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FINCH v. CHAPMAN

January 29, 1992

WILLIAM FINCH, Plaintiff,
v.
LYNN L. CHAPMAN, MACM, and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARVIN E. ASPEN

 MARVIN E. ASPEN, District Judge:

 Defendants Lynn L. Chapman and the United States of America have moved to dismiss (or, alternatively, for summary judgment on) plaintiff William Finch's second amended complaint. Finch alleges constitutional and common law wrongdoing stemming from his second mistaken arrest as a supposed Naval deserter. Although we sympathize with Finch and find his treatment deplorable, we are required to grant the defendants' motion for dismissal and summary judgment.

 I. Factual Background

 A. The Two Arrests

 After being arrested by Illinois state police officers on suspicion of desertion from the Navy, Finch--who had never been in the Navy--spent the night of September 25, 1988 in the LaSalle County Jail. The next day, Naval Absentee Collection Unit ("NACU") officers transported Finch to the Great Lakes Naval Base in Great Lakes, Illinois. After being processed, Finch spent the night in custody along with other Naval absentees. On September 27, officials apparently shaved Finch's head and ordered him to perform physical labor on the grounds of the base. Only late in the day was he permitted to make his first telephone call. On September 28, Finch was released after an attorney filed a writ of habeas corpus with U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Norgle, Sr.

 As it turns out, a "William A. Finch" was wanted for desertion, having jumped the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt on January 6, 1987. This fake Finch, whose real name is Dartanyian Morgan, had at one time been a neighbor of the real Finch. Morgan apparently enlisted in the Navy using Finch's name, social security number, and other personal information.

 What makes Finch's second wrongful arrest and subsequent detention at the Great Lakes base particularly egregious, however, is that he had already been down that road once, some fifteen months earlier. On July 3, 1987, Chicago police officers arrested him, held him overnight, and released him the next day to two NACU officers for transport to Great Lakes. Finch managed to convince the relevant authorities that he was not the man they were looking for, and was released. Naval records apparently indicate that Morgan stands 5'4" and weighs 144 pounds; Finch is 5'7 1/2" tall and weighs 222 pounds.

 B. Relevant NACU Procedures

 Finch does not meaningfully dispute Chapman's description of the relevant NACU policies and procedures. *fn1" Those policies and procedures are as follows. When Morgan (then known to the Navy as Finch) deserted the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt on January 6, 1987, ship officials prepared a Department of Defense Form 553, "Absentee/Deserter Wanted by the Armed Forces" ("DD 553"). Those officials sent the DD 553 to the Navy's Deserter Information Point at the Bureau of Naval Personnel ("BUPERS") in Arlington, Virginia. BUPERS personnel cross-checked and verified the information on the DD 553 with the Bureau's on-line computer records, then entered that information into the National Crime Information Center ("NCIC") Wanted Persons file. The NCIC file is maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") and used nationally by law enforcement personnel.

 If and when a civilian law enforcement officer arrests a suspected deserter, the civilian agency contacts the Navy Deserter Information Point ("DIP") at BUPERS. DIP subsequently contacts the nearest NACU, and NACU personnel retrieve the suspected deserter from the reporting civilian law enforcement agency and return that person to the appropriate Navy command.

 Chapman was the Chief Petty Officer-in-Charge of the Great Lakes NACU between February 1986 and March 1989. In this capacity she was responsible for supervising the daily operational and administrative functions of the fifteen-member NACU. At the time of Finch's second arrest, Chapman was on leave in Colorado. Some time prior to September 25, 1988, Chapman had removed Finch's NACU file from the office filing system, apparently to review it. The file contained the history of Finch's 1987 arrest, his medical records, and detailed the reasons for his subsequent release. This file was either in Chapman's desk or an office safe and was unavailable to the acting NACU supervisor when Finch was brought in the second time. The "resolution of the 1988 incident," Finch later reported, "was compounded with additonal [sic] problems" because she had the case file and neither it nor she were immediately available. Finch Memorandum (Dec. 21, 1988).

 There is no dispute that, as NACU Chief Petty Officer-in-Charge, Chapman had authority to remove NACU case files from the office filing system for review. Further, there is no meaningful claim by Finch regarding Chapman's authority or obligation to "update" DD 553 information or NCIC Wanted Persons data; quite simply, she "was not authorized, or required, at any time to change, amend, delete, 'correct' or 'update', the information contained in either Finch's DD 553 or the FBI's NCIC Wanted Persons file after plaintiff's 1987 arrest. Any [such] changes, clarifying remarks or deletions . . . are made only at the DIP, BUPERS, Arlington, VA." Chapman Declaration para. 11 (Sept. 24, 1991). Nor was Chapman

 authorized, or required, to "correct" or amend Finch's DD 553 or FBI NCIC information to indicate that there was an individual using William Finch as an alias. Further, I was also not authorized, at any time, to contact or otherwise notify state law enforcement agencies concerning changes or deletions to Finch's DD ...


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