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SARANTAKIS v. VILLAGE OF WINTHROP HARBOR

June 25, 1997

ANDREAS SARANTAKIS, a/k/a ANDY SARANTAKIS, Plaintiff,
v.
VILLAGE OF WINTHROP HARBOR, a municipal corporation, LIEUTENANT ROBERT COMMONS, and MAYOR MICHAEL LAMBERT, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HOLDERMAN

 JAMES F. HOLDERMAN, District Judge:

 Plaintiff, Andreas Sarantakis, filed a twelve-count complaint against defendants, Village of Winthrop Harbor ("Village"), Lieutenant Robert Commons ("Commons"), and Mayor Michael Lambert ("Lambert"), alleging false arrest in violation of 42 U.S.C. ┬ž 1983 as against defendant Commons (Count I), malicious prosecution as against defendants Commons and Village (Count II), and violation of his equal protection right as against defendant Commons (Count III) and as against defendants Commons and defendant Village (Count IV). Plaintiff also alleges defamation against defendants Commons, Village, and Lambert (Counts V--XII). Defendants have filed a motion to strike plaintiff's Local Rule 12(N) Statement of Facts for failure to comply with the local rules and a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the following reasons, defendants' motion to strike is DENIED and defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

 STATEMENT OF FACTS1

 On March 15, 1996, defendant Commons, a member of defendant Village's police department, received a telephone call from Debrah Lewis. Defendant Commons alleges that Ms. Lewis informed him that Chris Paschal, a friend of her teenage son, admitted that he had stolen a ring from her. The ring had previously belonged to Ms. Lewis' father, but defendant Commons claims that he was told by Ms. Lewis that the ring was a woman's ring. Defendant Commons states that he was told that Chris Paschal sold the ring for $ 20.00 to plaintiff at the Video Express store. Video Express/International Jewelers is a store, located in defendant Village, that rents videotapes and sells jewelry. Plaintiff owns and operates the store.

 Ms. Lewis informed defendant Commons that she had gone to Video Express and had seen what she claimed was her ring being sold as new for almost $ 300.00. Ms. Lewis told defendant Commons that Chris Paschal's father, John Paschal, then purchased the ring from Video Express for $ 297.34 and gave Ms. Lewis the ring. Ms. Lewis said that she thereafter took the ring to a second jewelry store and that store informed her that the ring had been coated to appear as new, but that the ring was not new. Chris Paschal and John Paschal provided written statements to defendant Village's police department on March 15, 1996 and Ms. Lewis and her son provided written statements to defendant Village's police department on March 21, 1996.

 Plaintiff and his wife, Sandy Sarantakis, claim that the ring sold to John Paschal was not the ring purchased from Chris Paschal and therefore not Ms. Lewis' ring. Plaintiff states that the ring was purchased in Las Vegas, Nevada and that on January 20, 1996 a customer, Dave McMackin, placed a $ 100.00 down payment on a layaway agreement for the ring. On January 22, 1996, plaintiff and Ms. Sarantakis allege that the ring was sized at another jewelry store. On February 5, 1996, Mr. McMackin paid an additional $ 45.00 towards the purchase of the ring, but then decided to terminate his layaway agreement on the ring and make a different purchase. Plaintiff and Ms. Sarantakis claim that the ring was placed back in the store jewelry case until Ms. Sarantakis sold the ring to John Paschal on March 14, 1996.

 Ms. Sarantakis states that on or about March 20, 1996 she purchased a ten-carat gold cubic zirconia ring from Chris Paschal and that Jason Ortiz was present during the transaction. Ms. Sarantakis says that, in front of Chris Paschal, she tested the gold on the ring to determine that it was ten carats and used an ultraviolet scope to test the stones. She informed Chris Paschal that the stones were cubic zirconia and that the scrap value of the gold was $ 20.00. Chris Paschal sold the ring to Ms. Sarantakis for $ 20.00. Ms. Sarantakis states that plaintiff was not present during this transaction. Both parties agree that Ms. Sarantakis actually purchased the ring from Chris Paschal. Ms. Sarantakis alleges that the ring was melted down into scrap a few weeks later.

 On March 18, 1996, the then police chief of defendant Village's police department, Ken Miller, had a conversation with Ms. Sarantakis. He states that Ms. Sarantakis informed him that she purchased a ten-carat gold cubic zirconia ring from Chris Paschal several weeks prior and that plaintiff did not purchase the ring. On or about March 20, 1996, then police chief Miller had a conversation with defendant Commons. Then police chief Miller knew that defendant Commons was making inquires regarding the purported theft and sale of Ms. Lewis' ring. Then police chief Miller told defendant Commons that Ms. Sarantakis, not plaintiff, purchased the ring from Chris Paschal. Defendant Commons allegedly replied "I don't care, I want Andy." Defendant Commons denies this. Mr. Miller was defendant Village's police chief until May 21, 1996. On May 21, 1996, defendant Lambert, mayor of defendant Village, appointed defendant Commons as acting police chief.

