Jury Awards Missouri Clerk $1M in Suit Against Prosecutor

September 23, 2011

A southwest Missouri court clerk has been awarded $1 million in a lawsuit against a county prosecutor who claimed she and another woman were involved in a “swinger-type sex ring.”

Mildred Williams, Texas County court clerk, sued county prosecutor Michael Anderson for malicious prosecution in response to a lawsuit he filed against her and another county employee in 2006. Jurors awarded her $500,000 in actual damages and $500,000 in punitive damages on Tuesday.

The Springfield News-Leader reports that Anderson’s lawsuit alleged the two women had engaged in a smear campaign intended to deprive him of his elected position. Anderson also alleged the two had used their posts in the Texas County Courthouse to “do favors” for friends while they also were involved in a sex ring.

Anderson dropped his lawsuit about six weeks later, after he had sent press releases to local media with his claims.

Williams testified before a Webster County jury, which heard the case on a change of venue, that Anderson’s lawsuit had defamed her and caused her emotional pain, in addition to the costs of defending herself.

She said Anderson’s suit came after an incident in which she saw the prosecutor sexually harass the other woman in the lawsuit. She said Anderson’s suit was an attempt to intimidate her so she wouldn’t testify against him. The other woman also sued Anderson and the case was settled out of court in 2009.

The jury found in Williams’ favor on allegations of malicious prosecution, but in Anderson’s favor on a second claim of “abuse of process.”

“I’ve always believed that you let juries make these decisions,” said David Steelman, Williams’ attorney. “They put a lot of work into it, and I’m just grateful for their time.”

Warren Harris, Anderson’s attorney, said it’s not been decided whether his client will appeal.

“Obviously the verdict is higher than we thought it would be,” Harris said. “We’ll have to consider our options on appeal and see what’s available. I think there’s potential of some error in the case.”

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