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Man Awarded City Hall For Delinquent Court Judgment

September 28, 1990

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) _ A man who was awarded City Hall as compensation for a multimillion-dollar court judgment needs the money, not the building, his brother said.

″We’re not interested in actually owning part of East St. Louis,″ said Richard DeBow, 59, of Bargaintown, N.J. DeBow’s brother, Walter, was awarded the building and 220 acres of city-owned property Thursday by a circuit court judge in nearby Belleville.

″If the city paid us $1,025,000 tomorrow, we would probably give it back, but at this point we’re looking for a for-sale sign,″ said the family’s attorney, Clyde Kuehn.

Stunned city officials said they would appeal.

Walter DeBow, 55, suffered permanent brain damage after being beaten into a coma by a fellow prisoner at the city jail more than six years ago. He has no short-term memory and is being cared for at a head-injury rehabilitation center in New Jersey.

DeBow, who was in court Thursday, was in jail for a traffic charge of illegal transportation of alcohol at the time of the beating.

He won a $3.4 million judgment in 1985. With interest it has risen to $4 million. Financially strapped East St. Louis still owes at least $1 million, Kuehn said.

Judge Roger Scrivner’s property award was the only way to guarantee DeBow would get his money, said Kuehn.

″I think this decision is just a major miscarriage of justice and demonstrates bias against the city of East St. Louis,″ said City Attorney Eric Vickers.

The 4-year-old City Hall is worth $10 million, Vickers said, and city officials had been negotiating with a company to sell the other property for $5 million to a company that wants to build a trash recycling plant.

In the meantime, the city has tried to pay off DeBow’s award by selling $5.2 million in bonds, but Kuehn said they are only worth $2.8 million.

DeBow will continue to hold the bonds, however, and collect payments on them, his lawyer said.

East St. Louis is saddled with debts estimated at $47 million, and Gov. James R. Thompson signed a $34 million bailout bill Aug. 30. The money is to come from state bond issues.

The population of the city, which has one of the highest homicide rates in the country, fell from 55,000 in 1980 to 40,000 this year, according to Census Bureau estimates.

″With all the financial problems we’ve had, this is just icing on the cake,″ said City Clerk Alzada Christian Carr.

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