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Wednesday, June 14, 2006 09:56 pm

Pink-slip request

Former lieutenant asks court to order the firing of two ISP supervisors

Michale Callahan, ex-ISP lieutenant, wants two former supervisors discharged.
Michale Callahan, the former Illinois State Police lieutenant who sued his superiors in federal court and won, is now asking the Sangamon County Circuit Court to take action against two high-ranking ISP officials. On Wednesday, Callahan filed a mandamus petition asking the court to order Gov. Rod Blagojevich and ISP Director Larry Trent to fire Lt. Col. Diane Carper and Capt. Steve Fermon — the two supervisors a jury ruled had retaliated against Callahan after he sought to reopen an investigation into a 1986 Paris double homicide. The jury made its ruling April 28, awarding Callahan a total of $682,300 in punitive and compensatory damages. The federal judge later reduced the punitive portion from $472,300 to amounts proportional to the officers’ salaries — $100,000 from Fermon, $50,000 from Carper. Callahan’s petition is based on the state’s Employee Rights Violation Act — a state law mandating that any “policy making officer” of a state agency found to have violated the First or Fourteenth Amendment rights of an employee and assessed punitive damages “shall be immediately discharged from State employment.”
Neither Carper nor Fermon has been fired. In fact, Trent has publicly supported both officers, and Carper was recently promoted. Callahan wanted to reinvestigate the deaths of Dyke and Karen Rhoads, newlyweds who lived in Paris. Two men charged in their deaths — Randy Steidl and Herb Whitlock — have steadfastly proclaimed their innocence. Steidl was released from prison after a judge ruled in June 2003 that he probably would not have been convicted if a jury had heard all the evidence. Callahan’s attorney, John Baker, says the mandamus complaint was filed because state agencies that should have investigated Carper and Fermon have failed to do so. “Mike has raised these allegations that these two individuals, Carper and Fermon, have impeded a criminal investigation. To date, no state of Illinois entity has decided to investigate. No one. DII [ISP’s Division of Internal Investigations] won’t investigate, the inspector general won’t investigate, and the attorney general won’t investigate — despite that fact that all three are mandated to investigate and have said that they would investigate,” Baker says. As a result, the state’s stance seems to condone Carper’s and Fermon’s actions — a position Baker finds intolerable. “There’s gotta be some sort of real-world repercussions,” Baker says. Callahan has also filed a complaint with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission against ISP attorney Keith Jensen, alleging that he attempted to intimidate ISP officers who planned to testify on Callahan’s behalf in April 2005. In his complaint, Callahan claims Jensen called ISP Maj. Edie Casella a “broken woman” as he held the door for her to enter the courtroom to testify for Callahan and that he threatened to open an internal-affairs investigation against Capt. John Strohl. Jensen has filed a response denying all Callahan’s claims. Callahan’s response to Jensen’s denial includes an offer that Casella will take a polygraph examination to prove she’s telling the truth about Jensen. Jensen was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
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