The city of Collinsville is being sued after a police officer was accused of filing a false police report and hiding evidence in a case against his neighbor.
Cheryl Helfrich, of Maryville, filed suit in East St. Louis federal court Thursday against the city of Collinsville and police officer Luke Tillman.
Tillman faces four felony counts of obstructing justice in Madison County. He remains on unpaid administrative leave with the department.
"He just had a vendetta against me," Helfrich said after Tillman was indicted in May. "I don't know why. I was a mind-your-own-business kind of neighbor. He told people that he was going to put me in prison no matter what it took."
Collinsville City Manager and former Police Chief Scott Williams declined to comment Thursday.
Tillman pulled over Helfrich a "myriad" of times during the years Helfrich and Tillman were neighbors, said the lawsuit filed Thursday by Belleville attorney John O'Gara on Helfrich's behalf. Tillman harassed Helfrich and searched her car without probable cause, according to the lawsuit.
On Nov. 16, 2011, Tillman stopped Helfrich in the neighborhood they shared outside Collinsville city limits for failing to display registration. Helfrich possessed a valid driver's license and had no outstanding warrants.
During a search of her car, Tillman found a crack pipe. After lab results were completed, Collinsville police asked to issue a felony charge against Helfrich. She spent two nights in jail before she was released on bail.
Helfrich, who admitted she struggled with a drug addiction, said she stopped using crack months before the stop.
While defending Helfrich, attorney Tyler Bateman told prosecutors he had information showing Helfrich did have a valid temporary registration affixed to her car, which was not indicated in Tillman's report. Bateman also asked whether a video and audio record was made of the stop because there was no mention of it in Tillman's report.
Collinsville's policy is to audio and video record stops, and if a stop is for a felony charge, the tape must be logged into evidence. When police recovered the video, they found Helfrich did have a temporary sticker affixed to her car.
The case against Helfrich was dismissed. Tillman was charged two months later. He is next scheduled to be in court in December.
Helfrich is asking for compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees and costs.
U.S. District Chief Judge David Herndon is assigned to hear the case.
Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2570.