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Suit against Tuchek, city of Lanesboro begins Feb 4

Fri, Jan 25th, 2008
Posted in Court

PRESTON - A civil suit brought by several victims of the April 22, 2002 arson fire in Lanesboro against the city of Lanesboro and then Police Chief John Tuchek will begin in Fillmore County District Court in Preston on Monday, February 4, 2008. The first day of the trial is expected to be consumed with pre-trial motions, with jury selection scheduled to begin on Tuesday, February 5.

Tuchek was convicted of first degree arson on October 24, 2002, for setting a fire behind the Little River General Store in Lanesboro. It was proven during the trial that Tuchek started the fire so he could be a hero and rescue his girlfriend who lived in the building. The fire destroyed three buildings. As part of his sentencing, Tuchek was ordered to pay $789,251 in restitution.

The plaintiffs in the case, Jeff St. Mane, Mary St. Mane, Charles St. Mane, Ted St. Mane, Kirstin Mensing, Michael DuBois, Tonya Dubois, and Rodney Cockrum allege in their suit that the city of Lanesboro was negligent in its hiring of Tuchek, first as a police officer, and later as police chief.

On September 19, 2005, Judge James Fabian granted a summary judgment in favor of the city of Lanesboro dismissing the lawsuits. But on July 25, 2006, the Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned Fabian's ruling.

"The record shows that although Tuchek did not have a history of violent behavior when he was hired, he did have a history of sexually harassing women, and an issue of material fact exists regarding whether an oral psychological examination or more thorough background search would have disclosed this information," the Court of Appeals affirmed.

The plaintiffs are represented by Iverson Reuvers law firm of Bloomington, who are expected to call 26 witnesses.

The city of Lanesboro is being defended by Attorneys Jeff Hanson of Rochester and John Dunlop of Minneapolis. They are expected to call 21 witnesses.

To date, John Tuchek is in default and has not responded to the suit. He did not attend, nor was he represented in court, at the pre-trial hearing on January 8.

Retired Judge Duane Peterson of Winona will hear the case, which is expected to take up to two weeks.

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