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City Settles Lawsuit Filed Over Arrest for $80,000

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A man arrested by Woodstock Police whose drug charges were later tossed received an $80,000 settlement from the city of Woodstock.

Philip M. Williams sued the city and two of its police officers in federal court, alleging they lied about his arrest and violated his constitutional rights. The parties settled the lawsuit in February, according to a copy of the agreement obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by The Woodstock Independent.

Williams, of unincorporated Woodstock, was arrested during a traffic stop in August after Woodstock Police said they found 17 pounds of vacuum-packed marijuana in a duffel bag in his trunk. A McHenry County grand jury indicted Williams in September on two felony drug charges — the most serious of which could have sent him to prison for six to 30 years — but those charges and a pair of traffic citations were dropped in October without explanation by the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office. 

Officer Eric Schmidtke, who resigned from the Woodstock Police Department in November, wrote in a police report he could smell “the slight odor of cannabis” coming from Williams’ car, justifying a search of the vehicle. Williams’ attorney Louis Meyer has said Schmidtke repeated that claim to the grand jury.

But video and audio recorded by a dashboard camera during the traffic stop contradict Schmidtke’s assertion he could detect drugs in Williams’ car. On the recording, he can be heard telling Officer Sharon Freund, a canine handler called in to search the car with her dog, that he didn’t smell any marijuana.

After the charges against Williams were dropped, the Illinois State Police investigated the arrest, but prosecutors did not bring charges against Schmidtke. 

In addition to the city, both Schmidtke and Freund were named in the lawsuit. Freund remains on the force. Police Chief John Lieb has said there is “absolutely no information or indicia of evidence” to suggest she behaved improperly during the arrest.

The $80,000 settlement was paid by the defendants’ insurer. The agreement states the city and the two police officers do not admit any wrongdoing. 
Williams and his attorney are barred from making public statements about the case, according to the terms of the settlement. City Manager Roscoe Stelford declined to comment on the settlement except to confirm the case was closed.