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Settlement conference set in bungled Evansville SWAT raid

May 6, 2016

A federal court has scheduled a settlement conference later this month in the case of an Evansville woman who sued the city after her home was violently raided by an armored phalanx of SWAT officers who found no evidence of a crime.

Louise Milan’s case against Evansville, city Police Chief Billy Bolin and others is back before District Judge William T. Lawrence in the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Indiana after the U.S. Supreme Court in February rejected the city’s petition to hear its appeal.

Milan was 68 in June 2012 when a SWAT team descended on the home she shared with two daughters. Officers were looking for the source of Internet threats against police and tracked the IP address to Milan’s home. However, the unsecured Internet connection allowed people outside her home to use her connection.

Lawrence ruled in January 2015 that Milan could pursue an excessive force claim against the city and that Evansville had no claim of qualified immunity for the action of its police. The city appealed, but to no avail. Judge Richard Posner wrote for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that video of the raid posted online was “disturbing” and “cannot have helped race relations in Evansville.” The appellate ruling likened police action to the Keystone Kops, finding EPD in proceeding with a SWAT raid on skimpy evidence “committed too many mistakes to pass the test of reasonableness.”   

The District Court has set a settlement conference in the case for May 25 in Evansville. If the case doesn’t settle, a three-day jury trial is scheduled to begin August 22.

Milan’s attorney, Kyle Biesecker of Biesecker Dutkanych & Macer LLC in Evansville, said four past settlement conferences have failed to produce an offer from the city.

“All indications I’ve gotten to this point indicate I don’t think any settlement is forthcoming,” he said. “That may change at the settlement conference.”

He said Milan “did nothing wrong and is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”
 
An attorney representing the Evansville defendants, Keith Vonderahe of Ziemer Stayman Weitzel & Shoulders, LLP, declined to comment on whether the city has or intends to make a settlement offer.

“The city will most definitely participate in [the settlement] conference in good faith — with the optimistic intent of reaching a settlement and avoiding the trial,” Vonderahe said in an email. “Of course, if settlement is not forthcoming, the city will be prepared to defend the actions of its police officers at trial.”
 

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