Friday, October 21, 2005

RICO Count Lodged Against Stone Park Police Officers

CHICAGO, Oct. 20 /U.S. Newswire/ -- A RICO count - the statute used to charge mob figures - was added today to the lawsuit alleging that Stone Park police officers arrested at least nine men on bogus charges of solicitation of prostitution, and then charged them hundreds of dollars to get their impounded cars back.

"It's the same story, over and over again, from every single person," said Blake Horwitz, attorney for the nine current plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in federal court. On Thursday the lawsuit named seven more plaintiffs and added claims of conspiracy, due process violations, equal protection conversion and a RICO count to the existing counts of false arrest and malicious prosecution.

Typically, a man would pull into a car wash and a woman would approach him, saying things like she'd "do anything" and ask "how much would you give me." The man would rebuff her and drive off - then gets pulled over by police officers who impound his car without telling him what he's being ticketed for, only that he has to pay $500 plus storage fees to get his car back. Later the man gets a ticket for solicitation and is summoned to a quasi- criminal hearing.

"These men are falsely arrested and shaken down for hundreds of dollars," said Blake Horwitz, attorney for the nine plaintiffs. "Under cross examination in most cases the woman's story doesn't hold up. But some men are found liable anyway and suffer the threat of unjustly having their names published in the newspaper. Even those exonerated men still have to pay up to $500, cash, in impound fees."

Because the men are charged with a municipal violation instead of a criminal one, the village does not have to obey the rules of evidence and the burden of proof is much lower - the defendants are found 'liable' (not 'guilty') by a preponderance of the evidence instead of beyond a reasonable doubt. Every case relies solely on the word of Jenny Sanchez, an auxiliary police officer posing as a prostitute, and the hearings take place in the same building as the police department.

At least one plaintiff's car suffered damage while in impound, Horwitz said, and one plaintiff lost his job because the car that was impounded was his company's car.

"No one solicited this woman, yet they all still have to pay Stone Park to get their cars back," Horwitz said. "The village is relying on their embarrassment to keep this money-making scheme quiet, but I think they'll find that there are many falsely accused men out there who don't want to keep quiet any longer."

A press conference will be held Friday, Oct. 21, at noon at the Law Offices of Blake Horwitz, 155 N. Michigan Ave., 5th floor, Chicago IL.

Law Offices of Blake Horwitz, Blake Horwitz, 312-616-4433; email: lobh@att.net

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