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Coleman v. City of Peoria, May, 2019

Appeals Court Clears Peoria Police of Wrongdoing in Reverse Conviction Lawsuit
Court Knocks Down Claims that Police Violated Peoria man’s Rights in 1994 Home Invasion case.

On May 24, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit put to rest Christopher Coleman’s claims that four former Peoria police officers deprived him of a fair criminal trial in 1995. Coleman asserted the four officers manipulated evidence of his involvement in a brutal 1994 home invasion, when Peoria police were investigating a rash of similar crimes which had occurred around the same time. The three judge federal appellate court panel found that the testimony of two victims who identified Coleman as the ringleader of a group of teenagers who broke into and ransacked their home in the early morning hours of August 22, 1994, supported a Peoria County jury’s verdict that Coleman was guilty of home invasion, armed robbery and aggravated sexual assault, for which he was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

In 2013, Coleman’s conviction was reversed by the Illinois Supreme Court and he was freed after Coleman’s brother and four other men came forward to claim responsibility for the crimes. Once he was released Coleman filed a civil law suit against the City of Peoria and the four former officers who investigated the home invasion, claiming they withheld and fabricated evidence that prevented Coleman from receiving a fair criminal trial. Coleman was seeking millions of dollars in damages from the City and the police officers for the nearly 20 years he spent in prison.

In 2018, after years of civil discovery and depositions, Chief Federal District Court Judge Sara Darrow rejected all of Coleman’s claims, finding that he had not demonstrated the officers engaged in any conduct that interfered with Coleman receiving a fair trial on the criminal charges.

In affirming Judge Darrow’s ruling, Appellate Court Judge Michael B. Brennan emphasized that "a vacated criminal conviction does not automatically establish that an individual’s constitutional rights were violated, or that police officers and prosecutors are necessarily [civilly liable]". In response to the court decision, City Manager Patrick Urich stated that "the City is both pleased and relieved by the Court’s recognition that the Peoria officers did not violate Coleman’s rights". Urich noted that "reverse conviction lawsuits place millions of taxpayer dollars at risk and it is critical that non-meritorious cases such as Coleman’s be weeded out before trial so that those funds remain available for important City services, programs, and projects". One of the officers’ attorneys, Jim Sotos of the Sotos Law Firm, added that he too was "pleased that, after four years of hard fought litigation, the City and its officers have again been vindicated from allegations that they violated Coleman’s constitutional rights". Coleman was represented in the case by the Chicago law firm of Loevy and Loevy.

The appellate case is Coleman v. City of Peoria, et al, Case No. 18-1742, and was argued by Laura Ranum, senior associate with The Sotos Law firm, on February 22, 2019 before Judges Brennan, Daniel A. Manion and Kenneth F. Ripple.

Cole v. Meeks, Trial Win April 2019

After deliberating for just two hours, a Peoria County jury found in favor of retired City of Peoria detective Shawn Meeks on a claim that he maliciously prosecuted Steven Cole on charges of predatory criminal sexual assault. Cole was convicted in 2012 of sexually abusing a 20-month-old girl after a joint police and DCFS investigation revealed that the toddler’s mother discovered significant injuries to her daughter the morning after Cole and his wife babysat the child. Cole was freed in 2015 when his conviction was reversed by the Illinois Appellate Court. Cole’s suit originally alleged he was wrongfully convicted as well as maliciously prosecuted but the federal wrongful conviction claims were dismissed by Federal District Judge Michael M. Mihm before trial. The City of Peoria and retired Peoria Police Detective Shawn Meeks were represented at trial by Jim Sotos, John Timbo, Laura Ranum and Dan McGinnis.

Coleman v. City of Peoria, Summary Judgment on Wrongful Conviction March 2018

On March 9, 2018, Federal District Judge Sara Darrow granted summary judgment in favor of the City of Peoria and four retired Peoria police officers on claims that they wrongfully prosecuted and convicted Christopher Coleman for his role in a 1994 home invasion and armed robbery. Coleman had alleged several federal and state law claims against the officers and a Monell practice and policy claim against the City itself. The City and its officers were represented by Jim Sotos, Laura Ranum and Sara Schroeder.

