NEW DOUGLAS — A 54-year-old landlord has filed a federal lawsuit against two Madison County sheriff's deputies alleging he was falsely arrested in August on suspicion of burglarizing a rental home he owned.
Madison County Sheriff Robert Hertz said he has "complete confidence" that his deputies acted properly, but declined to comment on the lawsuit because he had not read it. He said the suit will be defended by the state's attorney's office.
The property owner, C. Rodney Yoder, is no newcomer to legally challenging authority. This is the 29th federal lawsuit he has filed since 1992, and while most were dismissed, he has won judgments against the former director of the Chester Mental Health Center and a large cash award from the Social Security Administration. And he won these acting as his own lawyer while a prisoner in the maximum security mental health unit.
Yoder gained national notoriety after Time magazine did a six-page article about him in July 2002 under the headline, "They call him crazy," outlining Yoder's long battle to convince authorities to stop holding him indefinitely under a provision of a mental health law as an allegedly dangerous person. His incarceration was extended after he had finished a term in state prison for assaulting his wife with a piano stool leg.
Yoder was released in 2005 in Randolph County when a judge dismissed an attempted murder charge because there was not enough evidence to believe that Yoder had actually hit another mental patient with a sock containing a bar of soap. At this hearing, several mental health professionals testified he was not a danger.
Yoder, through attorney Brian Polinske of Edwardsville, names deputies Lora Acra and Darren Onwiler in the lawsuit, which seeks a jury trial and damages in excess of $75,000. Polinske could not be reached for comment.
Yoder was taken into custody by Acra and Onwiler on Aug. 14 at a home on Allen Street in New Douglas. At the time, his tenant was in the process of moving out. Deputies arrived and Yoder was brought to the Madison County Jail and released after 24 hours but was not charged with a crime.
His lawsuit contends the deputies had "no probable cause" to handcuff him because he was simply cleaning out a vacant apartment in a house he owned.
"I had my employee with me helping. They had no right to arrest me," he said.
Christina Jacoby, the tenant, had called the sheriff's office when she returned to the house to gather more of her belongings and found her landlord inside. She said she feared Yoder, especially after finding information about him on the Internet and discovering he had once mailed highly detailed letters to former Playboy CEO Christie Hefner and the head of the Mars candy company threatening mayhem.
However, Yoder has said that he mailed those letters from the Chester Mental Health Center with the knowledge of guards and never intended to hurt anyone, but only to receive a definite sentence from which he could hope to be released.
Yoder told the deputies that under the law he was entitled to be in the house because Jacoby and her husband had not been there for three days, and under the law he claimed that meant they had abandoned the premises.
But Jacoby said that wasn't true and told the deputies that Yoder must have broken in because she had changed the locks. Deputies found that some of her belongings were inside Yoder's minivan.
In a police report, he claimed the articles were "junk" and he was taking them to a dump.
In October, Jacoby filed for and received a "no stalking, no contact order" from a judge in Madison County Court, a type of order of protection. She alleged that Yoder had repeatedly driven by her new home after his arrest and release in August. She also alleged that Yoder told her he would, "...slit my throat and that his people from Chicago could dispose of me," according to the allegations for the order of protection.
Yoder said that he had not harassed or threatened her in any way.
He has started the process of appealing the no-contact order with the Fifth Appellate Court in Mount Vernon.
Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at email@example.com or 618-239-2625.