Saturday, November 18, 2006

Hodaks Win Judgement Of Over $1 Million From St. Peters & Former Mayor Tom Brown

By Phyllis Schaltenbrand

Late Tuesday, in the Federal Appeals Court of the Eastern District of Missouri, a verdict of $375,000 was returned against the City of St. Peters and a verdict of $1 million was returned against former St. Peter’s Mayor Tom Brown in favor of Brian and Karla Hodak who had operated a bar and restaurant in St. Peters.

In 2004, the Hodaks’ filed a federal lawsuit against the City of St. Peters, its former Mayor Tom Brown, and several officers of the City’s police department. The Hodaks claimed the City and Tom Brown violated their due process rights and their first amendment rights by revoking the Bar’s license. Brian Hodak also claimed his civil rights were violated by City police officers when they arrested him in October 2001 for assault and resisting arrest.

On March 14, 2006 a jury In United States District Court, Eastern District of Missouri decided in favor of the Hodaks and against the City of St. Peters, Tom Brown, Sergeant Timothy Kaiser, Officer Charles Cason and Officer Robert Treadway.

On July 26, 2006, U.S. District Court Judge E. Richard Webber entered his order reversing the jury verdict against the City of St. Peters, Tom Brown and the above listed police officers.

In rulings made earlier this year, Judge Webber dismissed the Hodak’s claim that their due process rights were violated by the City’s revocation of their liquor license. At that time, Judge Webber also dismissed Brian Hodak’s claims against City police officers that he was falsely arrested and maliciously prosecuted. A jury trial was conduced on the only remaining claims, that the Hodaks’ first amendment rights were violated by the City in retaliation for Brian Hodak’s public criticism of the City and Mayor Tom Brown, and that Brian Hodak’s civil rights were violated by City police officers using excessive force against him in effecting his arrest for assault and resisting arrest.
Following the 6-day trial in March 2006, the jury returned a verdict exonerating the actions of the City’s police officers on Mr. Hodak’s claims. After the evidence was closed, the City requested the Court dismiss the Hodaks’ only other claim-the retaliation claim-because the Hodaks failed to present any evidence showing the City violated their constitutional rights.
After return of the jury’s verdict, the City renewed its request to dismiss. Judge Webber agreed with the City and ordered a new trial on the retaliation claim set to begin October 30, 2006. In his Order, Judge Webber also denied Hodaks’ requests for attorney fees and for a reversal of the jury verdict exonerating the police officers.
The City has always maintained that its actions and the actions of its police officers did not violate anyone’s constitutional rights. The City vigorously defended the lawsuit from the beginning and welcomed a jury trial on the claims. Judge Webber’s order is a further confirmation of the City’s position it has maintained throughout this lawsuit.
The First Capitol News contacted Karla Hodak shortly after the verdict was released. Ms. Hodak referred all inquiries to their attorney who did not return any of our calls.