A federal appeals court has revived Indiana criminal defense lawyer Michael Alexander's lawsuit accusing the U.S. government of conspiring with a state prosecutor and two criminal suspects to falsely accuse him of attempting to bribe a witness.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on Wednesday reversed Southern District of Indiana Judge Sarah Evans Barker's April 2012 dismissal of Alexander's claims. Barker held that Alexander failed to raise a valid malicious prosecution claim and that his intentional infliction of emotional distress claim was time-barred.
Alexander's June 2011 Federal Tort Claims Act suit claimed that former Indiana state prosecutor Mark McKinney conspired with Federal Bureau of Investigation agents Neal Freeman and James Howell and father-son criminal team Stanley Chrisp and Adrian Kirt, who faced drugs and arson charges, to frame him. He claimed that McKinney nursed a grudge against him because he was a vocal critic of the prosecutor's handling of drug forfeitures.
He alleged that his February 2008 arrest and was based on false evidence and that the alleged conspirators withheld a tape recording of a July 2006 meeting with Chrisp and Kirtz during which he denied knowledge of his investigator's alleged bribery of clients.
A Delaware County, Ind., jury acquitted Alexander in March 2009. He filed a notice of his tort claim with the FBI in October 2010 and followed with the lawsuit when the FBI opted not to act on the claim.
Judge Diane Wood wrote Wednesday's opinion, joined by judges Richard Posner and John Daniel Tinder.
Concerning the malicious prosecution claim, Wood wrote that the allegations are "more than sufficient to assert a causal link between the agents' actions and the subsequent prosecution." She added that the complaint adequately pleads malice despite the fact that Alexander hasn't yet given a reason for the agents' animosity toward him.
"Unfortunately, in a world where public corruption is hardly unknown, we cannot agree that Alexander's complaint is too implausible to hold together absent allegations of this sort. We might wish to live in a world in which such an egregious abuse of one's official position would be unthinkable, but experience suggests that we do not," Wood wrote.
Regarding the timeliness of his emotional distress claim, Wood wrote: "Alexander has alleged many specific events that fall well within the applicable limitation period."
"We're very happy to get it back before the trial court and looking forward to presenting the facts," Alexander's lawyer Donald McClellan of McClellan & McClellan in Muncie, Ind., said
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Indiana, which represented the government, had no comment, spokesman Tim Horty said. Assistant U.S. Attorney Shelese Woods argued for the government.
Sheri Qualters can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.