The city of Lincoln carries a professional malpractice insurance
policy on city employees and members of city government. In order
for the city to gain representation from the insurance company and
for the insurance company to pay any settlement, there must be a
The civil suit cites U.S. Code Title 42, Section
1983, a civil rights law that is commonly used in suits against law
enforcement and public bodies.
Wolter is representing two plaintiffs identified in documents
only as Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2.
The insurance company for the city has appointed Chuck Pierce
from Belleville to be the attorney representing the city.
In short, the activities that are the basis of the suit began in
Lincoln on Oct. 15, 2011, in Johnson's home. He was 31 years old at
the time. He took digital images of two women dressing and
undressing and did so without their knowledge or permission.
Johnson was tried on two counts of criminal felony charges of
unauthorized videotaping and convicted of one count on Dec. 2, 2013.
On the first count, he was placed on probation for 24 months,
given 100 hours public service and fined. The second count was
What is now at issue is the civil suit that was filed earlier
The suit alleges that evidence that was removed from Johnson's
home and taken to the Lincoln Police Department was misused by Petit
According to a report, an internal investigation of misconduct by
Petit began shortly after the incident occurred.
The report states that on Oct. 15, 2011, Jackson Johnson invited
friends into his home to change clothing. This was the day he and
friends had participated in a 5K race in Lincoln. It was not clear
if the invitation was offered before or after the race.
During that time, he allegedly used a camera and a cellphone to
record two women changing clothes. The cellphone was discovered by a
Jane Doe, and that video was deleted by the victim. The police were
notified, and the camera, complete with its memory card, was taken
The arresting officer took the evidence back to the police
station for processing but was interrupted when a fire broke out on
Delavan Street. The officer put the evidence in a temporary evidence
locker with the intent of completing his processing when he returned
from the fire.
The fire itself was large and the structure was completely
destroyed. The time invested in the fire by the Lincoln Police
Department extended beyond the arresting officer's shift, so he left
the evidence in the temporary locker with the intent of finishing
his work the next day when he came on duty.
In the interim, additional evidence was secured from the Johnson
home. The first officer, who is not named in any of the reports,
left the key to the temporary locker in his mailbox so that a second
officer could use the key and store the additional evidence.
In the hours between the arresting officer ending his shift and
returning for his next shift, Petit allegedly removed the memory
card from the temporary locker and viewed it on a police station
computer. Several witnesses were also present.
The report indicates there were as many as eight city officers
and two Lincoln firefighters in the room. The names have been
blacked out in the report, but statements from each possible witness
were included as part of the investigation.
All of the accounts state that Sherren told Petit that what he
was doing was not a good idea.
Sherren in his statement also said he gave Petit a direct order
not to view the content of the card, but he also admitted he left
the station without knowing if Petit followed the order.
When Petit did return the card to the temporary locker, it
slipped through a crack in the bottom of the locker and fell into
the locker below.
When the original arresting officer came back on duty the
following day, he was unable to find the memory card.
The first arresting officer learned that Petit was the last one
to have the card.
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Following a series of conversations and phone calls, Petit
returned to the office, located the officer who had the key to
the second locker, had the locker unlocked and returned the card
to the arresting officer on the case.
On Oct. 19, a third-party officer who witnessed these events
contacted Chief Ken Greenslate and gave him an account of what had
Greenslate immediately ordered an investigation of the matter and
put Deputy Chief Michael Geriets in charge of the investigation.
Geriets began his investigation on Oct. 21 and completed his
report on Nov. 8.
Jonathan Wright, who was then assistant state's attorney, was
asked to review the information collected regarding the internal
On Dec. 15, 2011, Wright offered an opinion that neither Petit
nor Sherren had committed a prosecutable offense. Wright concluded
that the city was correct in addressing this as an internal matter.
On Dec. 16, Petit and Sherren were interviewed by Geriets, with
their union representative, Dave Nixon, on hand to witness the
During the interview Petit was asked, "Did it cross your mind
that you shouldn't do this?"
Petit replied: "I wish it would have (crossed my mind). It was
just a serious error in judgment. The attitude going on in the squad
room, I let it get to me like it was a locker room environment.
Everyone was talking about the video all night. I kind of lost my
professionalism, I guess."
Sherren was also asked why he did not follow through with Petit,
and he replied, "(I) made a mistake, to be honest."
In the end, the investigation found that Petit and Sherren had
violated several department policies including:
RP.6 -- Handling,
Storage, and Disposition of Evidence.
ROC.-5 -- Exercise
of Duties and Authority.
Divulgence of Departmental Business.
On/Off Duty conduct-Morale/Efficiency/Image/Public Confidence.
ROC.-15.26 -- Misconduct known to
The two officers were suspended without pay for 30 days.
On Dec. 2, 2013, Johnson was found guilty of a criminal felony in
this case. He was represented by Lincoln attorney Doug Muck.
Mayor Keith Snyder commented:
"We applaud our Police Department for
its prompt work in arresting Jackson Johnson over two years ago. We
are also grateful for the work of the State's Attorney for obtaining
a felony conviction against Mr. Johnson for his conduct.
"It is unfortunate
that a civil suit has been filed seeking monetary damages from the
City. Our lawyers have advised us not to comment on the specifics of
active litigation. We are confident, however, that once all the
facts are known, it will be shown that the management of the City
handled the situation appropriately."
The civil suit is slated to go to court trial.
[By NILA SMITH]