Judge: Seiplers must pay $240K in legal fees
Former McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy Zane Seipler and his wife must pay $240,500 of Sheriff Keith Nygren's legal fees as penance for lying under oath in Seipler's lawsuit against him.
A federal judge ruled Friday that the Seiplers owe $210,247 in attorney's fees and $30,252 in costs incurred in defending Nygren against a civil-rights lawsuit in which Seipler alleges he was fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on racial profiling. Nygren alleges that Seipler was fired because he wrote traffic tickets or warnings to passengers rather than drivers who did not have valid licenses.
Judge Frederick Kapala granted the total billings by Nygren's defense almost in its entirety, rejecting only $19,230 of what was requested. Kapala's ruling did not specify what if anything is owed to McHenry County taxpayers and what is owed to county government's liability insurance carrier.
Seipler, also a local blogger, is running as a Republican to represent District 5 of the County Board, which includes most of Woodstock and parts of Lakewood, Lake in the Hills and Huntley.
Kapala ruled last March that the Seiplers would be on the hook for Nygren's legal fees after concluding that they lied about how confidential disciplinary records obtained in the course of the lawsuit were published on a blog, "The Real MCSO Exposed."
Nygren attorney Jim Sotos said he is pleased with Kapala's ruling mandating Seipler pay the bills. However, Kapala has not dismissed Seipler's lawsuit outright.
"We're grateful that the county saw through Mr. Seipler's transparent attempts to blame his own wife for his obvious violation of the court's orders," Sotos said. "I think that the amount of the sanction reflects the seriousness of Mr. Seipler's misconduct, and it should serve as a lesson to people who think they can anonymously attack people on Internet blogs without being discovered."
Seipler attorney Blake Horwitz could not be reached for comment Monday.
Seipler initially said in an affidavit that he did not know who created the blog, that he didn't give anyone the documents, and didn't know how the blog's owner acquired them. However, he subsequently presented the alternate explanation that his wife, Rosalinda, did it without his knowledge.
Rosalinda Seipler testified that she found some documents in an office area and decided to post them to expose information "covered up" about sheriff's deputies. But when presented a computer at a hearing and asked to create a blog, she was unable to do so, and couldn't navigate to the website used to create the one in question.
Kapala later determined the Seiplers were not being honest, and said their testimony was based on a "fabricated narrative that conveniently explained what had transpired,"
"There is no justification for such a blatant disregard of the oath that they each took, and their willingness to repeatedly lie to the court in order to protect this case from the possibility of being dismissed is an affront to the integrity of this court," Kapala stated in his 2013 ruling mandating the Seiplers pay the defendant's fees.
Ironically, Seipler's blogging added to the legal bill he is now ordered to pay. Nygren's legal team billed 13 times to review the multiple blogs in this case, and Kapala struck down an objection by Horwitz on the grounds that the work was duplicative.
"There is nothing duplicative about this work, however, as plaintiff was continuing to post entries to his blogs and even created a new blog ... in order to avoid detection," Kapala ruled.
Seipler was first fired from the sheriff's office in 2008, but he won his job back after arbitration and a series of rulings in his favor concluding that he should have been suspended rather than fired. He returned to work in March 2012, but Nygren fired him again in July 2013 for lying under oath in his civil suit.
Seipler's latest foray into county politics is not his first. He unsuccessfully ran against Nygren in the 2010 GOP primary for sheriff. Nygren, whose latest term expires this year, is not seeking re-election.
County government in 2012 considered asking Seipler to pick up the tab for a separate lawsuit in which he asked a judge to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether Nygren's use of a badge with a seven-point star for political and official purposes ran afoul of the law.
While the lawsuit did not go anywhere, the county dropped its motion to pursue reimbursement through sanctions after the judge stated that we was not likely to grant it.