Belle man’s petition against Gasconade County alleges Sunshine Law violation stemming from 2015 personal injury case

Deputy sheriff’s pursuit in 2014 resulted in multi-vehicle crash in Owensville

By Dave Marner, Managing Editor
Posted 4/8/21

A second lawsuit has been filed related to serious injuries sustained by a Belle man in a 2014 deputy sheriff’s pursuit of a wanted felon which resulted in a multi-vehicle crash in …

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Belle man’s petition against Gasconade County alleges Sunshine Law violation stemming from 2015 personal injury case

Deputy sheriff’s pursuit in 2014 resulted in multi-vehicle crash in Owensville

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A second lawsuit has been filed related to serious injuries sustained by a Belle man in a 2014 deputy sheriff’s pursuit of a wanted felon which resulted in a multi-vehicle crash in Owensville.

Jefferson City attorney Blake Markus on Feb. 1 filed a petition in Gasconade County Circuit Court seeking information about why a Gasconade County Sheriff’s patrol vehicle traveled onto his client’s rural Maries County property in late June 2019 — three days after John Romanus, the county’s sheriff then, had been subpoenaed to give a deposition in a personal injury lawsuit brought on behalf of Joshua Newton.

Newton is also the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit filed in early 2015 against Gasconade County, one of the county’s former deputies, the convicted felon who was being pursued Oct. 23, 2014, and the estate of another motorist involved in the crash.

Markus, an attorney with Carson & Coil,  said a Sunshine Law request made in July 2019 sought information on Gasconade County’s pursuit policy and factual information about the department at the time of the 2014 pursuit and subsequent crash.

Markus’ petition alleges there was a violation of state statute governing public records (RSMo. 610.030) to “withhold information that will implicate the County of Gasconade in a scheme to intimidate and harass Plaintiffs in their case against Gasconade County.”

Newton’s wife, Cara, is also listed as a plaintiff in the latest lawsuit along with the personal injury case from 2015.

Some of those records sought by Markus on the Newtons’ behalf may not actually exist — at least with the county’s dispatching agency.

An administrator with the county’s emergency dispatching operations, said there was no dispatching record of a Gasconade County Sheriff’s patrol car at the Newton’s property off of Maries County Road 317 on the dates specified in the petition.

In the petition, Markus had sought dispatch logs from June 27-28, 2019, any GPS data for county vehicles traveling outside of Gasconade County, complaints or calls which may be made which would have prompted a Gasconade deputy to drive onto the Newton’s property, or any records or documents regarding a county vehicle used to go into Maries County by sheriff’s personnel.

Markus’ petition noted a certified mail receipt shows the request was received. 

He said he never heard another word from the sheriff or anyone from the county.

“We just want the documents,” Markus said last Monday, who was speaking publicly about the case with permission from his superiors. He said he will ask for attorney fees if Gasconade County had these requested documents and didn’t respond.

Romanus is no longer sheriff after leaving office in early-2020 with a partial year remaining on his first term. The crash resulting in the personal injury lawsuit occurred under the prior administration of Randy Esphorst who retired when his term expired to close out 2015.

The Sunshine Law petition is separate from the personal injury petition which is slowly working its way through the legal system.

Markus explained a Nov. 25, 2020, notation in the injury lawsuit was a dismissal of their Sunshine Law petition as required by the court to separate the two cases.

“We couldn’t join the Sunshine case with the personal injury case,” said Markus.

The personal injury case is being heard through the Osage County portion of the 20th Judicial Circuit. The Sunshine Law petition was filed in Gasconade County.

Three counts of the injury claim petition were dismissed without prejudice which means they can be refiled at a later date. At least one of the counts dismissed pertained to supervision by the county sheriff of an employee named to the lawsuit.

“COVID-19 put a big wrench in getting things done,” said Blake last Monday.

He said his client is facing a partial hip replacement surgery to replace a socket damaged in the 2014 crash as convicted felon Daniel Foreman tried to elude a deputy sheriff’s attempts to make a traffic stop on Krausetown Road entering the city limits.

Foreman was in jail during 2020 and video conferences were needed to depose him at times during the year. Markus said he believes Foreman was scheduled to be released from prison sometime this year.

Markus said the $25,000 in each count of the personal injury petition was the minimum statutory amount required for filing the case. 

“My client has hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of medical bills, and will have thousands more,” said Markus.

Gasconade County Clerk Lesa Lietzow said commissioners received notice of the new lawsuit during their meeting last Thursday. She said county officials were processing the information as it is received and forwarding it to the county’s insurance provider, Traveller’s Insurance. The county’s insurance provider when the 2015 lawsuit was filed was MOPERM.

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