By Nona Tepper
A man has filed a federal lawsuit against two local police officers and the village of Forest Park, alleging officers used excessive force during a traffic stop last year. It is the fourth such lawsuit currently pending against the village and police.
"My client wants his story to be heard and he wants a jury to get him justice. He wants the officers to answer for their actions," said Mary Grieb, an attorney at Shiller Preyar Law Offices, a Chicago-based firm that specializes in allegations of police brutality and that is representing plaintiff Giovanni LaGioia in this case. Grieb said she hopes a trial will occur within the next year or two.
On Dec. 15, 2017, Forest Park police officer Adam Stasinopoulos pulled over LaGioia, although "officers did not have a reasonable suspicion that plaintiff had committed or was committing a crime," according to a complaint filed Feb. 16 at the U.S. District Court in Chicago.
Grieb said LaGioia is about 40 years old and is not a Forest Park resident. She said LaGioia was driving his sedan that afternoon and Stasinopoulos pulled him over near the intersection of Harlem Avenue and Adams Street. According to the lawsuit, Detective Daniel Pater then arrived on the scene.
LaGioia alleges officers ordered him out of his sedan and forced him against the car. The complaint says Stasinopoulos then roughly searched him, pulling down LaGioia's pants, touching his genitals and searching his anal cavity without consent. He claims Pater failed to intervene, according to the lawsuit.
In the complaint, LaGioia also claims officers searched his car without consent or probable cause. While police were searching the car, "they broke the dashboard," Grieb said.
Afterwards, the lawsuit states, police "formed an agreement to target plaintiff, falsify reports, and present false evidence." No charges were filed against LaGioia and police did not issue him a traffic ticket, according to the lawsuit.
Forest Park police do not have a report that corresponds to the incident, said Police Chief Thomas Aftanas, who declined to further comment on the suit.
"I would disagree that no report was created," Grieb said. "They created false reports to cover up doing this unlawful search and stopping him without cause."
The lawsuit states the police's actions violated LaGioia's 4th and 14th amendment rights, which prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures and prohibit villages like Forest Park from limiting citizens' constitutional rights.
As the employer of the two officers, the lawsuit states the village of Forest Park is liable for the officers' actions. LaGioia is seeking reimbursement for attorney's fees, the costs of filing the suit and monetary damages, according to the suit.
Meanwhile, there are three other cases pending in U.S. District Court alleging excessive force by Forest Park police.
In February 2018, the family of Marco Gomez alleged that Forest Park police fatally shot Gomez "without cause or provocation" after they caught him in a stolen car the year before.
In November 2017, Trumell Lee alleged that he blacked out after being placed in a choke hold by a Forest Park police officer who had already handcuffed him during a 2016 arrest.
The village and Lee are negotiating a settlement, according to court documents. Both sides will appear again in court on April 26.
In June 2017, a Forest Park man alleged that a Forest Park police officer knocked his teeth out during a 2015 incident.
"This is the fourth excessive force suit against Forest Park police," Grieb said. "I think it implies that Forest Park may have an issue with training and disciplining and using excessive force."
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