Wrongly convicted man leads rally over $16M award

Friday, July 23, 2010 | 6:15 p.m. CDT

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. — A man who spent five years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of molesting a 12-year-old girl is enlisting public support in his fight to get the city of Lee's Summit to pay him $16 million awarded by a federal jury.

Theodore White Jr. led a "Make it Right" rally outside Lee's Summit City Hall on Thursday, with supporters carrying signs urging the city to pay up, The Kansas City Star reported Friday.

White, who used to live in Lee's Summit, was convicted in 1999 of sexually abusing the girl and was sent to prison, where he stayed until a jury found him not guilty in 2005.

The sexual abuse charges were raised by his then-wife, Tina, when the two were separated. At the same time, the Lee's Summit detective who investigated the case, Richard McKinley, was romantically involved with Tina White and eventually married her.

The Lee's Summit police chief knew of the affair.

White sued McKinley, and in August 2008 jurors determined that McKinley and Tina White conspired to violate White's right to a fair trial. In exchange for being dropped from that lawsuit, the city of Lee's Summit agreed to pay White any judgment against McKinley.

Jurors awarded White $16 million, an amount that was appealed. In May, after a federal appeals court upheld the award, Lee's Summit officials said they didn't have to pay.

The city argued earlier this month that paying the judgment would violate a city ordinance, which bars the city from paying judgments against anyone who violates the "rights and privileges of a person."

Mayor Randy Rhoads issued a statement Thursday saying the city wanted to assure lawful use of taxpayer money.

"We understand that citizens are receiving a lot of public information from Ted White and his legal team," the statement said. "Clearly they are interested in creating some kind of 'public pressure' to force the mayor and City Council into making a decision that is not legally permitted at this time. ...

"We will make certain our decisions are legally defensible and will fulfill any and all legal obligations, should they exist, to Mr. White in the future."

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