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Duebbert’s attorney responds to Belleville in malicious prosecution suit: Cops ‘played knowing part in conspiracy’

Federal Court

By Record News | Sep 6, 2019


EAST ST. LOUIS – Circuit Judge Ron Duebbert denied that he needed to sharpen his malicious prosecution complaint in U.S. district court, but he sharpened it anyway. 

Attorney Michael Lawder of St. Louis delivered Duebbert’s point on Sept. 3, in opposing a motion from Belleville police for a more definite statement. 

Lawder wrote that the complaint very specifically detailed the actions of detectives Daniel Collins and Timothy Crimm. 

“In plain words, those allegations state that they made up evidence and they did not follow standard procedure because this was pure and simple a heinous act of making up evidence and using the machinery of the state to destroy an innocent man in the interest of preserving the political status quo,” Lawder wrote.

“They, along with the other defendants in this case, played a knowing part in this conspiracy.

“As to where and when and how Collins and Crimm participated in those actions, that is something that discovery will show in even more detail.” 

He also wrote that Belleville should have filed a motion to dismiss the complaint as other defendants have done. 

Motions to dismiss that have been filed include an argument that Duebbert suffered no harm because he didn’t go to jail or to trial. 

Last year, the state dismissed two felony counts and two misdemeanor counts against Duebbert, after complaining witness Carlos Rodriguez chose not to testify. 

Duebbert filed suit in July, seeking $10 million for malicious prosecution, violation of due process, conspiracy, and intentional infliction of distress. 

Defendants include St. Clair County and former state’s attorney Brendan Kelly, the current state police director. 

He also sued Belleville and detectives Collins and Crimm, special prosecutor Lorinda Lamken-Finnell, her supervisor David Robinson, and the state agency that employs them. 

Rodriguez, a client from Duebbert’s past criminal defense practice, had signed an affidavit stating Duebbert sexually abused him which led to the charges. He’s also named as a defendant. 

Duebbert sued lawyer Alex Enyart, who represented Rodriguez when he signed the affidavit. 

The lawsuit claims that all defendants withheld evidence, suborned perjury, and coerced witnesses to produce false evidence. 

All three Southern District judges recused themselves, and Chief Judge Diane Wood of the Seventh Circuit assigned Senior Central District Judge Richard Mills. 

The suit drew a first response on Aug. 21, when Belleville counsel Julie Bruch of Northbrook moved for a more definite statement. 

She wrote that Duebbert made a conclusory allegation that Collins and Crimm knew the information in the affidavit was false.  She also wrote that he alleged that text messages between Enyart and a prosecutor showed exculpatory facts that were withheld from him – but that there were no allegations that Collins and Crimm were parties to the texts or aware of them. 

On Aug. 22, special assistant attorney general Karen McNaught of Springfield moved to dismiss Lamken-Finnell and Robinson. 

McNaught claimed they acted on probable cause. 

“Probable cause does not depend on the actual facts of the case or the guilt or innocence of the accused, but on the honest and reasonable belief of the one commencing the prosecution,” she wrote. 

On Sept. 3, St. Clair County and Kelly, represented by Garrett Hoerner of Belleville, moved to dismiss the complaint. 

“The existence of probable cause is a complete defense to a malicious prosecution suit,” Hoerner wrote. 

He wrote that fabricated evidence doesn’t support a due process violation unless and until it is introduced at trial. He also wrote that an officer who manufactures evidence violates due process if the evidence is used to deprive the defendant of liberty in some way. 

The Supreme Court’s Brady decision, requiring prosecutors to provide exculpatory evidence to defendants, doesn’t apply, he wrote. 

“Because no trial occurred in this case, there was no Brady violation,” Hoerner wrote. 

He wrote that Kelly is entitled to immunity, whether absolute or qualified, and that Duebbert failed to assert any plausible liability on Kelly’s part exceeding his scope of employment. 

On the same date, on behalf of Enyart, A. J. Bronsky of St. Louis moved to dismiss the complaint. 

He claimed Duebbert’s acquittal foreclosed any due process claim. 

“All that is alleged is that police and prosecutors did their job in accepting the statements of Carlos Rodriguez,” Bronsky wrote. 

“Accidental, inadvertent, or negligent participation in a common scheme does not amount to conspiracy. 

“Likewise, the innocent performance of an act that fortuitously furthers the tortious purpose of another is not actionable under the theory of conspiracy. 

“Mr. Enyart was not in a position of power or authority relative to plaintiff Duebbert. 

“A person will not be liable where he has done nothing more than demand legal rights in a permissible way.” 

He wrote that Enyart exercised a right and duty to report a client’s complaints. 

“There is nothing outrageous in that activity,” Bronsky wrote. 

On the same date, Mills offered Duebbert options to respond to Belleville’s motion for a more definite statement, or file a statement, or amend the complaint. 

Lawder opposed the motion on the same date, writing that the complaint was 27 pages long, very factual, and detailed. 

He quoted allegations in the complaint that Collins and Crimm were personally involved in directing or consenting to fabrication of evidence as well as suppression of exculpatory evidence. 

“Thus, it is clear what both detectives are being accused of in this case,” Lawder wrote. 

“Discovery will certainly flesh out the specifics as to how certain entities were used to systematically accost plaintiff by using the machinery of the local police and prosecutors to do same which, if proven, certainly constitutes a compensable constitutional violation of Judge Duebbert’s rights.” 

Rodriguez, representing himself, moved to dismiss the complaint on Sept. 5. 

He neither admitted nor denied most allegations and demanding strict proof. 

He offered no argument.

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