An East St. Louis man denies liability in a countersuit filed by former East St. Louis Democratic Party chairman Charlie Powell, who alleges the city contacted him about performing the emergency demolition of a building on St. Louis Avenue.
A status conference is scheduled in St. Clair County Associate Judge Chris Kolker’s courtroom for Sept. 17. A jury trial is set to begin Dec. 3.
Mark Gates filed the original complaint on Nov. 17, 2016, against Powell, doing business as Powell’s Demolition, and Robert Betts.
According to the complaint, Gates alleges he was the owner of a building located at 506 St. Louis Avenue in East St. Louis. He claims Powell caused a fire to start at an adjoining building in November 2014. He then allegedly falsely obtained a demolition permit issued by Betts and tore the structures down to take bricks and steel beams for resale.
Gates alleges the defendants demolished his building without his permission, depriving him of the value of his building.
Powell answered the complaint on June 4 through attorney Leah Captain of Cook, Bartholomew, Shevlin & Cook LLp in Belleville.
Powell denies liability and argues that Gates’ damages were caused by a nonparty and are barred by his own negligence.
The defendant also argues that the plaintiffs’ damages are a result of his failure to mitigate his damages
Powell filed a two-count counter complaint against Gates, arguing that he “did not identify himself as the owner of the building, but instead was contacted by the City in order to perform an emergency demolition of the said building at the request of the City.”
Powell argues that Gates wrongfully accused him of theft and fraud.
He also argues that Gates “either directly or indirectly caused the Belleville News Democrat to publish an article entitled ‘Ex-political boss denies suit’s claim that he’s an arsonist.’”
“Further, these statements were willfully and maliciously made with the intent to defame Charles Powell, including accusing him of committing the felony of arson, or at least participating in such arson.
“That as a direct and proximate result of the foregoing defamatory statements the defendant/counter-plaintiff Charles Powell has been caused to suffer serious injury to his reputation, has been caused great mental and physical anguish all to his damage in a sum in excess of $50,000,” the counter complaint states.
Powell’s counter complaint further states that “publishing a false article or statement claiming that a person is guilty of a felony is libel, per se, under the laws of the State of Illinois.”
Powell also alleges that Gates’ actions “are so egregious” that he should be awarded punitive damages “in order to punish the plaintiff/counter-defendant and to deter him and others from committing like offenses.”
Gates filed an answer to the counter complaint on July 30, representing himself pro se.
Gates denied liability, stating that he has no knowledge of Powell’s actions on how he obtained the demolition permit and no knowledge of the alleged defamatory article.
Gates also re-states that Powell took his brick and steel from the site.
St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 16-L-615