News & Events
Federal Jury Finds Police Detective Violated Mother's Right to Free Speech
CHICAGO, IL. Chicago trial lawyers McJessy, Ching & Thompson win in federal court case: A federal jury returned a verdict
in excess of half a million dollars against a Village of Westmont, Illinois police detective for having violated a mother's
First Amendment rights by maliciously prosecuting her for a crime she did not commit. The arrest, prosecution and harassment
of Dawn Zitzka occurred after Mrs. Zitzka spoke out against the Westmont Police Department for the way in which it
investigated the sexual assault of a young girl.
The case was tried before a federal jury in a dramatic 8-day trial in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. During the trial, witnesses testified that Mrs. Zitzka complained publicly about what she perceived to be the inadequate investigation of the assault of the young girl. Mrs. Zitzka spoke out by placing a sign in her car window stating that the "Westmont P.D. Does Not Protect & Serve!" She also publicly criticized the Westmont Police Department by writing to Village officials, to Illinois State's Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office, and by speaking before the Village of Westmont Board of Trustees. Thereafter, Mrs. Zitzka was arrested and prosecuted for four different criminal offenses she did not commit. She was ultimately found not guilty on two of those charges after separate trials before judges in the DuPage County criminal court. After continuing the prosecution against Mrs. Zitzka for two years, the DuPage County Prosecutor's Office ultimately dismissed the remaining charges for lack of evidence.
Mrs. Zitzka's husband was also arrested by the Westmont Police Department at the same time as the arrests of Mrs. Zitzka. He was also acquitted of the charge after a trial before a DuPage County criminal court. Because of prior legal rulings, the jury did not hear evidence that Mr. Zitzka had also been arrested nor did the jury hear evidence regarding the acquittals of both Mr. and Mrs. Zitzka.
"I am glad it's finally over," Mrs. Zitzka commented after the verdict was read. "I am glad justice was served," she continued. "I wish I never had to go through this. Through God's strength I persevered. Nobody stood up for me until I found [my attorneys] Kim and Kevin. They did an awesome job."
Andrew Scott, a former Chief of Police and a renowned police procedures expert who has consulted on police matters with CNN, MSNBC and Headline News, testified at trial. "This was a clear abuse of police power," said Mr. Scott. He further commented, "The little guy won. It validates our faith in a democratic society."
"The jury's verdict is a vindication of what Mrs. Zitzka has been trying to tell the public for the past six years," said Kim K. Thompson from McJessy, Ching & Thompson, one of the lawyers who argued Mrs. Zitzka's case at trial. "This has been a long and emotional ordeal for Mrs. Zitzka and her family and we are very pleased with the jury's verdict. We are proud to have been able to help the Zitzka family in what we consider to be an important First Amendment case. Hopefully this case will remind government officials of the rights guaranteed to all of our citizens at the founding of this great country."
The jury took less than a day to reach its verdict after hearing testimony from more than 20 witnesses during the 8-day trial. "There is no doubt that Mrs. Zitzka was falsely arrested and maliciously prosecuted," said Chicago trial attorney Kevin McJessy, another of the attorneys who represented Mrs. Zitzka. "Mrs. Zitzka was able to have her day in court and to tell her story to the jury. Her testimony and the emotional testimony of other members of the Zitzka family during the trial as to the toll this harrowing ordeal has taken on the family was quite compelling."
"I'm very pleased with the work performed by our firm on this case," said McJessy, Ching & Thompson partner, Angela Ching. "It is a reminder of why many of us went to law school."