JOHNSBURG – The McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office has hired a Lisle law firm to represent the county and a prosecutor named in a wrongful prosecution lawsuit filed by Mario Casciaro.
Casciaro, 33, sued last month, seeking money damages from McHenry County, prosecutor Michael Combs, members of the Johnsburg Police Department and the village of Johnsburg. He claims authorities violated his rights when they investigated and later prosecuted him for the murder of Johnsburg teen Brian Carrick.
A jury convicted Casciaro in 2013, and a judge sentenced him to 26 years in prison.
He spent 22 months in Menard Correctional Facility before the 2nd District Appellate Court overturned the conviction. Casciaro was released from prison in September 2015.
Terry Ekl, Patrick Provenzale and Tracy Stanker of Ekl, Williams & Provenzale LLC have filed appearances in the federal lawsuit to represent Combs and the county. The county’s insurance carrier is expected to pick up the tab for the legal costs.
“The county and the State’s Attorney’s Office have malpractice and liability insurance,” McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally said. “We believe all attorney bills and any other costs will be covered by insurance.”
Terry Ekl, who will serve as the lead attorney, successfully defended former McHenry County State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi in two corruption trials. In both trials – first in 2010 and again in 2011 – Bianchi was acquitted before presenting a defense.
Kenneally, who helped prosecute Casciaro, has said the wrongful prosecution lawsuit is “entirely without merit.”
The village of Johnsburg and its police chief, Keith Von Allmen, who also are named in the suit, hired their own lawyers last week.
Johnsburg officials have declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The 2nd District Appellate Court overturned Casciaro’s conviction because it said evidence was so lacking and improbable that the state failed to prove Casciaro was guilty.
In the lawsuit, Casciaro claims police deliberately withheld evidence related to another suspect that could have helped Casciaro. He claims that Von Allmen diverted the investigation because he was friends with the father of another suspect. He also claims that Combs directed the police efforts to implicate him out of “sheer dislike of [Casciaro].”
“Mario Casciaro was maliciously pursued and harassed by law enforcement for years, then wrongfully accused and charged with murder in connection with the disappearance of Brian Carrick almost a decade after Brian went missing,” the lawsuit claims.
Carrick last was seen Dec 20, 2002, at the grocery store where he worked. The store was owned by Casciaro’s parents.