(Editor’s note at 1:44 p.m. Friday: A federal judge on Friday morning delayed the start of the trial following an appeals effort by the defendant, Michael Anderson. Attorneys for Anderson earlier appealed the judge’s ruling related to several points to be heard by jurors. The judge denied a re-review, and the matter nows go to a federal appeals court.)
A nearly five-year-old saga that has all the trappings of a made-for-television movie is about to get a hearing before a U.S. District Court jury. After two years of legal maneuvers, depositions and motions, allegations against the Texas County prosecutor that he sexually discriminated against a former employee and abused the powers of his office will be heard beginning next week in Springfield.
Monica Daniel Hutchison of Cuba filed the lawsuit in January 2009 about three years after sordid allegations by her former boss, Texas County Prosecutor Michael R. Anderson, surfaced in a Texas County civil lawsuit he filed. Anderson claimed his former office secretary and another county employee engaged in a smear campaign while operating a “swinger-style sex ring” from county government. Anderson, elected in 2002, dropped the suit about five weeks after it was filed.
Hutchison initiated the federal lawsuit against Anderson and Texas County government after receiving a “right to initiate a civil action” by the U.S. Department of Justice in October 2008 after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) referred the case to it. Hutchison originally filed a complaint with the EEOC in early 2006. Anderson denies all of the allegations. After spending about $120,000 in legal fees, Texas County was removed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. The county later filed suit against an insurance company after learning it had no liability coverage for legal fees.
Jury selection begins Monday.
In a court filing last week, U.S. District Court judge Richard Dorr ruled in Anderson’s favor on two points and said that Daniel’s claims of malicious prosecution, abuse of process concerning a subpoena and the civil lawsuit, emotional distress and a hostile work environment would proceed. Anderson’s attorneys asked Dorr the next day to reconsider his order.
The trial, which is expected to last about a week, promises to bring a who’s who of public officials into the courtroom, according to court filings that show the expected witnesses.
Licking, county and state law enforcement officers, county officeholders and judicial officials – along with medical experts – are listed as potential witnesses. (The publisher of the Houston Herald is among the dozens who have received a subpoena). Anderson’s legal team lists 31, and 41 are on Hutchison’s documents.
Depositions in the case paint an unflattering picture for some. At one point, a former co-worker of Hutchison stops midway into her testimony about a group sex encounter, telling an attorney, “Oh, my gosh, is this going to come out in court where my kids are all going to know?” If testimony matches the story line in depositions, many on the stand may feel some discomfort. Court files in U.S. District Court detail extramarital affairs, trips to strip clubs and other inappropriate behavior by those involved in public employment.
Court filings contained in hundreds of pages of documents give a hint of what jurors will hear in the federal courtroom: Hutchison left the county’s employment in late 2005. According to court documents, Anderson arrived at Hutcheson’s house in the middle of the night in December 2005, pounded on the door and left messages on an answering machine after she didn’t come to the door. About a week later, Anderson requested then Associate Circuit Judge Brad Ellsworth issue an investigative subpoena for the tapes. After recordings were turned over, Hutchison resigned.
In May 2006, Anderson filed his lawsuit against Hutchison and another woman, Mildred Williams, who in July 2009 filed her own lawsuit in state court against the prosecutor. That case is pending in Webster County. About three years later, Hutchison filed the federal lawsuit.
What the jurors will hear will be presented by Hutchison’s Rolla attorneys, David Steelman and Stephen F. Gaunt of Steelman and Gaunt, and Anderson’s lawyers, Warren E. Harris and Lance A. Roskens of Taylor, Stafford, Clithero, Fitzgerald and Harris of Springfield.