Fighting For Restitution

Wrongful convictions are inherent tragedies. They allow a guilty person to remain free, they steal away the years of the innocent person locked in prison, they ruin the credibility of the justice system and law enforcement, and they demonstrate how in many cases politics can lead to injustice. One of the ways society tries to make up for that injustice is by financially compensating the wrongfully convicted. This money in no way undoes the damage caused by the police or the state. However, it is supposed to act as the state’s acknowledgement that it screwed up and wants to correct its mistake. So when the state fails to pay that restitution, it sends another message: the state actually does not care that innocent people were imprisoned.

Ted White Jr. was wrongfully convicted of molesting his 12-year-old stepdaughter, but he was released after it was discovered that the lead detective in his case was White’s wife’s lover. The city of Lee’s Submit signed an agreement stating it would pay any judgement against the detective in exchange for White dropping the city and its police chief from his civil law suit. Except:

Instead, Lee’s Summit Mayor Randy Rhoads says the city can’t pay the $16 million judgment — upheld in July by a federal appeals court — because a local ordinance bars it from indemnifying a city employee who violates another person’s constitutional rights.

In a written statement, Rhoads accused White and his lawyers of trying to stir up public pressure on city officials to make “a decision that is not legally permitted at this time.”

Other than that July 22 statement from Rhoads, city officials have been tightlipped. City spokeswoman Melissa Fears told The Associated Press that nobody with the city wanted to comment.

One would think the city’s officials would have know about this ordinance before signing the agreement. It seems unlikely no one would have known. So it is possible that they signed the agreement, which absolved the city and its police chief of any direct responsiblity, with full knowledge that the new contract would violate existing law.

If that is the case, it is fairly low thing to do to a man who suffered so much:

White’s ordeal began in March 1998, when he came home from a camping trip and was met with accusations from his wife that he had molested his stepdaughter.

After his 1999 conviction, he fled to Costa Rica while awaiting sentencing. Once captured, he fought extradition because, he said, he didn’t have the money to keep fighting the allegations.

That’s when his father told him he would sell everything he had to help White.

“That was touching,” said White, now 48. “It was an inspirational moment to see how much my dad cared for me.”

White was sentenced to 50 years in prison, where he faced violent convicts who revile child molesters. Inmates came after him with knives, he said. Once, he said, a prisoner beat him with a padlock, crushing his eye socket.

“I had to live every day and survive every day with a rap sheet that says I have 12 counts against me,” White said. “Even murderers have kids.”

His family has suffered as well:

Meanwhile, White says, his parents are the ones who are suffering. His father, a 71-year-old optometrist in southwest Missouri, has suffered at least two heart attacks since 1999 but can’t retire.

“My dad lost his retirement, but no one has ever apologized. They’re saying ‘We don’t care about you, your family, the money you spent to defend your honor.’ That’s just not right,” said White, who said the legal fees, including for his civil suit, totaled about $1 million.

The fault for this lies solely with the city officials and the police chief. The state allowed a detective to manipulate the system, and so the state ought to pay for that. Indeed, it appears the state was willing to do so, expect that apparently the state’s agreement was against the law. In all likelihood those who signed the agreement knew this, and the state has twice screwed over Ted White Jr.

1 thought on “Fighting For Restitution

  1. ‘because a local ordinance bars it from indemnifying a city employee who violates another person’s constitutional rights.”

    Bwahaha. Let’s see how long it takes the court to rip up that ordinance. Next some prosecutor at the state level should prosecute the local officials for fraudulently signing that agreement. I hope they have to sell their kidneys to pay the judgment.

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