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RANKINS v. WINZELER

May 9, 2003

MICHAEL A. RANKINS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TAJA WINZELER, ROBERT L. SCHUMAN, MIKE CASTRONOVA AND RANDY BERKE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Philip G. Reinhard, Judge, United States District Court

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Michael A. Rankins filed this pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his arrest and prosecution violated his constitutional rights. Rankins may proceed without prepayment of the filing fee.*fn1 As Rankins is in custody, the Prison Litigation Reform Act requires the court to review the complaint and dismiss any portion that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. In determining whether the complaint states a claim upon which relief may be granted, the court takes the allegations of the complaint as true and draws reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588, 591-92 (7th Cir. 2001).

Rankinst "Amended Complaint" was received December 26, 2002, and a second filing, captioned "Complaint," on January 13, 2003. The reversed order does not matter. Although normally an amended complaint supersedes the initial complaint and the initial complaint is disregarded, because Rankins is unrepresented the court will consider all allegations contained in both filings. See Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1367 & n. 2 (7th Cir. 1997).

RANKINS' ALLEGATIONS*fn2

Rankins alleges that on June 2, 2002, defendant Mike Castronova, a Rockford police officer "on motorized patrol," became suspicious when he saw Rankins back his car out of a dead-end street. Castronova lacked legally sufficient grounds to stop Rankins' car, but nevertheless used his radio to call for assistance in stopping him. Defendant Randy Berke, another Rockford officer, saw Rankins' car and followed it. Castronova's car caught up with them and nearly ran Rankins off the road. Rankins nevertheless kept driving, and Castronova and Berke arrested him when he turned into a friend's driveway.

After Berke and Castronova wrestled Rankins to the ground and handcuffed him, Castronova searched him, finding "what is alleged to be cocaine" in Rankins' pants pocket and a sock containing a handgun on the floor of the police car where Rankins had been sitting. Rankins was charged with armed violence, violation of the Controlled Substances Act, "fleeing with the intent to elude" and obstructing justice.

The remainder of the Complaint is divided into "counts," containing additional allegations as well as Rankins' proposed theories of recovery. Counts I and II assert that Castronova and Berke stopped Rankins without the "articulable suspicion" required by Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), and arrested him without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Count III asserts that the Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office "is supporting" Castronova and Berke's misconduct because "the State's Attorney allowed the dispatch recordings to be destroyed in full knowledge that this dispatch recording held what was officer Castronova's reasonable articulable suspicion which brought other officer running to aid him in locating the plaintiff," and asserts that the recordings should have been turned over to the defense as exculpatory material under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 412. Rankins alleges that the State's Attorney also knew that Bake's testimony before the grand jury conflicted with his police report. Count IV alleges that the trial judge, who is not named as a defendant, erred in denying Rankins' motion to quash his arrest and suppress the evidence seized in connection with it.

Count V alleges that Rankins' public defender, Taja Winzeler, named as a defendant in the Amended Complaint but not the Complaint, "committed the act of ineffective assistance of counselor" by failing to visit him to discuss trial strategy and by failing to file a motion to preserve the dispatch recording. Winzeler's initial motion to suppress misnamed the arresting officer, causing it to be denied, and during the suppression hearing she failed to bring out on cross-examination that Castronova's testimony included facts not included in the police report. Rankins accuses Winzeler of "intentionally stalling" because she obtained continuances to research case law, in violation of Rankins' right to speedy trial and his right to counsel.

The Amended Complaint contains additional allegations in support of these claims and names individuals, rather than entities, as defendants. Rankins alleges that Berke lied to the grand jury by giving testimony inconsistent with the police reports. By presenting his testimony, Assistant State's Attorney Robert L. Schuman "failed to assess the evidence the officers gathered in such thing as the police reports, or Schuman flat out committed obstruction of justice and prosecutorial misconduct." Rankins also alleges that Schuman "destroyed dispatch records which told the true reason of why these two police stopped plaintiff. Rankins believes it was a case of racial profiling."

In the Amended Complaint, Rankins accuses Winzeler of filing motions to delay his trial beyond the 120-day "speedy trial" deadline. lie alleges she failed to point out "such obvious mistakes as the false statement of [Berke's] testimony to the grand jury" and failed to object to Castronova introducing new testimony at the suppression hearing offering a reason for his suspicion different from that given in the police report. Winzeler was also unprepared for the suppression hearing, causing further delays. In July of 2002, Rankins had asked Winzeler to obtain the dispatch record or records, but Winzeler did not follow up and file a motion to obtain them. Rankins alleges they were needed for the suppression hearing "as they contained the play by play verbal account of the apprehending of the plaintiff: probable cause to arrest subsequent the radio bulletin instigating a investigative stop."

The Amended Complaint lacks a prayer for relief, but the Complaint seeks "immediate restoration of the plaintiff['s] liberty," "nominal damages" of $100 for each day incarcerated, "compensatory damages" of one million dollars for lost income (at the time of his arrest Rankins was "grossing" $600.00 every two weeks, but claims his business would have grown), $3.5 million in "exemplary damages" for official misconduct, and "punitive damages" of five million dollars "for the pain and suffering the plaintiff experienced as a result of the mental pressures of being offered 10 years" and "the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness coming against the prosecutorial misconduct of the experienced states attorney office of Winnebago County."

Rankins conspicuously does not allege the outcome of the criminal proceedings against him. Although the state charges were dismissed, the court takes judicial notice of Rankins's pending federal prosecution for drug trafficking and weapons violations based on the arrest and search at issue here. United States v. Rankins, No. 03 CR 50003 (N.D. Ill., W.D.).

ANALYSIS

A. ...


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