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Article posted: 2/11/2013 6:46 PM

Former Elgin cop cites bankruptcy in lawsuit over planted evidence

By Harry Hitzeman

A 55-year-old former Elgin cop late last year completed a jail sentence after he pleaded guilty to planting evidence at a crime scene so he could look good to his supervisors and hopefully get promoted.

The fallout for Michael Sullivan, however, is continuing.

Jose Ares-Torres, wrongly jailed based on Sullivan's actions, sued Sullivan in June 2012 for damages. Torres' attorneys will argue next month in federal court that Sullivan's assets should not receive bankruptcy protection from possible damages awarded in the case.

"We are proceeding under a certain provision of the bankruptcy code that would make the debt non-dischargeable," said Alex McTavish, the attorney for Torres. "I don't know whether (Sullivan) is broke or not. He filed bankruptcy to try and get out of any liability to Torres. He's still liable to Torres for any damages he suffered. Ultimately, that will play itself out in court."

Torres spent several days in jail on felony robbery charges before Kane County prosecutors dismissed the case and charged Sullivan, of Sycamore, with felony misconduct in spring 2011.

The felony charges carried a top prison term of five years, but probation, fines and community service also were options.

Sullivan pleaded guilty to misdemeanor attempted obstruction of justice in August 2012 and was sentenced to a month in jail. He also was sentenced to 24 months probation, ordered to perform 200 hours community service and to pay $1,000 in restitution.

In the plea, Sullivan admitted he had moved a cellphone from his squad car to a crime scene. At the time, Sulivan's defense attorney said his client felt bad about what he had done and told his supervisor the next day.

Under state law, a police officer must be convicted of a felony while acting in an official law enforcement capacity in order to be stripped of a pension.

Sullivan served 10 years on the Elgin police force before resigning his post as a patrol officer. His base salary in his final year was $81,365.86, said Elgin Police Cmdr. Glenn Theriault.

When Sullivan turns 60, he can begin collecting his annual pension, which will be about 25 percent of his salary, or more than $20,300.

According to federal court records, Sullivan and his wife filed for bankruptcy Dec. 31, 2011, saying he and his wife owed at least $310,000 for two mortgages and car payments and had unknown liabilities from the Torres' lawsuit and Sullivan's criminal case.

Sullivan's bankruptcy attorney, Diane Elliot, declined to comment when reached by phone.

In court papers, Elliot argued Torres missed the 60-day deadline to file a claim against the Sullivans as a creditor and that Torres filed his lawsuit "to interfere with Sullivan's ability to have a fresh start as a result of his Chapter 7 bankruptcy."

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