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County responds to federal SAFE suit

An attorney is arguing two plaintiffs, who were stopped by the SAFE anti-drug unit, waited too long to lodge their lawsuit against La Salle County.

Alyssa Larson, of Torrington Conn., and Jeffrey R. Straker, of Nevada City, Calif., filed suit in June in U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois, saying their constitutional rights were violated during traffic stops by the State's Attorney's Felony Enforcement unit. They are seeking class-action status for their suit.

Larson and Straker named La Salle County, former La Salle County State's Attorney Brian Towne and SAFE officers as defendants. Towne formed the unit in 2011, saying SAFE's purpose was to make drug arrests and seize drug money on Interstate 80.

Towne suspended SAFE in 2015 after the Third District Appellate Court ruled the unit was illegal. The Illinois Supreme Court then heard arguments on the matter, and also ruled June 29 the unit was not authorized.

Chicago lawyer Kevin M. Casey, who represents La Salle County, filed a response Friday to the suit, contending the suit should be dismissed, because it was filed after the two-year statute of limitations had expired.

Larson was stopped by SAFE in October 2012 and Straker in December 2014; their suit was lodged June 2, 2017. Casey said there was no reason Larson and Straker couldn't have filed their suit within two years.

Casey further argued plaintiffs failed to say how the SAFE officers caused them emotional distress. The emotional distress claim also should sink, because it had only a one-year statute of limitations, in Casey's view. In addition, the suit is damaged by the fact neither Larson nor Straker alleged money was confiscated from them during the traffic stops, Casey contended.

A hearing is set for Monday, Aug. 21.

Larson and Straker are represented by the Chicago firm of Wexler Wallace, and by Lake Bluff lawyer Jack Boehm.

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