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Wednesday, April 22, 2009 01:01 am

Former cop sues Vermilion County prosecutor

Claims Playpen dancers were part of revenge plot

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David Lewis was accused of sex crimes against dancers at the now defunct Playpen.
PHOTO BY DUSTY RHODES

David Lewis, the former law enforcement officer who spent more than a year in the Vermilion County jail charged with 49 felonies, has hired a Springfield attorney to file suit against his accusers. Lewis had been indicted on charges ranging from official misconduct to criminal sexual assault and armed violence, but was released from jail after pleading guilty to two misdemeanors. All other charges were dismissed [see “Perversion of justice,” Aug. 14, 2008].

John Baker, the local attorney who has a track record of representing cops in successful suits against Illinois State Police, filed a complaint for Lewis in U.S. District Court in Urbana against former Vermilion County Assistant State’s Attorney Larry Mills, sheriff’s deputy Todd Damilano, and two businessmen associated with a strip club. The suit was filed on April 10, just before the statute of limitations expired.

Lewis claims that Mills and Damilano conspired with Scott Corrie, who owned the Belgium, Ill., strip club called the Playpen, to fabricate evidence, resulting in the felony charges against him. The indictments, including 17 Class X felony counts, were all based on the grand jury testimony of women who performed at or were associated with The Playpen and who said Lewis — then a part-time Belgium police officer who patrolled the club — had talked to them about sex or shown them a picture of his genitalia while wearing his uniform. One dancer, Danielle Perry, alleged in 2006 that Lewis had groped her during a traffic stop as she was leaving the club.

Lewis claims that in 2007, Corrie and investor Clint Gray asked the dancers to make accusations against him in retaliation for his role in a federal investigation of Mills, who was then a prosecutor with the Vermilion County State’s Attorney’s office. Mills has since been terminated.

According to Lewis’s complaint, “the FBI suspected that Mills was providing legal favors to street gangs in return for being supplied with drugs and sexual favors from the owners and employees at the Playpen Gentlemen’s Club,” and Lewis helped the FBI collect information on Mills.

Mills retaliated, according to Lewis’s complaint, by asking Corrie, Gray and Damilano to encourage dancers to report Lewis’s sexual advances. Their testimony before a grand jury led to Lewis’s indictment. He is claiming malicious prosecution and violation of his First Amendment rights, and seeking unspecified damages.

This case is not the only one Lewis faces in Urbana’s federal court. He has been sued by Perry and another woman, Aubrey White. White did not work at the club, but attended as a guest of Gray, who owned the sandwich shop where she worked. In her suit, White claims that Lewis approached her at the club and asked her to “stand outside and wait for me” after Gray took her home that night. She didn’t wait outside, but claims Lewis knocked on her door and instructed White’s mother to awaken her. Lewis then drove White “to a secluded area . . . where his conduct toward her caused her shock, mental anguish, mental injury and humiliation,” according to her complaint.

White had testified before the grand jury that on this occasion, Lewis had kissed her.

White and Perry both claim that Lewis violated their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, and Fifth Amendment right of liberty. Their lawsuits were originally filed separately, but have been consolidated for purposes of discovery. Both women originally named the Village of Belgium and its police chief as defendants, but those parties were dismissed. A jury trial is scheduled for August.

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