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updated: 9/11/2017 6:00 PM

State's attorney settles suit over charges in 2002 murder of Johnsburg teen

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  • Mario Casciaro, shown at a 2015 conference where he spoke about wrongful convictions, settled a lawsuit against the McHenry County state's attorney's office, but the litigation against the Johnsburg Police Department is still pending in federal court.

    Mario Casciaro, shown at a 2015 conference where he spoke about wrongful convictions, settled a lawsuit against the McHenry County state's attorney's office, but the litigation against the Johnsburg Police Department is still pending in federal court.
    DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO

 
 

A $50,000 settlement has been reached in a lawsuit brought by a man whose conviction in a 2002 murder of Johnsburg teen was overturned by an appellate court.

Mario Casciaro, 34, served about 22 months of a 26-year sentence after his conviction in the murder of Brian Carrick -- who went missing in December 2002 and whose remains have not been found -- was overturned in September 2015.

Casciaro sued McHenry County prosecutors and Johnsburg police earlier this year, arguing his civil rights were violated and that authorities conspired to pin the murder on him.

Attorneys OK'd the settlement Friday in Woodstock. Allegations against the Johnsburg police department are pending, and no future court date was available.

"The cause of action against the prosecution settled for $50,000 because the state's attorney has absolute immunity from liability. We were surprised in light of their absolute liability status that any offer was made by them to settle," said Kathleen Zellner, Casciaro's attorney. "The main focus of the civil rights lawsuit has always been the City of Johnsburg and its police chief for the destruction and fabrication of evidence which would have exonerated Mr. Casciaro."

In early 2012, a jury could not reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared. Casciaro was found guilty of murder by intimidation in spring 2013 in a second trial.

At both trials, prosecutors argued Casciaro enlisted the help of an enforcer named Shane Lamb to scare Carrick, 17, into repaying money he owed for selling marijuana. Casciaro and Lamb talked to Carrick in December 2002 at a grocery store where he worked that was owned by Casciaro's parents. Lamb, who received immunity from prosecutors, testified that he got angry with Carrick as the three spoke in a walk-in cooler and punched Carrick, who fell backward onto the concrete floor. Casciaro told Lamb to leave and Carrick was never seen again.

Casciaro's defense attorney argued physical evidence tied other workers to the crime scene and Lamb essentially got a card for a "free murder" in the immunity deal.

McHenry State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally said the county's insurance will pick up $45,000 of the settlement and the county will pay the rest. He said the lawsuit was a "baseless and false allegation" but it was his office's fiduciary responsibility to settle.

"Our acceptance is in no way a recognition of wrongdoing on the part of this office," Kenneally said. "We remain confident the office properly brought charges against Mr. Casciaro and maintained the highest level of professionalism and integrity throughout the prosecution, which resulted in a jury of 12 citizens finding Mr. Casciaro guilty of felony murder beyond a reasonable doubt."

Casciaro, who is attending law school, is seeking a certificate of innocence to be issued. That matter, opposed by Kenneally, is due in court Sept. 29.

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