A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by a former La Salle County prosecutor who alleged malicious prosecution; however, Brian Towne and his attorney say he can and will refile some claims in state court.
Friday, Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman granted a motion to dismiss the case brought by Towne, state’s attorney from 2006 to 2016. Most of Towne’s counts were dismissed with prejudice, meaning that portion of the case is over, but a few counts were dismissed without prejudice, leaving Towne the option of trying his luck in a lower court.
Towne had been charged in La Salle County with official misconduct in 2017, a year after he was voted out of office. When the charges were dismissed in 2019 because of a speedy-trial rights violation, he sued successor Karen Donnelly, several assistant state’s attorneys and Ottawa police. Towne alleged that they collectively schemed to obtain criminal indictments “that were not supported by facts or the law.”
On Friday, however, Coleman threw out most of Towne’s allegations because the two-year statute of limitations had run out – Towne sued three years after being charged – and because Towne wasn’t jailed before trial, undercutting his claims that his civil liberties were curtailed.
But the judge did leave Towne a way to pursue four counts – malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, indemnification and conspiracy – in another venue. The judge dismissed those counts without prejudice, meaning Towne can file them in state court.
Towne’s attorney, Shawn Barnett, called the ruling, “disappointing but not unexpected.”
“We are still weighing our options with respect to appealing the federal dismissal order,” Barnett said. “We fully anticipate refiling Mr. Towne’s claims under Illinois law in state court in La Salle County. That will allow a La Salle County jury to weigh the evidence and weigh the determination as to whether the criminal charges against Mr. Towne were justified or whether, as we allege, they were motivated by animosity.”
Towne also issued a short statement.
“I was born and raised in La Salle County and I proudly served the people here for 25 years,” he said. “I am more than happy to get the opportunity to present our case to a La Salle County jury.”
Emails seeking comment were dispatched Sunday morning to three attorneys representing the eight individual defendants plus the city of Ottawa and County of La Salle. Chicago attorney Kevin Casey, who represents five defendants including Donnelly and the county, declined comment. There were no immediate replies from the remaining defense lawyers.