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Article posted: 1/5/2010 12:01 AM

$1.5 million settlement in ex-gymnastics instructor's civil case

Birkett says it won't affect criminal re-trial

Michael Cardamone

Michael Cardamone

 
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The civil lawsuit brought by 13 girls against a former Aurora gymnastics instructor they accuse of inappropriately touching them was settled Monday for $1.5 million.

The payment will be made by the insurance carrier for the family-owned gymnastics academy where Michael Cardamone was once employed.

Distribution of the settlement amount has yet to be determined; those details are expected to be ironed out by attorneys during hearings slated for February and March. Cardamone, the gymnastics school and Cardamone's mother, Linda Lynch, all were named in the suit.

"Anything over zero is too much," Lynch said. "However, this amount is less than 10 percent of what they originally demanded."

Most of the girls are adults now and did not appear at Monday's hearing. An attorney representing 12 of the plaintiffs said the settlement was a "vindication" of their claims. The civil suit was filed in 2005.

"I believe it is a successful and positive outcome," attorney Patrick Provenzale said. "This settlement was long overdue."

However, DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett said he doesn't anticipate Monday's settlement having any impact on the criminal case, in which Cardamone faces a second trial on the molestation charges. Birkett would not elaborate.

The settlement is the latest wrinkle in Cardamone's legal saga that began with his arrest in 2002. He was convicted three years later of inappropriate contact with seven of the 14 girls who accused him of touching them. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The verdict was overturned in 2008 by an appeals court that ruled the trial judge allowed too much testimony of uncharged allegations. But instead of being immediately released, Cardamone was kept behind bars as Birkett fought the appeals court ruling.

Cardamone had also been convicted of harassment stemming from a 911 call he placed to report a possible drunken driver that turned out to be one of his accuser's mothers. He was sentenced to three years in that case in 2006. Birkett later added perjury charges, which are pending, against Cardamone.

Currently, he remains free on $550,000 bond while awaiting the new trial. No date has been set.

Cardamone's family is concerned that Monday's settlement could affect the criminal case.

"It is a shame when an offer becomes so low that it is cheaper for the insurance company to settle than to continue paying to fight it," Lynch said. "We continue to profess the innocence of Michael, and we vow to continue to fight this horrible injustice."

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