WOODSTOCK – A Woodstock man whose charges related to 17 pounds of marijuana were dropped is suing two Woodstock police officers, alleging they performed an illegally prolonged traffic stop and illegal search of his vehicle and then filed a false police report.
Louis Meyer, a lawyer for former criminal defendant Philip M. Williams, said officer Eric Schmidtke was caught on a recorded video saying he didn’t smell any marijuana that would have given him probable cause for a search during a traffic stop and then lied about it in his police report.
According to the federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for northern Illinois, Williams was pulled over Aug. 28 by Schmidtke for having an expired license plate sticker. After running the plaintiff’s license, which came back clear, Schmidtke approached Williams’ vehicle and asked Williams if he would be willing to allow a K-9 unit to walk around Williams’ car.
The suit, filed by civil rights attorneys Meyer & Kiss LLC, states that Williams did not give Schmidtke permission, but Schmidtke told Williams he couldn’t leave even though there was no probable cause or legal justification to keep Williams detained. The city of Woodstock is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Several minutes later, officer Sharon Freund arrived with her police dog, Blue. Freund eventually ran Blue around the plaintiff’s vehicle, and the police dog indicated the presence of drugs in the plaintiff’s vehicle. Police discovered a duffel bag containing marijuana in Williams’ trunk, according to the lawsuit.
Based on the defendant’s description of the traffic stop in the police reports, Williams was charged with felony drug crimes.
According to the lawsuit, Schmidtke wrote a false police report and falsely testified about the events of the arrest. A video taken by Schmidtke’s dash cam allegedly shows that Schmidtke said he didn’t smell any marijuana during the traffic stop, and both Schmidtke and Freund conspired on a lie that said he did.
“This officer was willing to lie to justify this prolonged traffic stop, but the video camera shows that they’re willing to put in false police reports,” said Louis Meyer, Williams’ lawyer. “And we think it’s really important to expose that and hold the officers accountable for that.”
According to court documents, all charges, including traffic violations for driving without valid registration and driving without proof of insurance, were dismissed by the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office on Oct. 20.
The plaintiff alleges that the defendants violated his constitutional rights. The lawsuit is seeking unspecified monetary damages.
“[Williams] does feel he was profiled,” Meyer said. “He said he’s been pulled over multiple times in the McHenry County area, so we’re going start looking into what the percentages are of African-American drivers being pulled over versus white drivers.”