Crime & Courts

Woodstock police officer accused of illegal search, traffic stop resigns from department

WOODSTOCK — A Woodstock police officer accused of performing an illegally prolonged traffic stop and search in August has left the department.

Officer Eric Schmidtke resigned from his position Nov. 17, Police Chief John Lieb said.

Schmidtke is one of two officers named in a federal lawsuit claiming that he wrote a false police report and falsely testified about the events of the arrest. A dash cam video provided by the police department allegedly shows Schmidtke telling K-9 Officer Sharon Freund that he didn't smell marijuana during the traffic stop of Woodstock man Philip M. Williams, contradicting his testimony and police reports.

Williams was pulled over Aug. 28 by Schmidtke for having an expired license plate sticker. Schmidtke said that while he was speaking with Williams, he "detected a hint of cannabis emitting from inside the motor vehicle" and called for a K-9 unit, according to police reports.

The lawsuit, filed by civil rights attorneys Meyer & Kiss LLC, said that Williams did not give permission for Schmidtke to search his car, but alleged that he was told he was unable to leave despite a lack of probable cause or legal justification to keep him detained. The city of Woodstock is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Freund, also named in the lawsuit, arrived with her police dog, Blue, several minutes later and the K-9 detected the presence of drugs in Williams' vehicle. Police then discovered a duffel bag containing 17 pounds of marijuana in the trunk, according to court documents.

Williams was indicted on felony drug charges and cited for driving without valid registration and driving without proof of insurance, but all charges were dismissed by the McHenry County State's Attorney's Office on Oct. 20. Williams will appear before McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather with his attorney, Mark Facchini, on Jan. 4, 2017, on a petition to expunge his arrest record.

Williams also alleged in the lawsuit that his constitutional rights were violated. Louis Meyer, Williams' attorney, has said his client does feel profiled and has been pulled over more than once in the McHenry County area. He is seeking unspecified monetary damages.

Meyer said Schmidtke's resignation does not change the scope of their lawsuit as the officer was employed with the Woodstock Police Department at the time of the alleged conduct. Meyer said he hopes the situation will cause change in the department moving forward.

"He won't have an opportunity to go out and fabricate probable cause on another case," he said. "His credibility as a police officer is gone and once you lose your credibility you can't be an effective police officer anymore."

Lieb said Freund remains on "active duty status with full police powers." He said at this time, "there is absolutely no information or indicia of evidence that would support administration doing anything but keeping her on full duty status."

Lieb declined further comment pending ongoing investigations and legal proceedings.

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