A federal judge dismissed a class action lawsuit, ruling that drivers are not allowed to sue an Illinois prosecutor’s “vigilante” police force.
The ruling states the motorists should have known about their civil rights claims before the illegal independent police unit was disband, reported Courthouse News Service.
Alyssa Larson filed a class action lawsuit last June in Chicago federal court against LaSalle County and its former State’s Attorney Brian Towne. Towne’s “vigilante police force” arrested dozens of people, targeting out-of-state vehicles, and illegally confiscated $1.7 million from drivers before the program was ruled illegal in 2017.
Towne formed the vigilante force in 2011 and called it the State’s Attorney Felony Enforcement, or SAFE, unit.
SAFE officers violated people’s constitutional rights in the pursuit of finding drugs on the interstates in LaSalle County. They focused particularly on I-80, which is the main road from Chicago to Colorado and California.
Towne was caught using $100,000 of the money illegally confiscated to fund his own travels to law enforcement conferences, including $17,000 per diem for travel expenses (aka-he stole $17,000 of the money police stole from people).
Towne’s vigilante force became highly controversial, and was suspended in 2015.
In their June 2017 lawsuit, motorists rightfully claim Towne had no authority to make traffic stops or drug arrests.
In a separate criminal action in July of 2017, the Illinois Supreme Court vacated Cara Ringland’s drug-trafficking conviction, after she was stopped by SAFE troops. The court also found the organization operated illegally.
Regardless of the state supreme court’s ruling, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve dismissed Larson’s class action against the county, saying she took too long to file the complaint, according to Courthouse News Service:
“Larson’s Section 1983 claims are time-barred,” St. Eve wrote in a 12-page ruling. “SAFE’s stop, seizure, and search of Larson and the car occurred sometime in October or November 2012. Larson knew (or should have known) then that the officers lacked probable cause or justification—as she claims, she had violated no ‘traffic, city, state, or federal law[s],’ yet the officers had put her in an unmarked vehicle, leaving her grandmother in her car, and without consent took a drug-sniffing dog around and into it.”
The judge did not care about Larson argument that she had no way to know SAFE had illegally stopped her until an Illinois appeals court ruled in Ringland’s favor.
“The complaint’s factual allegations affirmatively plead that Larson knew SAFE targeted out-of-staters and that her stop and search lacked suspicion or cause at the time the officers pulled her over,” St. Eve said. “Even if Ringland was Larson’s first indication that SAFE was not authorized to conduct traffic stops, the complaint does not allege that such illegitimate authorization gives rise to a constitutional injury.”