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Crime & Courts

Federal judge tosses a SAFE suit

On Monday, a Chicago federal judge dismissed a potential class action lawsuit against La Salle County in connection with SAFE.

Alyssa B. Larson, of Torrington, Conn., filed a six-count suit in June in U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois, saying her constitutional rights were violated during a traffic stop by the now-defunct State's Attorney's Felony Enforcement unit. She was not charged with any crime.

Larson listed La Salle County, former La Salle County State's Attorney Brian Towne, current State's Attorney Karen Donnelly and unnamed SAFE officers as defendants. Towne formed SAFE in 2011, but it was ruled illegal in 2017 by the Illinois Supreme Court.

The county, Towne and Donnelly asked Judge Amy St. Eve to throw out the suit, citing several reasons, including that Larson lodged her suit after the statutes of limitations expired. The defendants pointed out Larson was stopped in October 2012, but didn't take court action until June 2017.

St. Eve agreed Larson waited too long, tossing the suit, but allowing Larson to refile two of the six counts in state court.

Larson was seeking to expand the suit into a class action, involving others also stopped by SAFE.

Attorneys for Towne and Donnelly had to team up to fight Larson's suit, although Donnelly criticized Towne and SAFE, and has brought criminal misconduct charges against Towne. Donnelly was included as a defendant in the suit, because she is Towne's successor in office.

Another SAFE suit against the county remains in federal court.

Steven Pirro, 62, of Murray, Utah, and Matthew P. Flynn, 27, of Acton, Mass., were arrested in January and March 2013 respectively on Interstate 80 in La Salle County. Charges against both men were later dropped.

In January 2018, Pirro and Flynn sued the county, Towne and SAFE officers Daniel Gillette, Jeffery Gaither and Edward Jauch, as well as Donnelly. Pirro and Flynn said the SAFE officers had no authority to arrest them, violating their Constitutional rights. The county and the other defendants have not yet responded in court.

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