Wrongful conviction lawsuit against former Louisville police chief, detective dismissed
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A wrongful conviction lawsuit filed against Louisville police by a man who claimed he spent 11 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit has been dismissed by a Jefferson Circuit Court judge upon agreement of both sides.
An attorney for Michael VonAllmen said they agreed to a dismissal of the suit against former Louisville police chief Richard Dotson and John Tarter, the primary detective in VonAllmen's 1982 rape, sodomy and robbery case, because they didn't find evidence of malicious prosecution.
"Through the discovery process, we learned there was no willful misconduct on behalf of police," said attorney Ted Shouse, who added that the suit was filed, in large part, to find out how VonAllmen was convicted of a crime he didn't commit.
In June 2010, Circuit Judge Charles Cunningham overturned VonAllmen's conviction, ruling there was enough evidence to exonerate him. VonAllmen had been paroled in 1994.
After interviews with several people involved in the case, Shouse said he and VonAllmen got answers on how the case was handled and came to believe that an overreaching prosecutor and a poor defense – not overt misconduct – were the key factors in the conviction.
VonAllmen, who is currently a full-time student at Jefferson Community College with a 4.0 grade average, is "satisfied that we discovered what happened here," Shouse said.
The lawsuit, filed in 2011, accused former detective Tarter of conducting a sloppy investigation and inducing a false identification from the victim by lying to her. Dotson was also named in the suit, which claimed he did not do enough to clear VonAllmen.
Attorneys for Tarter and Dotson said in a October motion to dismiss the suit that there was no evidence that Tarter tainted the victim's eyewitness identification, which was the only evidence against VonAllmen.
Witnesses involved in the case "unequivocally refuted the allegation" that Tarter tainted the victim's eyewitness identification of VonAllmen, according to the motion.
Attorney David Kaplan, who represented Tarter, said his client "is pleased that the matter has been concluded. He has known all along that he handled himself professionally and ethically in this investigation."
Bill Patteson, a spokesman for the county attorney's office, which represented Dotson, said "we are very pleased with the outcome of this case."
In overruling the verdict against VonAllmen, Judge Cunningham said another man, Ronald Tackett, was most likely responsible for the crime.
VonAllmen closely resembled Tackett, who was charged in a similar rape in 1978. Tackett, who was convicted of misdemeanor assault in that rape case after the key witness declined to testify, died in a 1983 high-speed chase involving Jefferson County police.
The victim described her rapist's eyes as blue. VonAllmen's are brown, but Tackett had blue eyes.
And Tackett lived just blocks from where the victim was abducted at gunpoint, according to court records.
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