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Court Denies Immunity To Romancing Officer

ST. LOUIS (CN) - The 8th Circuit has ruled that an officer may have violated the due process rights of a former CEO who was arrested and later acquitted on child molestation charges because the investigating officer was in a sexual relationship with the businessman's ex-wife.

Theodore White Jr. claims his then-wife, Tina, hatched a scheme to frame him after he refused to transfer half of his company stock to her name. His portion of the stock was worth about $400,000, and the IPO documents contained a provision stating that all of his stock would be transferred to Tina if White was ever convicted of a felony.

Tina and White's marriage deteriorated, and Tina filed for divorce in November 1997. They briefly reconciled as White launched a new business, but the relationship soured again when White caught Tina looking through confidential payroll files while working as the new company's receptionist.

Two weeks later Tina called the police to accuse White of molesting her 12-year-old daughter. White was forced to step down from his company and, when the divorce became final, the divorce court awarded Tina all of White's shares in his previous company.

Defendant Richard McKinley, who was put in charge of the investigation, allegedly helped Tina cook up the accusations long before they were made. McKinley asked Tina out in April 1998 and began an affair one month later. They were engaged in the fall and married by July 2000.

Meanwhile, White endured a series of mistrials that ended in acquittal. White sued Tina and McKinley for malicious prosecution, false arrest, negligence, fraud and suppression of evidence.

Defendants moved for summary judgment, but the district court and the appeals court refused to grant McKinley immunity in light of his relationship with Tina.

Circumstantial evidence indicated that defendants knew each other before the abuse allegations surfaced, and that Tina stood to gain financially from White's conviction, the court concluded.

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