Lawsuit filed against SAE fraternity, Champaign, CPD

Criminal charges resulting from an altercation on campus in 2013 have led Kyle O’Brien to take new legal action.

On Wednesday, O’Brien filed a civil lawsuit against the UIUC chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, two Champaign police officers, the City of Champaign and the SAE house director.

The case stems from an incident that occurred during “rush week” in August 2013 when O’Brien was visiting the University, according to the lawsuit.

In September 2014, a Champaign jury found O’Brien not guilty of charges of aggravated battery against Champaign Police officer Jeffrey Pickett and did not reach a decision on charges of resisting arrest. Charges of aggravated battery against a member of SAE were dropped.

Now, O’Brien is filing his own lawsuit, seeking damages and claiming his constitutional rights were deprived.

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    Fred Stavins, the Champaign City attorney, said he felt the lawsuit was filed in such a way as to gain ample media coverage. He said neither he, nor anyone else in the city, has been formally served with this lawsuit yet.

    “Police officers were called to the scene, and they did their job to the best of their ability,” Stavins said. “They often encounter situations not common to the general public.”

    The lawsuit described the events that took place leading up to and following the altercation and alleged discrepancies in the original trial against O’Brien.

    According to the lawsuit, on Aug. 31, 2013, O’Brien was walking in the area of East Daniel and South Third streets at 7:30 p.m., where the SAE house is located.

    Unknown individuals tipped over the fraternity’s dumpster, and members believed O’Brien was part of the group that tipped it over.

    After a verbal altercation, the SAE house director, Ricky Eyestone, called the police. O’Brien then left, walked south on Third Street toward Chalmers Street.

    The lawsuit stated members of the fraternity then jumped down from a fence and followed O’Brien down Third Street to Chalmers Street. As O’Brien neared Washington Park, also known as “Frat Park,” he ran south through the park.

    Eyestone allegedly told a SAE member to chase down O’Brien. The member then tackled O’Brien on the basketball court in the park. Pickett, one of the defendant officers, saw the member tackle O’Brien, which the lawsuit claimed as battery against O’Brien.

    Pickett and Eyestone then allegedly used an excessive amount of force on O’Brien, including blunt force, pressure on his head and pepper spray. The second police officer, defendant Jedidiah Mackey, arrived and delivered multiple knee strikes to the torso and a blow to O’Brien’s head. This blow injured Mackey’s hand.

    The lawsuit said Pickett knew Eyestone and Mackey were going to use excessive force and did nothing to prevent it.

    According to the lawsuit, Pickett accepted help from Eyestone because he claimed to be a former law enforcement officer. It was later learned that Eyestone’s Arizona law enforcement license had been terminated because he had stolen money from a police union.

    The lawsuit goes on to claim the defendants conspired to charge O’Brien for crimes for which they had no probable cause.

    O’Brien’s lawsuit claims the report was part of a conspiracy to “cover up wrongdoing by an SAE member and University of Illinois athlete.”

    Before the second trial, the state offered to drop the charges on the condition that O’Brien have supervision for the misdemeanor of disorderly conduct from the verbal altercation that occurred that evening.

    Members of SAE declined to comment on the incident.

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