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Wednesday, March 14, 2007 12:46 am

Payback

Man who beat cocaine rap sues the city; whistleblower’s case survives

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Charges against Larry Washington were dismissed in January.
PHOTO BY DUSTY RHODES
Untitled Document A man described by law-enforcement officials as one of the city’s biggest drug dealers says in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday that police conspired to violate his constitutional rights. Larry Washington wants the city and six other defendants, including former Springfield Police Department detectives Jim Graham and Paul Carpenter, to pay $3.65 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Washington, arrested in March 2005 on charges of cocaine possession, always maintained his innocence, claiming that he had been framed.
Last month, after State’s Attorney John Schmidt dropped all charges against him, Washington met with the Rev. Jesse Jackson in Chicago and retained attorney Tamara Holder, who works with Jackson’s RainbowPUSH Coalition. The civil-rights leader gave Washington a sympathetic hearing. “The basic thing is that we all deserve equal protection under the law,” Jackson tells Illinois Times. 
“We’re all innocent until proven guilty. It seems in this case that police overreached — and it will be resolved in a court of law just the way it should be.”
Washington’s lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal problems for the city that stem from Carpenter and Graham’s actions. A federal judge last week rejected the city’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit by former officer Ron Vose, who claims that police management retaliated against him for blowing the whistle on the two detectives. Vose, former head of the SPD narcotics unit, prepared a detailed memo in early 2005 that outlined problems with searches conducted by Carpenter and Graham, specifically the use of “trash rips,” in which police sift through a suspect’s garbage to find evidence of illegal (usually drug-related) activity and use that evidence to obtain a search warrant. A few weeks after Vose submitted his memo, Graham and Carpenter performed a trash rip at Washington’s residence at 1429 Guemes Court and found plastic bags that field-tested positive for cocaine residue, according to the affidavit Graham submitted to a judge. However, when the Illinois State Police crime lab tested the plastic bags the detectives said they had found in Washington’s trash, no drug residue was found. Without that evidence, the detectives had no right to search Washington’s home [see “Springfield’s worst nightmare,” Feb. 15]. Washington’s complaint contains four counts: conspiracy and false arrest allegations involving the search warrant, an additional count of false arrest against the now-retired Lt. Rickey Davis — who, in May 2006, had Washington rearrested for “harassing” him at Gold’s Gym — and a claim against the city and the detectives’ supervisors, Davis and Deputy Chief William Rouse, for maintaining a “practice and policy” that allowed certain detectives to “operate as rogue police officers.” The suit was filed on behalf of Washington and Jennifer Jenkins, a woman who was living with Washington at the time of his arrest. Holder’s co-counsel in the lawsuit is Greg Kulis, who was part of a legal team that won a $9 million settlement from the city of Chicago in January 2006 for LaFonso Rollins, who spent 11 years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence. Detectives Steve Welsh and J.T. Wooldridge are also named as defendants. The officers all participated in the execution or planning of the raid on Washington’s home, and are sued individually. City officials contacted Wednesday declined to comment on the case, saying they had not yet seen Washington’s complaint. Attorneys for the city learned last week that their motion to dismiss Vose’s lawsuit against Chief Don Kliment and Rouse had been denied by U.S. District Judge Jeanne Scott. The ruling indicates only that if all the facts alleged in Vose’s complaint are true, and the complaint is viewed from a perspective most favorable to Vose, he has a legitimate cause for action. The city had raised four separate issues. The first argued that Vose’s complaints about Carpenter and Graham — detailed in a 20-page memo he submitted to Kliment in February 2005 — could not be classified as protected speech because, as a sergeant, he was duty-bound to report wrongdoing by subordinates. Scott ruled that Vose’s allegations concerning the two detectives were not “squarely within [his] official duties.”
The city also argued that Vose didn’t suffer significant adverse employment action as a result of his complaint. Scott ruled that “even minor harassment” could deter the exercise of First Amendment rights. She also rebuffed the city’s argument that Vose failed to adequately allege a claim for constructive discharge. The city also argued that Kliment and Rouse are entitled to qualified immunity. Scott rejected that idea as well, though the city has the right to appeal her decision.

Contact Dusty Rhodes at drhodes@illinoistimes.com.
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