Milliman v. County of McHenry July, 2017 & June 2018

Milliman v. County of McHenry, July 2017 - 2017 WL 3334860 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 4, 2017)
Seventh Circuit Appeal, June 2018 - 893 F.3d 422 (7th Cir. 2018)

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of the County of McHenry and several Sheriff’s officers on a former deputy sheriff’s claim that they violated his First Amendment right of free speech. The Plaintiff had claimed he was terminated him from his employment for testifying in another lawsuit that the Sheriff was engaging in criminal activity, including ticket fixing, bribery, trafficking of illegal aliens, and soliciting the murder of a former judge. The Seventh Circuit agreed that the termination was proper because the Sheriff justifiably relied on a psychologist’s finding that Plaintiff’s bizarre accusations rendered him unfit for duty.

McHenry County was represented by Attorneys Jim Sotos, Jeff Given and Dave Brueggen.

Milliman v. County of McHenry July, 2017

Plaintiff alleged that the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office violated his First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of association when he was terminated from his employment as a Sheriff’s deputy. Plaintiff’s termination was in response to a finding of unfitness for duty following Plaintiff’s allegations that the former McHenry County Sheriff was engaging in criminal activity, including ticket fixing, bribery, trafficking of illegal aliens, and soliciting the murder of a former judge. Defendants filed a successful motion for summary judgment arguing the McHenry County Sheriff was justified in terminating Plaintiff in reliance on the findings of a licensed clinical psychologist that Plaintiff was not fit for duty. McHenry County was represented by Attorney Jeffrey N. Given.

Adams v. Village of Olympia Fields March, 2017

Plaintiff alleged that two Olympia Fields officers falsely arrested him and used excessive force during the course of an arrest after Plaintiff was involved in an on street confrontation with someone who had accused Plaintiff of stealing lawn chairs from him. Independent witnesses were immediately interviewed, who corroborated the officers' statements that Plaintiff had attempted to grab a hand axe from the front seat of his vehicle after the officers ordered Plaintiff to stay away from his vehicle while they conducted their initial investigation. Threatened with sanctions for filing a frivolous complaint, Plaintiff's counsel withdrew from the case and the Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed his claims before Defendants were required to answer the complaint. The Village of Olympia Fields was represented by Attorney John J. Timbo.

Kondrat v. Village of Westchester January, 2017

Plaintiff alleged that he was arrested with the use of excessive force by several Village of Westchester police officers after Plaintiff admittedly led them on a foot chase. The officers were called to Plaintiff's residence to investigate a domestic disturbance, and fled from one of the arresting officers after being placed in handcuffs. Plaintiff alleged that after he was arrested one or more officers kicked him in his torso, fracturing two ribs. Plaintiff made an initial demand of $75,000, but was forced to accept a nuisance value settlement of $1500 before Defendants had to respond to the complaint after two witnesses were located who confirmed that Plaintiff fell over a five foot high fence onto his side during the foot chase. The Village of Westchester was represented by Attorney John J. Timbo.

'Firm Wins Excessive Force Case Involving SWAT Team's Use of a "Flash Bang" Grenade (October 31, 2014)

A federal jury found two members of the Chicago Police Department's SWAT Team did not violate Plaintiff Donna Flournoy's Fourth Amendment rights during the execution of a "high risk" search warrant at the residence of Plaintiff's son, Tony Walker. Plaintiff suffered a massive and permanent blast injury to her knee after rolling on top of a "flash bang" diversionary device tossed inside the residence by one of the Defendants as the SWAT Team was making entry. The Plaintiff asked the jury to assess $3,000,000 in compensatory and punitive damages against the officers. The case was presided over by Judge William Hart. Flournoy v. Quinn, 09 C 7159, United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois.

The case was tried by Jim Sotos, John Timbo and Jordan Lejcar.'

