8/11/2021Federal Judge Rejects Red Light Camera Racketeering Lawsuit
US District Court says motorists cannot sue Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois over corruption in its red light camera program.
By Richard Diamond
The ongoing bribery conspiracy investigation surrounding red light camera operator Safespeed does not give individuals a right to challenge the validity of the automated tickets issued by this system, a federal judge ruled on Friday. US District Judge Robert M. Dow Jr said motorists lacked the necessary standing to bring the lawsuit filed last year, even though six public officials and company representatives currently have accepted felony convictions or face criminal indictment for what they did in connection to the automated ticketing program.
Safespeed gave its salesmen a 3.5 percent cut of every ticket issued by camera systems they sold as an incentive, and this incentive worked better than expected. Tony Ragucci resigned his position as mayor of Oakbrook Terrace as news of the Federal Bureau Investigation's probe into Safespeed became public. The feds reportedly seized $60,000 in cash from Ragucci's home, and salesman Patrick Doherty last month said he wanted to reconsider his not guilty plea to the charge that he bribed mayors to win lucrative payoffs from Safespeed. The plea withdrawal hearing is set for September 7.
Oakbrook Terrace's red light camera issued the citation that was mailed to motorist Lawrence H. Gress. He sued, demanding refunds for every fine issued to a driver from red light cameras that were installed as a result of bribes to public officials.
"All predicate acts committed by defendants and the enterprise are related and were committed with a common scheme in mind: to bilk Illinois citizens and the citizens of other states out of fines generated by red light cameras placed by bribing public officials and concealing those bribes and public corruption to ensure that the red light cameras could continue to generate mountains of cash," Gress's attorneys argued.
Under the federal RICO statute, a plaintiff must show he has been directly harmed by the unlawful conduct of the conspirators. The first problem for Gress was that he never paid the $100 ticket. Judge Dow found that meant he never suffered any injury, despite the threat to withhold money from his state tax return. Even if he had paid, Judge Dow did not see the connection between bribery and the ticket.
"Plaintiff's theory that these bribes -- rather than his own actions -- caused his injury presumes that if Oakbrook Terrace had not contracted with SafeSpeed, the city would not have contracted with another red light camera operator -- which seems implausible given the alleged land rush by would-be red light camera providers into municipalities southwest of Chicago following passage of the state law authorizing use of red light cameras," Dow wrote.
A copy of the ruling is available in a 300k PDF file at the source link below.