The Volokh Conspiracy

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What Suffices as "Stalking" a Police Officer in Illinois


Gaddis v. Lannom, decided July 19 by the Illinois Appellate Court (opinion by Justice Thomas Welch, joined by Justices Mark Boie and Milton Wharton), has an unusual procedural posture:

[1.] Police officer William Lannom had gotten an temporary emergency no-contact order against Donald Gaddis, which "ordered Gaddis to stay at least 500 feet away from Lannom, his home, and his workplace; noted that all attempts at communication would be considered harassment; and prohibited Gaddis from posting anything on social media concerning Lannom." This was an ex parte hearing held the day Lannom filed his complaint, which here means that Gaddis wasn't present to oppose the order.

[2.] The order expired three weeks later, and Gaddis sued Lannom for "malicious prosecution," claiming that Lannom lacked probable cause to ask for the order. (Despite the name, "malicious prosecution" extends to unjustified initiation of civil proceedings.)

[3].] The question for the appellate court was therefore whether there was probable cause for Lannom to believe that Gaddis had engaged in stalking, meaning

a course of conduct directed at a specific person, [when Gaddis knew] or should know that this course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety, the safety of a workplace, school, or place of worship, or the safety of a third person or suffer emotional distress.

"'Course of conduct' means 2 or more acts, including but not limited to acts in which a respondent … follows, monitors, observes, surveils, or threatens a person, workplace, school, or place of worship, engages in other contact, or interferes with or damages a person's property or pet." "Contact" includes unconsented "appearing within the sight of the victim; approaching or confronting the victim in a public place or on private property; appearing at the workplace or residence of the victim; entering onto or remaining on property owned, leased, or occupied by the victim; placing an object on, or delivering an object to, property owned, leased, or occupied by the victim; and appearing at the prohibited workplace, school, or place of worship."

The appellate court concluded that the no-posting-on-social-media language was unconstitutional based on intervening Illinois precedent; but, setting that aside, it held that the Lannom's request for the order was based on probable cause "that Gaddis had engaged in two or more acts of stalking against him," based on these facts:

Lannom initially encountered Gaddis in October 2017 when he was dispatched to Gaddis's residence because Gaddis had a dispute with a neighbor. This encounter ultimately led to Gaddis's arrest, which Gaddis believed was wrongful. Then, the same day of the arrest, Gaddis reported that he was being harassed by Marion police officers to Lannom, and Gaddis believed that Lannom had lied in his response to that report.

From October 2017 through March 2018, Gaddis routinely drove by and through the parking lot of the Marion Police Department, where Lannom was employed, and made eye contact with the officers standing outside. Lannom testified at his deposition that, at various times, when he was standing outside, he observed Gaddis yelling obscenities and "flipping the bird" as he drove by; Lannom believed that this was directed at him.

Gaddis also entered the property of another police officer without permission, which again led to his arrest. {[The facts of that entry, which was apparently on the officer's driveway: -EV] On March 25, 2018, Gaddis was driving by officer DeMattei's home when he noticed that DeMattei was in the driveway with another officer, Sam Ward. He decided to stop and talk to DeMattei about what DeMattei had done to him and how it had negatively impacted his life. When he approached the two officers, DeMattei walked away without saying anything to him and went inside the home. Ward then told him that he should leave. As Gaddis attempted to get back into his vehicle, Ward "took [him] to the ground" and would not allow him to leave.

DeMattei then came out of the house, and the Williamson County Sheriff's Department was called. He was charged with a felony, and those charges were still pending.}

After his arrest, his vehicle was searched, and it was discovered that he had a weapon's holster and speed loaders for a revolver in his possession. Gaddis also had a notebook that contained writings suggesting that he harbored animosity toward Lannom. In various places in the notebook, there were statements that accused Lannom of lying and misconduct regarding Gaddis's wrongful arrests and reports of harassment.

{Entry dated January 10, 2018, "Police: Lannom lying. Blocking street."

Entry dated February 26, 2018, "Lannom, cars blocking (record) roadway (comments)."

Entry dated March 7, 2018, "MRN Police: (those involved) wrongful arrest and misconduct."

Entry dated March 25, 2018, "Lannom, DeMatti [sic], Woman, no crime, police breaking law, why called, 2 said civil matter, private property sign, game comment, cop comment about limbs, preconceived plan arrest, report why called, blocked road 3 cars that night, call w/Lannom (lied), harassment, next day looking at tree, coaching for OP."}

Gaddis was confrontational with some of the individuals referenced in the notebook, and it was reasonable for Lannom to fear that Gaddis would confront him next.

Under these circumstances, we find that Gaddis engaged in a threatening course of conduct consistent with the definition of "stalking" and that a person of ordinary care would reasonably believe or entertain an honest and sound suspicion that Gaddis engaged in acts of stalking against him. Thus, Gaddis, as a matter of law, cannot demonstrate that Lannom lacked probable cause to file the petition for stalking no contact order against him. Accordingly, we find that the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of Lannom and against Gaddis.

Note that, though the court simply found that a reasonable person could have viewed this as probable cause for a "stalking"-based civil lawsuit, it follows that (had there been a stalking prosecution based on these facts) a judge could have properly issued a long-term no-contact order based on such behavior, and a reasonable jury could have found this to be criminal stalking if it concluded the facts had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.