WOODSTOCK – Mario Casciaro, who walked free in 2015 after his murder conviction in the death of a 17-year-old Johnsburg teen was overturned, has settled a lawsuit against the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office for $50,000.
State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally appeared in court Friday with a lawyer from Kathleen Zellner’s office, the lawyer representing Casciaro, and told the court a settlement had been reached and the state’s attorney’s office was going to reappoint him to the certificate of innocence case because there was no longer a conflict of interest.
Litigation still is ongoing with the village of Johnsburg and the Johnsburg Police Department. The lawsuit, filed March 27, said authorities violated Casciaro’s rights and caused him a loss of freedom and personal fulfillment, emotional distress, mental anguish and embarrassment. His attorneys previously said they were seeking millions of dollars in damages.
Prosecutors previously argued during a March hearing that although the appellate court determined the state’s evidence at trial was “insufficient to prove [Casciaro] guilty beyond reasonable doubt,” that doesn’t mean he is “actually innocent.”
Casciaro’s attorneys have said prosecutors had no physical evidence to connect Casciaro to the crime and suggested other reasons for the prosecution.
This comes two years after Casciaro was released from prison after his conviction for the 2002 murder of Brian Carrick was overturned.
Casciaro said settling the lawsuit “was the best way to move forward.” He is working with the Federal Defender’s office in Chicago and is halfway through law school.
“I had to sell everything I owned and borrow from every person I know to fight this case; I am so thankful to the community, family and friends for all of the support,” he said. “This event devastated my life.
“I hope that I can get a certificate of innocence as I have had many problems with people running background checks. I was denied several apartments because landlords didn’t want me as a tenant because of the murder conviction. Four years of my life were taken from me.”
He declined to comment on the amount of the settlement.
Zellner could not immediately be reached Friday.
Kenneally said Casciaro’s lawsuit included “a baseless and false allegation against a member of the state’s attorney’s office.” He said the insurance will pick up $45,000 and the county will pick up the rest.
“Our acceptance is in no way a recognition of wrongdoing on the part of this office,” Kenneally said in a statement. “We remain confident that the office properly brought charges against Mr. Casciaro and maintained the highest level of professionalism and integrity throughout the prosecution, which resulted in a jury of 12 citizens finding Mr. Casciaro guilty of felony murder beyond a reasonable doubt.”
McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather previously granted a motion filed by Kenneally earlier this year requesting a special prosecutor from the Illinois Office of the State’s Attorney Appellate Prosecutor’s office to handle Casciaro’s certificate of innocence petition. That will no longer be in effect.
The appellate ruling that set Casciaro free said evidence was so lacking and improbable that the state failed to prove Casciaro’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The Illinois Supreme Court denied the McHenry County state’s attorney’s request in March 2016 to hear an appeal of the lower court’s decision.
It took three trials, one for perjury and two for murder, to convict Casciaro in March 2013 of first-degree murder by intimidation in connection with Carrick’s 2002 disappearance. Carrick was last seen Dec. 20, 2002, at the grocery store where he worked. The store also was owned by Casciaro’s parents.
Casciaro, now 33, was the only person convicted in the case. He served 22 months of his 26-year sentence in Menard Correctional Facility before the 2nd District Appellate Court overturned his conviction. He was released from prison in September 2015.