Hobbs v. Cappelluti, Case No. 10 C 7649

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
Writing for the CourtJOAN HUMPHREY LEFKOW
PartiesJERRY HOBBS, Plaintiff, v. DOMENIC CAPPELLUTI, CHARLES SCHLETZ, and WILLIAM VALKO, of the Waukegan Police Department; CITY OF WAUKEGAN; ANDREW JONES, of the Vernon Hills Police Department; VILLAGE OF VERNON HILLS; KEVIN HARRIS of the Zion Police Department; CITY OF ZION; Lake County State's Attorney MICHAEL WALLER; Assistant Lake County State's Attorney JEFF PAVLETIC; Assistant Lake County State's Attorney MICHAEL MERMEL; COUNTY OF LAKE and UNKNOWN POLICE OFFICER, Defendants.
Docket NumberCase No. 10 C 7649
Decision Date28 September 2012

JERRY HOBBS, Plaintiff,
and WILLIAM VALKO, of the Waukegan Police Department;
of the Vernon Hills Police Department; VILLAGE OF VERNON HILLS;
KEVIN HARRIS of the Zion Police Department; CITY OF ZION;
Lake County State's Attorney MICHAEL WALLER;
Assistant Lake County State's Attorney JEFF PAVLETIC;
Assistant Lake County State's Attorney MICHAEL MERMEL;

Case No. 10 C 7649


Dated: September 28, 2012

Judge Joan H. Lefkow


On May 9, 2005, plaintiff Jerry Hobbs realized every parent's worst nightmare when he discovered the bodies of his young daughter, Laura, and her friend, Krystal Tobias, in the park by their house. Laura had been sexually assaulted and both girls had been brutally murdered. Hobbs's nightmare did not end there, however. Police quickly identified him as a suspect and, after interrogating him for 24 hours, coerced him into falsely confessing. This confession was then used to detain him on murder charges for over five years until he was exonerated by DNA evidence and eventually released.

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Shortly thereafter, Hobbs filed the present action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 against the police officers who investigated and interrogated him (defendants Domenic Cappelluti, Charles Schletz, William Valko, Kevin Harris and Andrew Jones, (collectively "defendant officers")), the municipalities that employed them (the Cities of Waukegan and Zion and the Village of Vernon Hills), the state's attorneys who prosecuted him (Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller and Assistant Lake County State's Attorney's Jeff Pavletic and Michael Mermel (collectively "defendant prosecutors," collectively with defendant officers "defendants")),1 and the county that employed them (Lake County) (collectively with Waukegan, Zion and Vernon Hills "municipal defendants"). In his third amended complaint, Hobbs alleges multiple claims of police and prosecutorial misconduct under both state and federal law. (Dkt. #94.) Presently before the court are motions to dismiss by defendant officers (dkt. #98 #106), defendant prosecutors (dkt. #100) and municipal defendants (dkt. #103, #106, #107, #109, #111). For the reasons set forth herein, these motions will be granted in part and denied in part.2


On Sunday, May 8, 2005, eight-year-old Laura Hobbs went missing. At the time, her father Jerry Hobbs ("Hobbs") was living in Zion, Illinois with Laura's mother, Sheila, and their children Jerry, Jr. (age 10), Laura (age 8), and Jeremy (age 6), and Meagan (age 13) (Sheila's

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child from a previous relationship). Laura had gone outside to play and was supposed to return by dark. When she did not, Hobbs and several family members began searching for her. They soon learned that Laura's friend, Krystal (age 9), was also missing. Not finding Laura that night, Hobbs continued the search the next morning with the help of his family and the police.

The next day Hobbs resumed his search in nearby Beulah Park where children often played. There, in a grassy, open area, Hobbs discovered the bodies of Laura and Krystal. Both were lying face up about two or three feet apart. Laura had been stabbed twenty times, including in both eyes; Krystal had been stabbed eleven. Four years later, DNA evidence would reveal that Laura had also been sexually assaulted, although this fact was unknown to Hobbs at the time.


