Air Force vet says Metra cops wrongly confronted, arrested him after he plugged in laptop at Ogilvie

By Scott Holland | Jan 4, 2017

An Air Force veteran has accused two Metra Police officers of violating his civil rights after they asked him why he was using an outlet to charge his computer. 

Stephen Milhouse, of Cook County, filed his complaint Dec. 29 in federal court in Chicago. He named as plaintiffs Metra, which is legally known as Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation, as well as two Metra Police officers. In addition to his Air Force Service, Milhouse asserted in his lawsuit that he is a former Chicago police officer who has also been volunteering as the information technologies director at the RTW Veterans Center. 

According to Milhouse, the root incident took place around 7:40 a.m. April 24, 2016, when he was waiting in Chicago’s Ogilvie train station for an 8:40 a.m. train to Villa Park. A woman approached Milhouse looking for help to get home. Milhouse said he plugged in his laptop to a wall outlet to help her find a cab company, then used his cellphone to call for a ride. 

At that point, a building attendant ordered Milhouse to unplug his computer and leave the building, despite already having his ticket. Milhouse said there were no signs indicating the outlet — located right by a table where people regularly sit — was not available for public use. 

In his complaint, Milhouse noted Ogilvie Food Court patrons “regularly use the publicly available outlets to charge their phones, laptops, and other electronic devices without being harassed and arrested.” Yet when he asked the Metra police officers what he’d done wrong, they arrested him “without probable cause or any other lawful bias,” as well as seized his property, including the laptop, then charged him with disorderly conduct and criminal trespass to property, although they knew he “had done nothing wrong.” 

When Milhouse’s case went to trial, the “officers arrived to testify but then walked out of the courthouse before they could be called.” All charges were dismissed. 

Milhouse said the officer’s actions caused him to be “injured, including humiliation, embarrassment, fear, emotional trauma, mental anguish, the deprivation of his constitutional rights and dignity, interference with his normal life, lost time and attorneys’ fees.” 

Formal allegations include illegal search and seizure and false arrest, against the Metra officers, and malicious prosecution against the officers and Metra. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages and legal fees. 

He also brings a count of indemnification against Metra, so that if the officers are found liable Milhouse’s claims, Metra would be found liable or any judgment obtained, as well as legal fees and costs awarded. 

Milhouse is represented in the matter by Samuels & Associates, Ltd., of Chicago.

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