County may recover $500,000 in legal fees in Beaman case

By Edith Brady-Lunny, The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

June 24--BLOOMINGTON -- McLean County stands to recover about $500,000 spent on legal fees defending a federal lawsuit filed by Alan Beaman after his exoneration of murder charges in the 1993 death of Jennifer Lockmiller.

In his ruling, Macon County Circuit Judge A.G. Webber agreed with the county's position that State's Self-Insurers Risk Retention Group Inc. was obligated to cover legal costs above a $250,000 limit.

The total cost of defending the lawsuit that was dismissed in U.S. District Court in December amounted to about $750,000, according to county estimates. The $500,000, which included fees to the Itasca firm of James G. Soros and Associates, was paid out of the county's general fund.

Assistant State's Attorney Pablo Eves said Tuesday the ruling "again vindicates the position of the county, its employees and officials that no malicious prosecution ever took place."

The lawyer handling the case for State's Self-Insurers Risk Retention Group Inc. did not return a call for comment on the ruling that was issued earlier this month.

Named in the federal lawsuit along with the county was now-retired Judge James Souk and current Judge Charles Reynard, both of whom were prosecutors when Beaman was charged with murder, and retired McLean County Sheriff's deputy John Brown.

The town of Normal and several officers who investigated Lockmiller's death in her apartment near the Illinois State University campus also were named in the lawsuit.

The risk management pool argued it was not responsible for paying the legal costs because the acts leading to the wrongful prosecution claim took place before the 2008 effective date of the policy.

The county maintained Beaman could not allege malicious prosecution until the dismissal of charges. Former State's Attorney Bill Yoder dismissed the murder charges in 2009 after the Illinois Supreme Court sent the case back for a second trial based on its view that tenuous evidence was used to convict Beaman.

Still pending is a civil lawsuit filed in McLean County Circuit Court in April by Beaman against the town of Normal, retired Normal police officers Tim Freesmeyer and Frank Zayas and current officer Dave Warner. The three officers were involved in the investigation that led to Beaman's arrest nine months after Lockmiller's death.

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The town's legal fees are being paid through its self-insurance risk pool.


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