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St. John will pay $150k to settle a sexual harassment suit

St. John will pay $150k to settle a sexual harassment suit


ST. JOHN — The town will pay a former police dispatcher $150,000 to settle her sexual harassment claim against a once high-ranking police official.

Michael Fryzel, a former police officer and town councilman, still faces criminal charges he physically and verbally abused the dispatcher. Fryzel, 55, of St. John, is pleading not guilty.

Christopher Cooper, the woman's attorney, said she resisted efforts by attorneys for Fryzel and the town to deny her settlement money unless she convinced the prosecutor to drop sexual battery charges against her. "Its been non-stop pressure," he said.

Attorneys for Fryzel said they never bullied her.

She and Fryzel sat in a U.S. District courtroom for hours Tuesday while their six lawyers reached an agreement in a hearing presided over by U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Cherry. She signed the agreement. Both said they had no objections to ending the civil suit.

Sexual harassment claims by her and two other women against Fryzel, former police Chief Fred Frego and St. John Town Manager Steven Kil had roiled the town for more than two years.

It brought down Fryzel, who resigned as a police sergeant shortly before the suit was filed in March 2015. He resigned from the Town Council in 2011.

The suit alleges Fryzel pressed his groin against one woman and smacked another woman's buttocks, poked her breasts and made vulgar, sexual comments about her on several occasions between 2013 and 2015, and the former police chief and town manager tried intimidating them into not suing.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard A. Carter said after learning of the settlement that his office's prosecution of Fryzel won't be affected by what the civil lawyers decided.

Lawyers for the town and Fryzel said the woman had agreed last summer to tell the prosecutor "she had settled her civil case to her satisfaction and that because she finds the whole ordeal very stressful, was to put all of it behind her — both the civil and criminal case," according to a federal court document.

Cooper said they never agreed to having her drop the criminal case. Deputy Prosecutor Aleksandra Dimitrijevic, who was handling her case, testified Tuesday she believed Fryzel's attorneys were meddling in the woman's criminal case.

"I thought it was shenanigans. (Fryzel) is powerful and is trying to get away with something," Dimitrijevic said.

Attorney Thomas Vanes, who is defending Fryzel in criminal court, said Cooper had assured him the victim was stressed by the case and that allegations against Fryzel could come down to a "he said, she said" credibility test the prosecution could lose in a jury trial. So Vanes believes, he said, the prosecutor's office was willing to let the criminal case "take a back seat," and the parties may "find a painless way to make the matter go away."

* This story has been corrected.


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