A jury will have to decide what really happened between then-Frankfort police Chief Steven Conley and village resident Harold Griffin during a 2009 confrontation inside a local convenience store, a federal judge ruled recently.
U.S. District Judge Norman Mordue decided there was enough evidence to argue Conley might have violated Griffin’s constitutional rights when he arrested Griffin during the incident.
But more significantly, Griffin’s attorney Mark Wolber said this week, the judge ruled Griffin can continue to sue the village of Frankfort as a municipality, along with Conley.
“Steven Conley was the police chief and he is the one who had the right to establish the policy of the police department, so the village also would be responsible for his actions,” Wolber said.
David Walsh IV, the attorney representing Conley and the village, could not be reached for comment Friday.
This lawsuit will continue to move forward, along with another lawsuit Griffin still has pending against Conley stemming from an earlier confrontation with Conley and Frankfort Mayor Frank Moracco after a 2008 village election.
Wolber believes Conley only approached Griffin at a Stewart’s Shoppe on May 20, 2009, to intimidate him the same day a trial date had been scheduled for the other lawsuit.
What followed were two conflicting accounts Judge Mordue said should be left for a jury to consider:
Griffin says Conley approached him at the store and told him they were “going to get together” when he was “off duty” as chief, court documents state. In return, Griffin says he told Conley, “Be a man and repeat what you said to me so everybody in the store can hear you.”
Conley describes things differently, however. Conley says Griffin first tried to strike him with the store’s door and denied threatening Griffin, instead telling Griffin: “All I asked you is what your problem is.”
When Griffin continued to scream vulgarities in front of other store customers, Conley said he attempted to arrest Griffin. But Griffin said he refused to go with Conley, which prompted Conley to order another officer to pepper spray Griffin.
Griffin was charged with harassment, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. In 2010, however, prosecutors dismissed the charges after learning that Conley may have asked one of his officers, Samuel Ameduri III, to change his story about the incident. Conley retired as chief later that year.
“A jury will have to decide if it is more likely that things happened as recalled by (Griffin) — that is, that he was provoked and threatened by Conley which led to the escalation of tensions, or that (Griffin) tried to hit Conley with the door, acted aggressive from the outset of their interaction with each other and simply blew up in a fit of loud anger and expletives when Conley asked him what his problem was,” Mordue wrote.