Lawsuit over county transit bus driver's sexual assault of passenger awaits ruling on elderly woman's competence

By Record News | Apr 23, 2019

BELLEVILLE – St. Clair County Transit District Bus driver Paul Rongey paid the state $1,917 for sexual assault on passenger Peggy Kachadorian, and now a lawsuit over the assault asks if anyone owes her anything.

First of all, a question remains open whether she understands her suit.

Southwestern Illinois College, one of many defendants, moved last year to find her incompetent and disqualify her as plaintiff.

Chief Circuit Judge Andrew Gleeson hasn’t ruled on the motion.

The Goldblatt and Singer firm in Clayton, Mo. filed the suit for Kachadorian in 2017.

The current roster of defendants includes St. Clair County Transit District, the county, transit district trustees, the college and its trustees, Golden Years Adult Support Center, and Rongey.

Rongey, now 67 years old, pleaded guilty of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a victim over age 60 in January 2018.

Current state’s attorney James Gomric represented him, and assistant state’s attorney Jason Emmanuel represented the state.

Emmanuel dismissed three other counts of an indictment.

Circuit Judge Zina Cruse, who presided over the case, wrote, “Defendant to register as sex offender for life…No contact with victim or any member of the victim’s family.”

She put him on probation for three years.

In the lawsuit, last Oct. 22, Southwestern Illinois College moved to quash a notice of a deposition of Kachadorian.

College counsel James Stiefbold of Chicago wrote that Kachadorian canceled an earlier deposition because the parties attempted mediation.

According to Stiefbold, mediation concluded without settlement when she refused to lower her demand below $5.75 million.

Stiefbold wrote that counsel kept the defense from deposing key witnesses and wanted to perfect her deposition, adding that allowing a deposition before defendants have conducted basic discovery would deny them the right of cross examination.

On Oct. 24, he moved to disqualify Kachadorian and appoint a guardian ad litem.

In Illinois, a witness is competent only if she has capacity to observe, recollect and communicate the matter, Stiefbold wrote, and prior to the alleged assault, Kachadorian was diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

He wrote that in 2013, treaters noted that she probably would not remember the appointment if asked the next day. They found she usually didn’t know the day of the week and could no longer shop independently.

He wrote that in 2015, treaters noted she was a poor historian. In 2016, they found she was no longer socially appropriate. At a deposition in 2017, she didn’t know the date or the year, her medications, or the names of her church and pastor.

He wrote that she didn’t know she filed a lawsuit or her attorney’s name.

Stiefbold requested appointment of a guardian ad litem.

Gleeson set a status conference March 27, but the parties moved to continue it. He set it for May 28.

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