant from using the residence for a one-year period beginning Sept. 29, 2015.
Lumpkins moved to appeal on that date, claiming she was unaware of the criminal activity because she was at work when it happened. She also claimed that she was not the owner and that she was not in control of the property until her mother died in 2015, but according to court documents, her name was on a deed to the house.
In 2016, Crowder partially granted the motion to vacate regarding the punitive damages and injunctive relief, finding that the severity of the monetary penalty and the injunction outweighed the hardship on the state in going to trial. Lumpkins' claim that she was at work during the criminal activity was found not credible; the trial court also found that Lumpkins had not presented any credible support and had failed to establish due diligence on her part for ignoring the proceedings.
Lumpkins appealed again, stating that the trial court abused its discretion in partially denying her motion to vacate.
Justice Thomas Welch, who authored the Rule 23 decision, wrote that the defendant did not have a credible defense because, despite being aware of the proceedings against her, Lumpkins made no effort to answer, appear at the hearing or offer any explanation for her lack of action in these proceedings. She also failed to present credible support for her claims. Welch agreed with the trial court that Lumpkins' claim that she was unaware of the criminal activity in her home was simply not credible.
The appellate court upheld the trial court decision that substantial justice was done by leaving the compensatory damages and attorney-fees award in place.
Welch wrote that the court's decision reflected a careful balance of the severity of the penalties to the defendant and the hardship on the state.