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Local News

Federal lawsuits brought by Joliet cops against department drag on

Federal lawsuits brought by Joliet officers against department drag on

Federal lawsuits filed by a retired Joliet police officer and two other officers still on the force continued to drag on, with one case encountering a legal setback.

Attorneys for retired officer Lionel Allen dropped him as a client after deciding they “cannot continue to ethically or effectively represent” him in his racial discrimination lawsuit against several police officials and the city, according to a court motion.

Officer Cassandra Socha’s lawsuit against the city of Joliet, Detective Edward Grizzle and 20 unidentified police department employees remains on hold while a special prosecutor conducts an investigation related to the case, according to court records.

In November, Detective David Jackson filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Joliet police Chief Al Roechner, Crest Hill police Chief Ed Clark, the city of Joliet and a bar owner. Responses to Jackson’s lawsuit have yet to be filed, but all parties are expected to file a joint status report by January.

In June 2018, Allen, who is black, filed a lawsuit that claimed he was retaliated against by former internal affairs Lt. Marc Reid for speaking out against another officer’s racism and that former police Chief Brian Benton promised not to fire him if he withdrew a complaint he sent to a federal agency.

Allen retired Aug. 8. while a recommendation from Roechner for him to be fired was pending before the Joliet Board of Fire and Police Commissioners for months.

A judge granted a motion from Allen’s attorneys, Julie Herrera and Steven Molitor, to withdraw from his case. Herrera declined to explain why they couldn’t “continue to ethically or effectively represent” Allen.

“There is nothing I can say about that,” Herrera said.

Allen did not return a call Friday.

Federal court records show Allen has “decided to litigate this case” himself and that he “wishes to proceed with a settlement conference with or without attorney representation.”

Since March, the discovery in Socha’s lawsuit has been suspended after a judge received notice of a prosecutorial decision that may affect the case, according to court records.

Socha’s lawsuit claimed Grizzle trawled her cellphone while looking for evidence related to an investigation of harassment or intimidation through electronic communication. Her lawsuit alleged sexual photos of her and her fiancé, fellow Joliet police officer Nicholas Crowley, were accessed by Grizzle and shared with other department employees.

Socha’s attorney, Hall Adams, said the case was put on hold as special prosecutor Lorinda Lamken possibly investigates either his client’s conduct or the conduct of the defendants. Lamken unsuccessfully prosecuted a criminal case against Crowley where Socha was a witness.

Hall said he’s not clear what the investigation is about.

“It’s a peculiar place for a civil litigant to be in,” he said.

A message to Lamken was not returned Friday.

Hall filed a motion to have the suspension lifted. A judge will hold a hearing on the motion Dec. 17.

Jackson, who is black, has claimed in his lawsuit that his domestic battery charge from March was retaliation from Joliet police officials after he advocated for the due process rights of Allen and questioned the integrity of the department’s internal investigation of him.

“Jackson suffered years of abuse and retaliation at the hands of his superiors and fellow officers,” according to the lawsuit.

Joliet police Sgt. Christopher Botzum has said the department cannot comment on pending litigation.

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