Ex-police chief Donald Grady’s civil rights lawsuit against NIU moving forward

Donald Grady scored a legal victory Friday in his federal civil rights lawsuit against officials at Northern Illinois University, where he worked as police chief for more than 11 years before his firing in February 2013.

In a separate matter, Grady also said that some evidence he was accused of hiding in an investigation into rape charges against one of his officers was actually known to the defense for months.

In U.S. District Court in Chicago, federal Judge Harry D. Leinenweber denied a request to dismiss Grady’s lawsuit against several current and former NIU officials, whom Grady claims violated his civil rights by firing him without due process and treating Grady, a black man, differently than white NIU employees who were named in the investigation into the off-the-books “coffee fund.”

Grady also claims his firing was retaliation for his investigation into the coffee fund.

The lawsuit seeks Grady’s reinstatement with back pay and a public apology. Grady earned more than $205,000 a year as NIU’s police chief. Leinenweber dismissed Grady’s claims against NIU Vice President for Administration Steven Cunningham as well as NIU Vice President and General Counsel Jerry Blakemore.

Most of Grady’s other claims against former President John Peters, former Vice President Bill Nicklas, the NIU Board of Trustees and others were allowed to stand, with the judge finding that Grady’s allegations met the minimum requirements to proceed.

Grady was placed on paid leave in November 2012, not long after it came to light in DeKalb County Court that witness statements that could have helped former NIU police officer Andrew Rifkin defend himself against rape charges had not been turned over to prosecutors. The witnesses, two students who knew the victim, spoke to Grady first, and administrators reasoned he should have known they were not shared.

Charges against Rifkin were dropped, then reinstated. Rifkin has pleaded not guilty, and filed his own federal lawsuit against NIU’s Board of Trustees, Grady, and others. But in a filing in a Rockford federal court this week, Grady points out that Rifkin has acknowledged that he had those statements months before it came up in court.

“Rifkin’s amended response also acknowledges for the first time that, by Jan. 6, 2012 – only two weeks after he was first indicted – Rifkin had already acquired the two witness statements that Grady is alleged to have concealed,” Grady’s filing states.  “Rifkin does not even attempt to dispute that, for nearly 10 months after he acquired these ostensibly ‘exculpatory’ statements, he failed make any use of them to seek dismissal of the indictment.”