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Illinois paramedics plead not guilty to first-degree murder charges

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(SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) — Two Illinois paramedics accused of killing a patient last month pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges on Friday, court records show.

Peter J. Cadigan, 50, and Peggy Jill Finley, 45, appeared in the Sangamon County Courthouse in Springfield Friday for a preliminary hearing. They entered their pleas after the judge found probable cause exists for the charges. A pre-trial hearing was set for Feb. 6 and the two were remanded to custody. They are being held in the Sangamon County Jail on $1 million bonds.

The court proceedings come a day after the family of the victim — 35-year-old Earl Moore Jr. — filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Cadigan, Finley and their employer, LifeStar Ambulance Service, over what the family’s attorney described as “barbaric” actions.

“We filed a wrongful death lawsuit this morning because we want to make sure this family gets whole justice, not just partial justice,” prominent civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who is representing Moore’s family, told reporters during a press conference on Thursday. “They treated him so inhumanely. I guess they said Earl didn’t matter. But Earl matters.”

The paramedics were responding to a call for assistance with a man “suffering from hallucinations due to alcohol withdrawal” at a residence in Springfield on Dec. 18, 2022, just after 2 a.m. local time, according to a press release from the Springfield Police Department. The police officers on scene were wearing body cameras, and video from that night was released last week by the Sangamon County States Attorney’s Office.

In the video, Finley can be heard yelling at a Black man on the floor — who identified himself as Moore — to “sit up” and “quit acting stupid.” She is also heard telling Moore, “We ain’t carrying you,” and, “I am seriously not in the mood for this dumb [stuff],” using an expletive in her remark. Eventually, as the video shows, the officers on scene help Moore walk outside to where an ambulance and a stretcher await him. Finley and Cadigan are then seen strapping the patient onto the stretcher in what police called “a prone position,” or lying facedown.

The officers attempted to provide Moore care after the paramedics “acted indifferently to the patient’s condition,” according to police.

“The officers took steps to assist the patient, to get him the care he needed, even waiting on the scene to ensure the medical personnel loaded the patient into the ambulance,” the Springfield Police Department said in its press release last week. “The officers, who are not emergency medical professionals, are not trained nor equipped to provide the necessary medical treatment or to transport patients in this type of situation.”

Moore died after he was transported to a local hospital, according to police.

The wrongful death lawsuit alleges that Moore suffered as he “slowly suffocated,” according to personal injury lawyer Bob Hilliard, who is also representing Moore’s family.

“He was not suffering from a life-threatening medical condition — he was suffering from a medical condition. The life-threatening part was during the transportation,” Hilliard told reporters at Thursday’s press conference. “Earl truly did, for those three minutes as his life faded away, suffered unimaginably.”

ABC News has reached out to the respective attorneys for Cadigan and Finley for comment.

A representative for LifeStar Ambulance Service told ABC News last week that the company had “no comment” regrading the ongoing investigation into the incident. ABC News has since reached out again for comment.

Moore’s family — including his mother, three sisters and niece — spoke out during Thursday’s press conference, wearing shirts and pins in his honor.

“Since my brother was killed it’s like a piece of me has gone with him,” Moore’s sister, Chatara Moore, told reporters. “Siblings are usually the people in life that understand each other best. His joy was my joy, and his pain was also mine.”

Moore’s young niece, Astar Wright, also spoke, saying: “I miss him and I love him so much.”

Moore’s mother, Rose Washington, said she hopes they can prevent another family from going through what they have endured.

“These workers treated him like he wasn’t even human. They tied him down like some kind of animal,” Washington told reporters. “My baby suffocated because of their actions.”

Teresa Haley, president of the Springfield branch of the NAACP, said watching the body camera footage reminded her of George Floyd, the unarmed 46-year-old Black man who died in handcuffs while being pinned under the knee of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020.

“They literally threw his hands behind and strapped him down. He couldn’t move if he wanted to and he’s facedown,” Haley said at a press conference last week. “They did not show any compassion whatsoever to this individual. He should be alive today.”

ABC News’ Victoria Arancio, Matt Foster, Teddy Grant and Ben Stein contributed to this report.

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