 Defendant Commons states that he discussed his investigation of the theft of Ms. Lewis' ring with defendant Lambert and defendant Village Trustee Fred Rode, who was chairman of the Police Commission. On April 4, 1996, defendant Commons asked plaintiff to attend a meeting at defendant Village's Village Hall. At the meeting, defendant Commons presented plaintiff with an agreement to sign regarding the purchase of the ring. Plaintiff refused to sign the agreement. The April 4, 1996 meeting was the only time defendant Commons spoke with plaintiff regarding the ring.

 On April 18, 1996, defendant Commons sought an arrest warrant that was issued for the arrest of plaintiff on the charge of knowingly obtaining control over stolen property with the intent of depriving Debrah Lewis permanently of the use of the property. Plaintiff turned himself in and was arrested pursuant to the warrant. On April 18, 1996, the Lake County State's Attorney filed an information against plaintiff for the crime of knowingly obtaining control over the stolen property of Debrah Lewis with the intent of depriving Debrah Lewis permanently of the use of the property. The criminal matter was scheduled for trial on June 19, 1996. On that date, the assistant state's attorney Donald Morrison, Judge Victoria Martin, and Steven Simonian, plaintiff's criminal attorney, held a conference to determine if the matter could be resolved without a trial. After the conference, defendants allege that Mr. Simonian and Mr. Morrison had a conversation regarding the payment of restitution by plaintiff. Mr. Morrison states in his affidavit that plaintiff paid restitution. Plaintiff claims in his affidavit that he never authorized the payment of restitution nor did he ever pay restitution and he has no knowledge that restitution was ever paid. Ms. Lewis says in her deposition that she never received any money. John Paschal states that the state's attorney gave $ 150.00 to Ms. Lewis and that Ms. Lewis gave him $ 50.00 and Ms. Lewis kept the rest. On June 19, 1996, Mr. Morrison authorized that plaintiff's criminal charge be nolle prossed and plaintiff was discharged.

 On or about May 12, 1996, plaintiff and Ms. Sarantakis state that a suspicious man entered the Video Express store. *fn2" Shortly after the man left, Ms. Sarantakis received a phone call from Bruce Edwards, a defendant Village dispatcher. Mr. Edwards stated that the suspicious person was behind the building and that plaintiff should investigate the matter. Defendant Village police officers who were in the vicinity allegedly refused to enter plaintiff's store. Defendant Commons had issued an order that defendant Village's police officers were not to go into plaintiff's store, in any capacity, until after plaintiff's criminal case was adjudicated. Defendant Commons admits that he made the order but denies that the order prohibited entering the store to provide police services. Then police chief Miller states that he was aware, prior to March 20, 1996, that defendant Commons had instituted a policy to prevent defendant Village police officers from entering plaintiff's business. On or about March 20, 1996, then police chief Miller had a conversation with defendant Commons regarding the policy and then police chief Miller states that he negated it in his capacity as police chief.

 In June 1996, defendant Lambert attended a private dinner party at which he spoke with state senator Adeline Geo-Karis. Ms. Geo-Karis was upset with the way defendant Commons was handling plaintiff's case. Defendant Lambert defended defendant Commons' actions. Defendant Lambert indicated to Ms. Geo-Karis that this was not the only time that plaintiff had been suspected of dealing in stolen merchandise and that defendant Commons had reason to believe that plaintiff may be dealing in drugs as well. At this time, defendant Lambert admits that he was unaware of any ongoing police investigation by defendant Village's police department regarding plaintiff's purported use or distribution of illegal narcotics and that defendant Lambert was customarily apprised of ongoing investigations. Plaintiff states that he does not deal in stolen merchandise and that he does not use or sell drugs.

 STANDARD OF REVIEW

 Under Rule 56(c), summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the evidence of the nonmovant must be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in the nonmovant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2513, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). This court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.

 A party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue, however, may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact which requires trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986). There is no issue for trial "unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S. Ct. at 2511.

 ANALYSIS

 I. Defendants' Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Local Rule 12(N) Statement of Facts

 Defendants have filed a motion to strike plaintiff's Local Rule 12(N) statement of material facts. Defendants claim that in plaintiff's Local Rule 12(N) statement of material facts, most of the responses to defendants' Local Rule 12(M) statement of material facts do not comply with the local rule requiring that denials be supported by facts and specific references to affidavits, records, or other materials. This court is aware that denials and assertions of fact must be supported by specific references to affidavits, records, or other supporting materials. This court will review plaintiff's Local Rule 12(N) statement of material facts following these principles and will accord plaintiff's statements the weight that they deserve. This court, however, will not strike ...


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