HAMMOND — Lawyers for former Hobart Township trustee Thomas Silich filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against four people who lawyers believe conspired to get Silich arrested during a 2021 traffic stop in Lake Station.
Court documents identify violations of Silich's First, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights and cites negligence, battery, false imprisonment, trespass to property, stigma plus — it accuses the defendants of defamation accompanied by loss of a liberty or job — and failure to train arresting Officer Brandon Obermiller as reasons for the lawsuit.
Silich's lawyers are requesting damages in excess of $500,000 and punitive damages from the defendants.
Roy Dominguez, Silich's attorney, claims that the arrest was part of a "conspiracy" between police and other officials to smear Silich's reputation and remove him from his position as trustee.
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"If they were able to dirty him up in the eyes of the voter, they'd be able to beat him," Dominguez said. "When you use police power to incarcerate someone, it is wrong."
Documents list Lake Station Police Chief James Richardson, Lake Station Councilman Fred Williams, Hobart Township Board member Joseph Clemmons, Obermiller and the city of Lake Station as the defendants. They "conspired to fabricate false claims against the Plaintiff to remove Plaintiff from office as the Hobart Township Trustee and to cause him public embarrassment."
The lawsuit says Silich was "falsely arrested and falsely charged for political purposes" after he was pulled over in July 2021 on his way home from the office of Hobart Township Board in Lake Station by police for unsafe lane movement and failing to signal a turn. He was arrested and charged with operating while intoxicated.
The charges were dropped by City Court Judge Josh Matejczyk in January 2022; the Lake County prosecutor’s office said it couldn't prove that Silich committed those violations. Matejczyk also ordered Silich’s driving records expunged, erasing any official records of the charges and of Silich refusing a breath test.
Obermiller was waiting for Silich around 11:30 a.m. outside the Hobart Township trustee office, the documents say. Obermiller claimed that Silich was driving 40 mph in a posted 35-mph zone, which warranted the traffic stop.
Court documents say Obermiller "exhibited a pattern of conduct not conducive to practicing as a police officer," and was not adequately trained by Richardson to do his job.
In February 2022, Silich announced that he would not be seeking reelection, citing the stress caused by the arrest. He served eight years on the Hobart Township advisory board and 12 years as township trustee.
Williams declined to comment on the lawsuit Friday afternoon but previously denied any wrongdoing. In January, he said he believes Silich corrupted the office to serve his personal interests rather than the public interest of township residents. Obermiller, Richardson and Clemmons could not be reached for comment.