Jury Rejects False Arrest and Excessive Claims After Foot Pursuit (February 3, 2011)

A federal jury rejected Willie Livingston's claim that he was falsely arrested after Chicago Police Officers chased him and allegedly threw him into a metal fence. The jury also found the officers not guilty of excessive force in connection with the orbital fracture Mr. Livingston received when he slipped and hit the corner of the fence during the pursuit. The case was presided over by the Honorable Judge Amy St. Eve. Livingston v. McDevitt, No. 09 C 7725, United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois.

The case was tried by an attorney at The Sotos Law Firm, P.C.

Firm Wins Malicious Prosecution Case.

"Cops didn't frame former death row inmate, jury says." Daily Herald, 8/20/09

After a two week trial and nearly five hours of deliberation, a jury concluded that McHenry County Undersheriff Gene Lowery and retired Detectives Beverly Hendle and Christopher Pandre were not guilty of maliciously prosecuting Gary Gauger for the 1993 murders of his parents. Gary Gauger had claimed that his confession to those crimes was coerced during an 18 hour interrogation. Gauger v. Hendle, No. 03 LA 292, Circuit Court of the 22nd Judicial Circuit, McHenry County, Illinois.

This case was tried by Jim Sotos, John Timbo and Jeff Given.

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The firm is led by James Sotos, who possesses over twenty-five years of experience representing public and private sector clients in federal and state litigation at the trial and appellate levels. During that time, Jim has distinguished himself as one of a handful of attorneys who has argued two cases in the United States Supreme Court, and he has achieved an enviable rate of success in the arena of Illinois governmental litigation. Jim enjoys Lexis-Nexis, Martindale-Hubbell's preeminent AV peer review rating and has been recognized both as an "Illinois Super Lawyer" by "Law and Politics" and the publishers of Chicago Magazine and as an Illinois Leading Lawyer by the Law Bulletin Publishing Company. Jim also lectures and publishes frequently on government liability and ethics and writes the weekly column "In Federal Courts" for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

Jeffrey N. Given

Jeff began his legal career at Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago where he engaged in commercial and constitutional litigation. Jeff left Kirkland to establish a successful entrepreneurial business before returning to the practice of law at the City of Chicago Law Department. Jeff served seven of his ten years at the Law Department as the Chief Assistant responsible for managing all aspects of the City's representation in litigation alleging misconduct by the Chicago Police Department. Jeff graduated cum laude from Indiana University Law School in Bloomington, Indiana in 1983. During law school, Jeff was selected for law review and was awarded the ABA Annual Award for best performances in Land Use and Local Government law courses. Jeff graduated cum laude with distinction in major from Carleton College in 1978 where he earned a bachelor's degree in American Studies.

Caroline Jamieson Golden

Before joining The Sotos Law Firm, Carrie was a partner at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg where she worked in the commercial litigation department for seven years. She also brings with her valuable experience from internships at the United States Attorney's Office, Northern District of Illinois and for the Honorable Ann C. Williams, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois. Carrie graduated from DePaul College of Law in Chicago, Illinois in 1992. While in law school, Carrie earned the prestigious position of DePaul Law Review Editor. Carrie's academic excellence in law school earned her membership in the Order of the Coif. She also received American Jurisprudence awards in Procedure and Evidence. Carrie graduated with honors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in Finance.


John has been representing the interests of law enforcement since 1994, when he started as a law clerk with the Office of the Legal Advisor for the Boston Police Department. John is a 1996 graduate of Suffolk University School of Law in Boston, Massachusetts, after having been accepted as a third year visiting student by Chicago-Kent College of Law. After graduation, John worked with Russell Hartigan & Associates in Chicago where he engaged in municipal, civil rights, and insurance defense, having successfully tried several cases to verdict. After working with two other attorneys from Hartigan & Associates for a short time in a start up firm, John joined Jim Sotos in 2000. John has been a regular presenter on liability risk issues for the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police since 2009, and recently lectured on the topic of recent trends in qualified immunity at the Illinois Midwest Police and Security Expo held in Peoria, Illinois in August, 2011. John is also a 1993 graduate of DePaul University College of Commerce, where he earned a bachelor's degree in Economics.