City Gave Officers' Personal Info To Gang Leader, So They're Suing
IL – A federal judge has declined to throw out a lawsuit by seven
police officers whose personal information was sent to inmates in
response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
The officers filed
suit in July of 2017 after they learned that the city of Aurora’s
records manager had sent their addresses, phone numbers, names of family
members, Social Security numbers, and other personnel records to
convicted felons serving time, WGN-TV reported.
Alvarez, a gang leader sentenced to 88 years behind bars at Menard
Correctional Center for attempted murder, sent a handwritten FOIA
request to the city for the personnel records of six police officers who
had helped to convict him, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The city, under the
supervision of then-records manager Jo Ann Osberg, sent largely
unredacted personnel files of the officers to the inmate at the prison
in October of 2015.
Alvarez was convicted of shooting and trying to kill a rival gang member, the Chicago Tribune reported.
An audit of the
city’s FOIA files in March of 2017 exposed the fact that the city had
also sent unredacted personnel records of another officer, now retired,
to another felon.
The seven affected
officers filed a lawsuit against Osberg and the city of Aurora, claiming
that the city’s actions had put them and their families in danger.
The city and the
former city records manager filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, and
argued that Osberg was entitled to qualified immunity because the
mistake had been made under the auspices of doing her job.
The city tried to argue that releasing the files only created a “potential” danger for the police officers and their families,
Judge Sara L. Ellis disagreed and said the officers had met their burden
of proof for pleading their case under theories including state-created
danger, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Ellis said the
government can be held liable in circumstances when their actions create
a danger, WGN reported. She also said Osberg was not entitled to
The city argued that releasing officer files only posed a potential danger, but the judge said the danger is "actual."
The judge said it's
plausible the city provided a convicted felon information he could use
to seek revenge on the officers, according to the Chicago Tribune.
confuse 'danger' with whether the private actor needs to actually
commit harm to the plaintiffs for a state-created danger theory to
apply," Ellis wrote. "If the government throws an individual into a
snake pit, and the individual is not harmed by the snakes, but hurts
himself escaping the pit, the government has still placed the individual
in danger that has caused the individual harm."
Ellis told both
parties to finish up discovery in the case by June 1, set a new status
hearing date of May 29, and referred them to a magistrate for a
settlement conference prior to the hearing, the Chicago Tribune
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