All-American Footballer Sues Delaware, Ohio
COLUMBUS (CN) - A former Ohio State All-American football player claims in court that a Central Ohio police department targeted him because of his fame, arresting him rather than the perpetrator of a road rage incident.
Jim Stillwagon sued the City of Delaware, three of its police officers and a former officer and the alleged drunk driver he claims started the fracas, in Federal Court.
Stillwagon claims that the charges against him were dismissed, but he had to spend $400,000 to defend himself, and his business and family suffered from the false allegations.
"He is still thought of by most of the public as the former Ohio State football star who had a fit of road rage and shot someone," the complaint states.
Stillwagon seeks damages for conspiracy, malicious prosecution and other charges/
According to the 70-page lawsuit, "while riding his motorcycle on a Sunday afternoon, on Route 42 north of Columbus, Mr. Stillwagon was the victim of series of criminal assaults by a drunken driver operating a large hemi pickup truck. This driver attempted to run Mr. Stillwagon off the road, and attempted repeatedly to strike the plaintiff with his truck. Mr. Stillwagon did everything he could to escape these assaults. At one point he pulled off the road and waited several minutes after the truck drove on, hoping to end the encounter. When Mr. Stillwagon subsequently rode by, the truck pulled out behind him and continued the assaultive driving."
Stillwagon claims that defendant Richard O. Mattingly was the drunken driver. He says that the attacks continued down the road into the Delaware.
"After the drunk driver tried to run him over on an exit ramp, Mr. Stillwagon entered a parking lot and sought protection by parking beside a concrete structure located there," the complaint states. "The truck also entered the parking lot. Mr. Stillwagon was lawfully in possession of a handgun, and he used it to successfully disable the truck by shooting out the rear tire. When the truck came to a halt and the intoxicated driver got out, Mr. Stillwagon approached him, struck him in the head once, knocking him to the ground, and shouted at bystanders to call police. He then set the pistol down in a visible location and waited for police to arrive."
Stillwagon says he told police what had happened. They took him into custody, took him to the police station and continued interrogating him.
Stillwagon says he "acknowledged firing his weapon at the truck, but told them he neither shot nor attempted to shoot the driver or the truck. He told them that the man had 'tried to kill be about six times.'"
But Stillwagon says police arrested him and charged him with four counts of felonious assault, claiming that he "pursued the truck driver, had stood at a distance, pointed his pistol and shot the other man in the head in cold blood."
The complaint continues: "In truth, Mr. Stillwagon never engaged in any road rage conduct whatsoever. The drunk driver was the sole aggressor and pursued Mr. Stillwagon. Further, the drunk driver was never shot at all, nor did the plaintiff ever make any attempt to shoot him. These charges were entirely groundless and false.
"In order to achieve their stated goal to 'get Stillwagon', the police engaged in numerous improper and unlawful acts. They ignored and suppressed the forensic evidence in the case, which clearly disproved their accusations. They disregarded eyewitnesses who supported Mr. Stillwagon's innocence. They promised the real perpetrator immunity from any responsibility for his actions if he would cooperate in their prosecution of Mr. Stillwagon. They destroyed or discarded known exculpatory evidence, and failed to gather and preserve other exculpatory evidence. They threatened, coaxed and coaxed the driver of the truck to change his testimony on certain facts in order to strengthen their case against Mr. Stillwagon."
Stillwagon claims that as his court date approached, the prosecution repeatedly offered him plea bargains, but he "refused to plead guilty to anything, since he was in fact a crime victim rather than a criminal."
He says that at trial, "all charges were dismissed by the court at the end of the evidence."
The complaint adds: "As a result of this false arrest and malicious prosecution, Mr. Stillwagon was forced to spend over $400,000 for bond, legal fees and investigators to prove his innocence. Most importantly, Mr. Stillwagon and his family have suffered immense insult, humiliation and injury to his reputation and name. He is still thought of by most of the public as the former Ohio State football star who had a fit of road rage and shot someone. All of this is due to the unlawful actions of the defendants."
Named as defendants are the City of Delaware, Det. Benjamin Segaard, former Det. Patrick Gerke, Officer Adam Willauer, Det. Sgt. Jonathan Radabaugh, and Richard O. Mattingly.
Stillwagon seeks compensatory and punitive damages for false arrest, malicious prosecution, supervisory and municipal liability, abuse of power, defamation, assault and spoliation of evidence.
He is represented by James D. McNamara of Columbus.
Delaware, pop. 36,000, is north of Columbus.