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Million-plus award overturned

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crime and courts River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

In a decision released Sept. 1, an appeals court threw out a $1.4 million judgment against a security firm whose officer altered employee badge photos and posted them, sometimes with lewd commentary and the women's names, on pornographic websites.

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The ruling overturns a June 6, 2008 decision in which St. Croix County Judge Eric Lundell ordered Troy C. Schmidt, New Richmond, and Securitas Security Services USA to pay $333,333 each to three women, $75,000 apiece to another two and $50,000 apiece to five others.

Schmidt, who worked as a reserve officer for the River Falls Police Department from December 2001 to December 2005 and as a guard for UW-River Falls Campus Security from May 2003 to mid-December 2005, has surrendered his private security guard license.

In the decision released Tuesday, the District III Court of Appeals, based in Wausau, reversed Judge Lundell and ordered him to dismiss judgments against Securitas.

The appeals court said Securitas couldn't have anticipated that Schmidt's unsupervised access to photographs would result in harm. Also, says the decision, employers have no duty to supervise employees' private conduct.

"We are disappointed in the result," said Attorney Matt Biegert, New Richmond, who represented seven of the plaintiffs. "My belief is that the Court of Appeals wrongly decided the case."

While the attorneys and their clients hadn't yet discussed it, Biegert said it is his intention to ask the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court decision.

Prescott lawyer Warren Brandt represented the other three women.

The case involves female workers at the Polaris Industries plant in Osceola. Schmidt, now 37, copied digital photos of about 30 women to a flash drive. He printed the photos at home, defaced them and posted the altered photos on adult websites he created on Yahoo!

For more, see this week's print edition of the River Falls Journal.

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