Families settle with Urbana school district in Jon White case

URBANA – Parents of two of the child victims of Jon White settled their claims against the Urbana school district on Friday morning.

Parents of the first child, identified only as Jane Doe-4, were awarded guardianship over a settlement of $398,500 present-day dollars, an amount that Judge Brian McPheters said "is the highest present value that I've heard of (in White-related cases)."

Jane Doe-4's father, called John Doe-4, said he first learned of the possible abuse of his daughter, now 10, in January 2007.

Parents of the second child, called Jane Doe-6, were awarded $190,000 present-day dollars, a smaller amount because the parents had moved from the Urbana school district before the 2006-07 school year, when the school district was first notified of parental concerns about White's actions with children. Jane Doe-6 is now 9 years old.

The money from both suits settles the parents' claims against the Urbana school district, but not claims against White or the Normal school district, where White taught before coming to Urbana.

White, a former Urbana elementary school teacher, has been convicted of 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, including eight for actions against minors in Champaign County, and two for actions in McLean County. He is serving a sentence of 60 years in prison.

Urbana lawyers Tom Bruno and Denny Mickunas represented the parents of both Does. Both lawyers will receive one-third of each settlement.

Speaking at Jane Doe-4's case, Bruno said he and Mickunas spent nearly 700 hours on the case. He said some costs, like transcription fees, were split among lawyers representing all of the victims of Jon White to reduce cost on any one girl's family.

Bruno, speaking about his fees, said that when the parents of Jane Doe-4 initially received a settlement offer from the Urbana school's insurer, it was for $20,000. Through mediation, the amount rose to $60,000. After that, Bruno said, there was the "somewhat dramatic walking out of the mediation."

Then the civil suit was filed. "Ultimately, the offer went from $60,000 to $398,000," Bruno said. "We decided that was fair and reasonable."

Speaking at Jane Doe-6's case, Bruno said "the school district was claiming they were not responsible at all" because the actions occurred before they were notified about White.

In both cases, Bruno said lawyer fees were contingent upon winning money in the case either through settlement or court decision.

Urbana attorney Larry Silkwood was the girls' guardian ad litem, in court to represent the girls' interests. He earned $275 in fees from each case.

Dennis Weedman, the Collinsville attorney representing the Urbana school district, did not attend the settlement hearings. He did not return a message for comment on Friday afternoon.

Urbana school board President Mark Netter said he could not comment on the matter.

Both settlements will pay out in large part through structured payments which, with their accruals over time, will add up to far more than the settlement's present-day amounts.

For Jane Doe-4, she'll begin receiving payments of $30,000 a year for four years, starting when she turns 18 in 2017. For 15 years, she'll receive payments of $3,150 a month, starting in 2023. She'll also receive two lump sums, one in 2023 and one in 2028, each for $25,000.

An additional $15,667 will be paid immediately and divided among the parents, the lawyers and other fees.

For Jane Doe-6, she'll begin receiving payments of $25,000 a year for four years, also beginning when she turns 18. For 15 years starting in 2024, she'll receive payments of $750 a month. She'll also receive one lump sum in 2029 of $31,807.

As well, Bruno and Mickunas will receive an immediate amount of about $21,000 and the parents will receive about $13,000 to cover costs of mediation and other fees, with the remainder going to the couple to compensate for their emotional pain.

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