By Brandon Reid
FREEPORT, Ill. — A lawsuit filed May 23, 2012, against Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp (D), Freeport Deputy Chief of Police Jeff Davis and Gaulrapp’s sister, Mary Leverington, for alleged civil rights violations has been thrown out of court.
The federal complaint, filed by Freeport residents Douglas and Rhonda Artman, was dismissed Jan. 10 by U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Kapala. Kapala had given the Artmans two court dates to obtain new representation after breaking ties with their attorneys, but they failed to appear at either court date.
Gaulrapp said Jan. 31 that there was “absolutely not one shred of truth” to the claims made in the lawsuit.
“Here is the perfect example of where an elected official can be dragged into court for a frivolous lawsuit, and then we have to defend ourselves,” Gaulrapp said. “It’s not so much me as it is about our police department, and they do an excellent job.
“But there’s always that thought in the back of people’s minds, ‘Did something happen?’” Gaulrapp said. “Absolutely not.”
In the complaint, the Artmans alleged the defendants conspired to use the Freeport Police Department to harass and deprive the couple of the free use of their home.
Allegedly, the dispute began after the mayor’s sister called the police to her neighbor’s house to have them remove a political sign that promoted the mayor’s opponent in the March 20, 2012, primary race for the 17th Congressional District seat.
According to the Artmans, the police visited their home more than 50 times following that initial incident, allegedly in response to further complaints by Leverington.
A June 6-12, 2012, article by free-lance writer Leslie Brefeld stated, “The Freeport Police provided six police reports when asked for all reports from incidents where the police were called to the Artmans’ home by Leverington.
“In an e-mail, Davis, who is also the Freedom of Information officer for the Freeport Police Department, wrote that these were ‘all the calls that directly involve the two individual families. Some of these calls did actually generate an offense report; however, in those cases, no arrests were made, and the cases have been closed. We have responded to both locations on more than just these occasions; however, those calls did not involve the two families.’”
The claim stated: “The Artmans were told that Mary Leverington was the Mayor’s sister and they had orders to respond to every complaint made by her. … This harassment by the Freeport Police was a direct result of Mary Leverington’s complaints and was done at the direction of Mayor George Gaulrapp.”
The claim added, “Mary Leverington constantly reminded the Artmans that ‘her brother is the mayor.’”
The Artmans alleged in their lawsuit that the police had told them “to shut off their lights after a certain time” and that they told them their son could not ride his bike up and down his own driveway or play basketball in his driveway.
The Artmans alleged they “were thereafter forced to leave their own house to escape the harassment, intimidation and actions of the defendants,” according to the suit.
The Artmans also alleged the mayor interfered with the selling of their home, showing up at the auction for their house. According to the suit, at the auction, Gaulrapp “identified himself as the Mayor of Freeport and spoke to people at the auction, intimidating them and interfering with the auction.”
The Artmans ultimately leased their home and moved out of Freeport. However, they alleged in their complaint that the harassment continued after the move.
“Subsequent to leasing the property to tenants, the defendants have continued to have police come to the Artmans’ home to intimidate, harass, and interfere with their tenants’ occupancy and enjoyment,” the claim cited.
The Artmans were seeking compensatory damages and punitive damages, plus attorneys’ fees and costs.
From the Feb. 13-19, 2013, issue