Judge rejects lawsuit by Missouri man who had been declared innocent of murdering mom



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JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit by a central Missouri man who spent nearly 15 years in prison until a court said he had been wrongfully convicted of murdering his mother.

Dale Helmig had sued Osage County and three former law enforcement officers involved in his arrest and conviction, seeking an unspecified amount of damages while alleging they engaged in a conspiracy to deprive him of his constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey Wednesday rejected all seven of Helmig's assertions and dismissed the case, the Jefferson City News Tribune reported Friday (http://bit.ly/1p3tI1a ).

Norma Helmig was found dead in 1993, tied to a concrete block in the flood-swollen Osage River.

Dale Helmig was convicted of first-degree murder in 1996 and sentenced to life in prison. He was freed on bond in December 2010, shortly after DeKalb County Senior Judge Warren McElwain ruled that he was "actually innocent of the crime." The state appealed the judge's reversal, but the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the ruling in 2011 and the Osage County prosecutor subsequently dismissed charges against Helmig.

Helmig, 58, sued former Osage County Sheriff Carl Fowler, former deputy Paul Backues and former Missouri Highway Patrol trooper Robert Westfall. Helmig's lawsuit asserted that he was subjected to false arrest, "malicious prosecution" in violation of his rights, a conspiracy to "offer untruthful testimony," the failure to disclose evidence favorable to his defense, fabricated evidence and failure to establish appropriate policies or adequately train law enforcement personnel.

Laughrey's ruling rejected all of those assertions.

Laughrey wrote that liability for making a false arrest "cannot be based on the bare fact that the suspect is later proven innocent, or the charges are dismissed." She said police and prosecutors had probable cause for their actions and Helmig failed to establish that he was deprived of constitutional rights.


Information from: Jefferson City News Tribune, http://www.newstribune.com

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