Joliet police officer loses federal lawsuit against city, sergeant

Judge rules plaintiff’s evidence was lacking

A Joliet police officer’s lawsuit was dismissed after a judge found she lacked enough evidence to support her claims that her nude photos and sex videos were intentionally viewed by other officers and shared between them.

The photos and videos were on Officer Cassandra Socha’s cellphone, which was obtained by police for a 2018 investigation over allegations that she harassed a state witness in the trial against her husband, Joliet Police Officer Nicholas Crowley. No charges have ever been filed against Socha.

On Aug. 21, 2018, Socha filed a lawsuit against the City of Joliet, Sgt. Ed Grizzle, and 20 police department employees identified only as “John Does.”

Socha’s lawsuit alleged Grizzle “trawled” her cellphone during his investigation of alleged witness harassment. She alleged Grizzle found her nude photos, along with videos of her and Crowley engaged in sex acts. The lawsuit alleged those photos and videos were then displayed to other department employees and there were “John Does” who were allowed to “re-record” those photos and videos.

Following five years of numerous depositions and extensive discovery in the case, U.S. Judge Jorge Alonso delivered a ruling on Friday that granted a summary judgement from Grizzle and the City of Joliet to dismiss Socha’s claims.

The judge’s ruling means there is not enough evidence for Socha’s claims to allow the case to go to trial.

Joliet Police Officer Cassandra Socha, center, was sworn in to the department in 2014. Socha is suing the city, a police detective and 20 unidentified police officers. The lawsuit alleges the detective shared with the officers private images of Socha nude or engaged in sex acts.

Alonso ruled Socha presented no material evidence that Grizzle “saw any of Socha’s private images or videos, much less that he intentionally did so.”

Only two Joliet police detectives admitted to seeing a nude image of Socha on her phone and neither of them did so intentionally, according to Alonso’s ruling.

Alonso said one of the detectives saw the photo inadvertently while using the department’s cellphone analysis software to review investigative files. He alerted another detective and stopped reviewing more of Socha’s data, the judge said.

Alonso noted that Socha never pursued her claims against the 20 “John Does.”

Alonso said Socha acknowledged she lacked direct evidence that anyone at the department viewed any of her private images but she still maintained there was enough circumstantial evidence for a jury to conclude otherwise. Alonso disagreed, saying Socha offered nothing beyond inadmissible hearsay and speculation.

Socha unsuccessfully tried to sue former Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner in the case and claimed he also saw her private images. However, Alonso ruled that claim was based on hearsay and speculation.

Socha argued Grizzle’s application for the search warrant for her cellphone was overly broad and unconstitutional.

The search warrant was sought by Lorinda Lamken, the special prosecutor in Crowley’s trial over a charge of reckless discharge of a firearm. Will County Chief Judge Dan Kennedy found Crowley not guilty of the charge.

In an affidavit, Lamken said she learned a witness in the case had been sent a text message by Socha that she thought constituted witness harassment.

While Judge Dave Carlson did not sign the warrant, he said another judge could do so, according to Lamken’s affidavit. The judge who eventually signed the warrant was Sarah Jones.

Alonso ruled that Grizzle was entitled to qualified immunity and that Socha did not present legal authority clearing showing Grizzle’s application for that warrant was unconstitutional. Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that protects government officials from lawsuits unless they violated “clearly established” law, according to the Cornell Law School.