Montgomery couple files federal lawsuit against Kendall, deputy
BY STEVE LORD email@example.com February 21, 2013 5:28PM
Jason Thurmond, charged with shoving an off-duty Kendall County police officer, leaves the Kendall County Courthouse in Yorkville during a break on the first day of the trial on Monday, November 5, 2012. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 21, 2013 6:13PM
A Montgomery couple has filed a federal lawsuit against a Kendall County Sheriff’s Department deputy who pulled a gun on them in an altercation at a Walmart in Oswego.
Jason Thurmond and his wife, Nicole Healy-Thurmond, said they suffered “severe damages including personal injury, loss of reputation, mental anguish (and) emotional distress” in the Feb. 5, 2012, incident in which off-duty Deputy Craig French brandished a gun in the Walmart.
The lawsuit, filed this month in U.S. District Court in Chicago, also names Kendall County.
“We believe their constitutional rights were clearly violated,” said Thurmond’s attorney Kevin Halverson of Ekl, Williams & Provencale of Lisle.
In a news release Thursday afternoon, Kendall County Sheriff Richard Randall called the lawsuit “one more example of the abuse of the legal system.”
“It’s time someone speaks plainly about these types of lawsuits,” Randall said. “They are the legal equivalent of extortion.”
As part of the lawsuit, the Thurmonds claim that French’s actions were due to customs or policies in the Sheriff’s Department “that are so widespread and pervasive that they carry the force of law.”
According to the lawsuit, those policies or customs include: concealing and suppressing officer misconduct, including the use of unlawful force; failure to sufficiently investigate allegations of misconduct; failure to accept complaints from citizens against police officers; failure to promptly record witness statements or preserve evidence; failure to promptly interview the suspected officer; and failure to properly and sufficiently discipline an officer, where even a complaint is sustained.
The lawsuit refers to these concealments and suppressions as a “code of silence” among members of the department.
While Randall did not address those claims in the news release Thursday afternoon, he did in a statement made on the Sheriff Department’s Facebook page.
“The allegations contained in the lawsuit filed against the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office are outrageous, despicable, and untrue,” Randall said in that statement.
The department also took the unusual step of posting the lawsuit on their site for anyone to download.
The lawsuit stems from an incident on Super Bowl Sunday of 2012. It developed as Thurmond and his wife were in the express check-out line at the Walmart. Nicole Thurmond was nine months pregnant at the time.
As Nicole Thurmond waited at the cash register, Jason stepped out of line to get a carton of eggs.
The long wait for his return and the couple’s full cart in an express line irritated some other customers. French, who was off-duty at the time, was next in line, and sarcastically asked Nicole Thurmond if she could count.
They argued, and when Jason returned with the eggs, he argued with French. Thurmond has said French took a step forward, and Thurmond pushed him back. That’s when French pulled out his revolver.
Thurmond was charged with battery in the incident, but was found not guilty last November by a Kendall County jury.
At both the trial and in the lawsuit, the Thurmonds testified they were afraid French was going to attack them.
In the news release Thursday, Randall and Sheriff’s Cmdr. Scott Koster said an internal investigation done by the department contradicted what Thurmond said.
“Witnesses interviewed as part of the internal investigation into Mr. Thurmond’s complaints clearly refuted his allegations,” Koster said. “In fact, even the statement of his wife … provided to the investigator contradicted allegations made by Jason Thurmond himself.”
But the results of the internal investigation, including if there was any disciplinary action taken against French, have never been released to the public.
Koster said Thursday the results were sent to Thurmond after the criminal court case was concluded.
Halverson, the Thurmonds’ attorney, said Thursday he did not know the results of the investigation.
In the lawsuit, the couple asks for an unspecified amount of money connected to each of four counts. In each count, they ask for “in excess of $100,000 …”, which is standard language, and usually means it is left to a jury to decide what amounts would be awarded.
Sheriff’s Department officials said Thursday that Thurmond offered to drop the lawsuit for $20,000.
“Ultimately, this is a grab for a quick $20,000 from the taxpayers of Kendall County,” Koster said.
Thurmond himself declined any comment on the lawsuit, referring all questions to Halverson.
Halverson declined to say if any settlement offer had been made, saying he could not “comment on any negotiations.”