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April 3, 2013

Man wrongfully convicted of double murder settles lawsuit against Paris, Ill.

Illinois city to impose tax levy to raise $3.5 million to pay Randy Steidl

PARIS, ILL. — A man found to have been wrongfully convicted of a 1987 double homicide in Paris, Ill., has been awarded $3.5 million by a federal court to settle his civil rights lawsuit.

However, Randy Steidl must pursue additional litigation to collect more than $2.4 million of the settlement.

Steidl’s attorney, G. Flint Taylor, has said that Steidl still seeks a pardon from the Illinois governor’s office on the basis of innocence.

Steidl and co-defendant Herb Whitlock were convicted in 1987 for the murders of Dyke and Karen Rhodes at their Paris home. Steidl spent 17 years in prison, including 12 years on death row, before being exonerated by the federal court in 2003.

In 2005, Steidl filed a civil rights lawsuit against city, county and state officials.

“I am both pleased and relieved that, after 25 years of fighting for justice, I have finally resolved my civil case,” Steidl said in a statement released by his attorney. “While no amount of money can fully compensate me for what I have suffered, this judgment and the prior settlement establish, once and for all, that I was wrongfully convicted for crimes I did not commit. However, my pursuit of justice will not end until my name is completely cleared by an innocence pardon from the governor.”

Steidl had previously settled a lawsuit against the Illinois State Police last year, receiving an award of $6 million.

In the new settlement, the City of Paris has agreed to pay Steidl $325,000 over 41⁄2 years as part of the agreement, while the city’s insurance carrier will pay another $325,000. The money from the City of Paris will come from a tax levy imposed by the town to pay for the settlement.

Another $290,000 is to come from Edgar County insurance carriers, and another $85,000 from Edgar County.

Also, $1.625 million has been assigned from former State’s Attorney Mike McFatridge to Steidl against the State of Illinois under the State Indemnification Act.

And, $850,000 has been assigned from the City of Paris of rights to indemnification against an insurance carrier.

Steidl is to receive $700,000 immediately, and then another $325,000 spread over 41⁄2 years.

That means he is guaranteed to receive $1.025 million. But, he has to initiate litigation against the State of Illinois to attempt to collect the $1.625 assigned from McFatridge. He must also file suit against an insurance carrier to attempt to collect the $850,000.

Terry Ekl, attorney for McFatridge, presented a statement on behalf of his client when contacted by the Tribune-Star about the settlement.

“For many years Mike McFatridge was an outstanding and dedicated public servant as a prosecutor in Edgar County.  Mr. McFatridge engaged in absolutely no misconduct in connection with the prosecution of Randy Steidl and Herb Whitlock who were convicted by two separate juries of the brutal murders of Karen and Dyke Rhodes,” Ekl stated. “The settlement of this case does not in any way reflect any wrong doing by any police officer or the prosecution team. The settlement is a reflection of the uncertainly of proceeding to trial.  Neither Mr. Steidl nor any of the defendants were assured of winning at trial. The settlement also guarantees that Mr. McFatridge will not be personally responsible to pay any portion of the settlement.  The settlement requires that Mr. Steidl proceed to collect funds from the State of Illinois who has refused to recognize their statutory duty to defend and indemnify Mr. McFatridge.”

Attorney Jim Sotos, who represented the City of Paris, said the settlement is a good resolution to the lawsuit.

“It was a very good settlement for the city, considering the cost of the defense,” Sotos said. Taking the lawsuit to trial would have resulted in several more years of litigation and associated costs.

“At some point, when the numbers made sense, it became time to settle rather than facing the uncertainty of taking it to trial,” Sotos said.

Steidl also issued a statement about the case.

“I am both pleased and relieved that, after 25 years of fighting for justice, I have finally resolved my civil case,” Steidl said. “While no amount of money can fully compensate me for what I have suffered, this judgment and the prior settlement establish, once and for all, that I was wrongfully convicted  for crimes I did not commit. However, my pursuit of justice will not end until my name is completely cleared by an innocence pardon from the Governor.”

Co-defendant Whitlock previously settled his lawsuit for an undisclosed amount.

Requests for comment were also submitted to the counsel for Edgar County, but no reply to telephone calls or email was received as of 4:30 p.m. A request for comment was also not received from the Illinois Attorney General’s office concerning the settlement.

Terre Haute Tribune-Star reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

 

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