A Lake in the Hills man has been awarded $55,000 in damages after a jury determined Bull Valley police arrested the man without cause in 2015.
Four years after 38-year-old Chuck Casamento was accused of battering the former Bull Valley police chief, Casamento finally saw justice, said his attorney, Jeannie Ridings. Casamento has maintained that his arrest was an act of retaliation by ex-police chief James Page, whom Casamento publicly questioned and criticized in an online Facebook group.
“This is a complete vindication that not only did [Casamento] not do what he was charged with, he didn’t batter anybody,” Ridings said. “But moreover, James Page was guilty of violating [Casamento’s] rights.”
The lawsuit stemmed from Casamento’s Nov. 24, 2015, arrest on a misdemeanor battery charge, after police claimed the man intentionally hit Page’s arm with a door as the two were exiting Village Hall. Prosecutors with the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges less than a month later, and Casamento soon after filed a lawsuit against Page and the village alleging false imprisonment and malicious practice.
Dominick Lanzito, the attorney who represented Page and the village, could not immediately be reached for comment.
After years of litigation, the case went to trial Tuesday. Jurors deliberated for about two hours before returning a $55,000 judgment in Casamento’s favor Thursday.
“The award is exceptionally high for a McHenry County jury, but especially exceptional given that the jury never heard the ‘backstory’ of this dispute,” Ridings said in a news release.
Casamento’s history with the Bull Valley police is well documented on a Facebook page he operates, which is called “Justice from Bull Valley Police Department.” The page chronicles various Freedom of Information Act requests and interactions with village officials. Casamento’s inquiry into the village’s practices stem from citations police at the time were issuing to drivers of work vans and SUVs whose vehicles are not labeled with a business name.
The Facebook page drew negative attention to the police department, which ultimately stopped issuing the citations that were the focus of Casamento’s attention, Ridings said.
Casamento continued to look into the department, however, and attended two administrative hearings at Bull Valley Village Hall. After a hearing Nov. 24, 2015, Casamento and Page left the building about the same time. On their way out, Page claimed Casamento intentionally hit his arm with the door. Casamento was arrested for misdemeanor battery, chained to a wall and made to post $150 bail, court records show.
“I could have been in jail for a year and I would have lost everything I’ve ever worked for, and I think that’s exactly what they were trying to do to me,” Casamento said.
Page later filed an unsuccessful counterclaim against Casamento and his attorney, alleging defamation and conspiracy. Casamento forced the former police chief to withdraw from a new job offer in Westworth, Texas, Page said, after Casamento called the city’s human resources department and made “defamatory statements” about Page.
The Justice From Bull Valley Police Department Facebook page was active as of Friday and had garnered 3,339 likes.
“I’m keeping it because if they get back into doing shady stuff again, I’m going to hear about it, because I have hundreds of people who check it every day,” Casamento said. “If anybody drives through Bull Valley and gets a questionable ticket, I’m going to be on it really quickly.”