Jury Awards Man $16 Million for Ex-Wife’s False Molestation Claim

In this case, a mother’s claim against her husband that he sexually molested her daughter went slightly awry. Thirteen years after the fact, a federal appellate court has upheld the verdict in his civil cause of action against her and her police officer husband. The verdict was for $14 million in compensatory damages and $1 million each in punitive damages for a total of $16 million.

Back in 1991, Ted White married Tina (whose name is now McKinley) and attempted to adopt her two children by a previous marriage. But the children’s father refused to give up his parental rights, so there the issue stayed. In 1995, he had a change of heart, though, and agreed to the termination of his rights. Why the about-face? It seems that Tina had informed him that if he didn’t, she’d file charges of child sexual molestation against him. Too bad Ted White didn’t know that.

Because about a year later, his marriage to Tina was on the rocks and, unbeknownst to him, she was seeing another man. That man was Richard McKinley, a police officer for the Lee’s Summit police department. Apparently, they hatched a plan to get White out of their lives and those of the children for whom he was the adoptive parent.

Tina charged him with sexual molestation of her daughter, Jami, and who do you suppose investigated the matter for the police? That’s right, Richard McKinley. And during his investigation, certain exculpatory evidence went missing. That included Jami’s diary in which the girl said she thought White was a great dad and that he was more caring about her than was her mother. After Tina leveled her charges at White, McKinley also interfered in Jami’s interview with the Center for Protection and Children that’s charged with interviewing children in molestation cases.

White was convicted, fled to Costa Rica, was captured and spent over five years in prison successfully appealing his conviction. First, he discovered the withheld evidence and got a new trial. That resulted in a hung jury that voted 11-1 for acquittal. On retrial, he was acquitted. He then sued his former wife, her current husband Richard McKinley and the City of Lee’s Summit. The city settled out of court and the jury found both Tina and McKinley liable to White and awarded damages. Because he was a police officer acting under color of law, the suit was for violation of White’s civil rights under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. (We’ve seen that little gem used to sue the State of California for denial of parental rights for bypassing a father and placing a child in foster care.)

White has already gotten paid by the City of Lee’s Summit, although how much we don’t know. Will he ever see a dime from the happy McKinley couple? I doubt it, although he may agree to be paid off with a few cents on the dollar. Still, it’s an instructive tale. False allegations are not legal. Prosecutors aren’t often interested in pursuing them in criminal court, but individuals always have the civil courts in which to try to gain some form of justice.

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