Crime & Courts

Judge rejects adding ex-Joliet police chief, others to officer’s revenge porn lawsuit

A federal judge denied a motion from a Joliet police officer’s attorney to file a new lawsuit with additional defendants – including a former police chief – in an ongoing case concerning allegations of revenge porn.

On Monday, U.S. Judge Jorge Alonso issued a ruling that denied a request from Officer Cassandra Socha’s attorney, Hall Adams, to amend Socha’s 2018 lawsuit against the city of Joliet and Detective Edward Grizzle.

Socha’s suit originally alleged Grizzle “trawled” her cellphone while looking for evidence related to the trial of her fiancé, Officer Nicholas Crowley. She alleged “private, still and/or video-graphic images” of her and Crowley engaged in sex acts were discovered in the search and shared with other officers.

On July 22, Adams filed a motion to add former Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner, Detective Donald McKinney and former Officer Phillip Bergner as defendants in the case.

Adams’ proposed lawsuit accused Roechner of directing Bergner to dispose of his phone and said that Bergner did so “knowing that Roechner’s phone contained information [i.e., the private images] having potential relevance” to Socha’s claims.

However, Alonso denied Adams’ motion to file that lawsuit. Alonso said Socha’s “eleventh-hour request to amend would cause undue prejudice to the current parties, the new litigants and the court system in general.”

Alonso said attorneys for the City of Joliet presented “compelling evidence” that Socha and Adams — or at least Adams — knew of “these potential defendants and their alleged conduct well prior to the motion for leave to amend.”

Alonso said Socha had “ample time” to amend her pleadings before the fact discovery deadline and already amended her lawsuit at least once before.

Alonso said granting Adams’ request for another amended lawsuit “would effectively reset this case to the beginning stages of discovery.”

“Plaintiff’s request came only eight days before fact discovery was set to close,” Alonso said. “With the fact discovery deadline looming so close, it is implausible that no prejudice would result by allowing these amendments at such a late hour.”

Adams said on Wednesday that it was “disappointing we didn’t get the relief we sought.”

“It’s disappointing because it enables two individuals to avoid personal liability for misconduct that was described to us as being very intentional in nature,” Adams said, later clarifying those individuals were Roechner and Bergner.

Adams said discovery will resume in the case.

Adams’ July 22 motion claimed Detective Shawn Stachelski confirmed Bergner “admitted [to her at least]” that Bergner disposed of Roechner’s phone at his direction after Roechner was aware of a forensic investigation of city-issued electronic devices, which might have contained Socha’s private images.

Roechner said he actually surrendered his cellphone and that it was examined.

“My cellphone was taken and searched by the FBI,” Roechner said.

Darcy Proctor, an outside attorney for Joliet, objected to Adams’ motion by arguing that the new allegations “have been known to the plaintiff long before the present time” and there was no justifiable reason for having waited until recently to bring in new parties.