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Hinkle v. White

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 7, 2014

JIMMY HINKLE, Plaintiff,
v.
RICK WHITE & THOMAS OLIVERIO, Defendants

For Jimmy L. Hinkle, Plaintiff: Greg E. Roosevelt, Roosevelt Law Office, Generally Admitted, Edwardsville, IL.

For Rick White, Thomas Oliverio, Defendants: Erik P. Lewis, Illinois Attorney General's Office - Springfield, Generally Admitted, Springfield, IL.

Page 1050

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

MICHAEL J. REAGAN, United States District Judge.

This § 1983 civil rights suit comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons explained below, the motion (Doc. 79) is granted.

Factual & Procedural Background[1]

After 26 years in the Illinois State Police (" ISP" ), Plaintiff Jimmy Hinkle retired in 2004. In 2006, he was elected Sheriff of Wayne County, Illinois. He ran for re-election, but lost the February 2010 primary and did not pursue running as an independent. In June 2010, Plaintiff's house burned down. His year went downhill from there.

In midsummer, Plaintiff's stepdaughter falsely accused him of sexually abusing her by rubbing chigger medicine on her clitoris. Defendant Rick White (an ISP investigator) pursued those allegations, occasionally with direction from (or at least with the knowledge of) his supervisor, Defendant Thomas Oliverio (then an ISP lieutenant).

Page 1051

White interviewed Plaintiff's stepdaughters. One, who also had chiggers treated by her stepfather on the day in question, immediately questioned the veracity of her sister's accusations.

Undaunted, White pursued the case. In several interviews, Plaintiff denied his stepdaughter's charges. The stepdaughter recanted her account multiple times, and an Illinois prosecutor declined to press charges against Plaintiff. (Doc. 89-8, 76). Over the course of the investigation, however, White improperly disclosed confidential information to people outside his chain of command, and made statements that Plaintiff molested his stepdaughter. White also told (or at least strongly hinted to) several people that Plaintiff had burned his own house down. Via White's dissemination of false information, the investigation (including the accusations against Plaintiff and the identity of his accuser) made its way into the public sphere: witnesses deponed they heard Plaintiff was a child molester through the " rumor mill" and at least one local newspaper.

Because unfounded allegations against him were publicized, Plaintiff maintains (and provides some evidence to support the assertion) that--in addition to the emotional trauma caused by White's defamation--he is unable to find supervisory work as a police officer.[2] Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, he filed this lawsuit in February 2012. After District Judge G. Patrick Murphy dismissed Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, a Second Amended Complaint was filed. (Doc. 33). The Second Amended Complaint survived a motion to dismiss ( see Doc. 43) and (upon Judge Murphy's retirement in December 2013) the case was transferred to the undersigned district judge.

Defendants brought the instant summary judgment motion in February 2014. It ripened in March. The motion raises numerous alternative arguments, including, inter alia, sufficiency of the evidence re: any stigma attached to Plaintiff, sufficiency of the evidence re: Defendants' dissemination of defamatory information, and qualified immunity. The Court need not reach those alternative arguments, however, because Defendants' primary point--that Plaintiff cannot show a ...


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