Court upholds White suit
$100 million case moves forward against LSPD officer
By Brett Dalton
The Journal Staff
Friday, February 1, 2008
After Wednesday's ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals, the city of Lee's Summit, Missouri could face paying a hefty sum of money to a man wrongfully convicted of child molestation nearly 10 years ago.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has sided with former Lee's Summit businessman Ted White Jr. in his civil rights case against a Lee's Summit police detective and his ex-wife, who is now married to the detective.
White, whose 1999 conviction of molesting his step-daughter was overturned in 2005, filed a federal lawsuit against Lee's Summit Detective Richard McKinley and his wife Tina McKinley after the third retrial resulted in White's acquittal. White and Tina McKinley were married when Tina became romantically involved with Richard McKinley while he was working White's case - a fact not presented during White's first trial.
After being acquitted, White filed a civil lawsuit against Richard and Tina McKinley, the city of Lee's Summit and then-police chief Ken Conlee. With the U.S. Court of Appeals decision to side with White, the case will probably head back to district court, said Brian McCallister, White's attorney.
If Richard McKinley is found guilty in district court of denying White the right to a fair trial by withholding evidence of his innocence - which includes the alleged molestation victim's diary - and of violating White's constitutional rights, the city of Lee's Summit would be forced to pay any compensatory damages awarded to White by the jury, McCallister said. McCallister said that stipulation went into place as terms of an agreement made with the city that dropped the city from the lawsuit.
If Richard and Tina McKinley are found guilty in the district court and punitive damages are awarded, McCallister said the McKinleys would be forced to pay that amount.
Initially, White was seeking $100 million in restitution for wrongful conviction and imprisonment, as White served five years of a 50-year conviction after his first trial. He was seeking $75 million in actual damages and $25 million in punitive damages, as well as court costs and attorney fees to the case. McCallister said on Thursday that the district court jury will ultimately decide how much White would receive if Richard and Tina McKinley are found guilty and damages are awarded.
According to a news release, the U.S. Court of Appeals sided with White because "McKinley failed to take custody of and preserve evidence in the investigation which was indicative of White's innocence and failed to disclose the intimacy of his relationship with White's ex-wife, resulting in deprivation of White's constitutional rights."
The case went to the U.S. Court of Appeals after a district court denied Richard McKinley's motion for a summary judgment - a judgment made without a full trial - after the civil lawsuit was filed. Richard McKinley appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals, who ultimately sided with White.
Writing for the U.S Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, judge Lavenski R. Smith said the U.S. Court of Appeals with the district court that "the facts alleged here meet the bad faith standard."
"Treating the facts as alleged to be true, a reasonable juror could find Richard deprived White of a fair trial in bad faith by deliberately steering the investigation to benefit his love interest, Tina," Smith wrote. "Richard deliberately withheld from the prosecutors the full extent of his relationship with Tina and failed to preserve the alleged victim's diary which did not corroborate the molestation allegations."
Regarding the U.S. Court of Appeals' ruling, McCallister said he is happy for Ted White Jr. and his family.
"It has been nearly a decade that Ted has been waiting for his story to be heard," he said. "Now, the facts will be decided by a jury and the decision how lies in the hands of a jury in Kansas City, Mo., to decide whether Ted should be compensated for what has happened to him."
Bob Handley, Lee's Summit city attorney, did not return messages left to his office by the Journal as of press time. Ted White Jr., as well as Richard and Tina McKinley, also could not be reached by the Journal. McCallister declined to release contact information for his client, Ted White Jr.
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