The murder investigation was handled by the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force (the "task force"), which included officers from the Cities of Waukegan and Zion, the Village of Vernon Hills and members of the Lake County State's Attorney's Office. Defendant officers and defendant prosecutors were all members of the task force. Shortly after discovering the bodies, Hobbs was taken to the Waukegan Police Department and was placed in a small, windowless room with no clock. Over the next 24 hours, he was interrogated approximately ten times. He was never told that he was under arrest or that he was free to leave. Defendant officers proceeded on the theory that Hobbs lost his temper when disciplining Laura and, as a result, murdered both her and Krystal. During his interrogation, Hobbs alleges that defendant officers took the following actions:

• Schletz and Harris entered the room and Schletz told Hobbs to sign a form that he described as "nothing really . . . [it] just said [that Hobbs] was agreeing to let [the

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officers] ask [him] questions." Hobbs signed the form, a Miranda waiver, without reading it, and Schletz did not read it to him.
• Officers Schletz began to interrogate Hobbs about the crime, reviewing each gruesome fact in detail. Schletz forced Hobbs to view pictures of the girls' mutilated bodies. When Hobbs refused Schletz grabbed his head and knocked him to the floor. Schletz taunted Hobbs, making obscene suggestions like "How did their neck feel when you cut it?" Schletz and Harris told Hobbs that his alibi of being at home could not be verified and Schletz sad that physical evidence linked him to the crime.
• Hobbs repeatedly asked for a lawyer but his requests were ignored. Hobbs became so exhausted that each time the officers left the room, he tried to rest by lying on the floor. Schletz and Harris told Hobbs he could go home if he passed a voice stress analysis test, which they falsely said could determine whether Hobbs was lying. After completing the test four times, Hobbs was falsely informed that he had failed and that the tests conclusively showed he was lying. Schletz then suggested that Hobbs grab his gun so Schletz would have a justification for killing him.
• Cappelluti said that the fact that Hobbs discovered the bodies was "like winning the lottery," accusing Hobbs of committing the murders because he had found the victims. Cappelluti asked Hobbs if he believed in God and the two men prayed together for Laura. Hobbs cried. Cappelluti lied and said that there was an eyewitness who placed Hobbs at the crime scene.
• Schletz and Harris took Hobbs into a large room with a camera and told him that a light test would reveal evidence on his person. Officer Valko, the direct supervisor of Schletz, Harris and Cappellutti, was also present. The lights were turned out and shined on Hobbs's clothes revealing a mark on his pant leg. Hobbs responded that he had wiped his nose there when he was crying. Schletz and Harris then made Hobbs remove his clothes and put on a see-through paper suit, which he was forced to wear for part of his interrogation. The officers took Hobbs's clothes, telling him that a special camera would reveal evidence on his clothing that showed he was guilty.
• Back in the interrogation room, Hobbs was told that his family had not inquired about him, and that "everybody [the police] talked to, including [Hobbs's] family, thinks [he] did it." Cappelluti told Hobbs that there was an officer just outside the room who was not happy about what happened to the girls and whom Hobbs would not want to come into the room. When Hobbs again refused to confess, Cappellutti and Schletz left the room and Cappellutti said, "I warned you."
• Officer Jones, an extremely large man, entered the room alone and began interrogating Hobbs. When Hobbs again denied committing the crime, Jones punched him in the side of his head, slamming his head into the wall. Jones threatened that if Hobbs responded to being hit, that Jones would kill him and make up a story that Hobbs had tried to seize his

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gun. As Jones turned to leave he threatened, "Don't make me have to come back in here." Officer Valko was present during Hobbs's interrogation and approved these tactics and others used by Schletz, Harris, Cappelluti and Jones.
• After officer Jones left, Schletz and Cappelluti resumed the interrogation and demanded that Hobbs confess. Hobbs replied that they did not want to hear the truth that he did not commit the crimes, to which Schletz replied, "Well then tell us some lies Jerry."

At this point, Hobbs had been in custody for at least 24 hours and had not slept in the last 48 hours. He had no idea what time it was, whether it was day or night, and he had not been allowed to leave the police station or to speak with a lawyer. He had been stripped of his clothes and forced to sit almost naked as defendant officers forced him to examine gruesome photographs of his daughter and her friend, accusing him of their murders. He had been physically assaulted and threatened with additional violence, all after enduring the most traumatic event of his life, discovering his daughter's mutilated body. His will was finally overborne.


Hobbs told defendant officers he would confess and that they should take him to a judge, thinking that a judge would see that his confession was forced. Schletz and Cappelluti devised a story that Hobbs went looking for the girls, trying to get Laura to come home, and when he found them Krystal attacked him, causing him to lose control and kill them both. Schletz asked Hobbs about the knife and Hobbs replied that Krystal had attacked him with a potato peeler, thinking a judge would realize that a potato peeler could not have inflicted those types of wounds on the girls.

Jones then reentered the...

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