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DAVIS v. NOVY

November 1, 2004.

MICHAEL E. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES NOVY and LUIS ESCOBAR, individually and in their capacity as Bolingbrook police officers, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ARLANDER KEYS, Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Michael Davis sued Charles Novy and Luis Escobar, both police officers with the Village of Bolingbrook, alleging that they violated his Fourth Amendment rights during the course of a traffic stop and the subsequent search of his truck and his home. The case went to trial on May 17, 2004, and, at the close of Plaintiff's case, the Court granted Defendants' Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law. Currently before the Court is Mr. Davis' Motion for a New Trial, or in the Alternative, to Alter or Amend Judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Mr. Davis' Motion.

A. Factual Background

  The Court fully set forth the relevant factual background, including the evidence and testimony introduced at trial, in its Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Defendant's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law. Davis v. Novy, No. 03 C 572, 2004 WL 1368798 (N.D. Ill. June 16, 2004). The Court will repeat the facts here.

  On February 9, 2002, Michael Davis was driving around his Bolingbrook neighborhood taking pictures of snow mounds. Mr. Davis, who uses a wheelchair to get around, was attempting to document a problem with the way the village plowed snow; according to Mr. Davis, the plows piled the snow in a way that blocked his access to streets and sidewalks and prevented him from taking his dogs out for exercise. Mr. Davis left his house at about 11:30 a.m., driving around the neighborhood in his 1995 dark green Ford F150 pickup truck with a black camper shell on the back of it.

  At about noon that same day, the Bolingbrook police department received a call through its 9-1-1 dispatcher, complaining that a white male was driving around the area of Commonwealth and Brighton in Bolingbrook, taking pictures of a young girl. The caller reported that the man was wearing a hat and driving a black Ford pickup truck with a cab on the back. The dispatcher assigned two officers to respond to the call, Officer Charles Novy and Officer Luis Escobar.

  Upon arriving at the general area reported in the call, Officer Novy saw Mr. Davis, a white male, and his dark green Ford pickup truck with a cab on the back of it. Officer Novy followed Mr. Davis for a bit, and then pulled him over. Upon doing so, Officer Novy noticed a hat and a camera bag on the seat next to Mr. Davis; he also saw towels, duct tape and rope in the cab. When Mr. Davis could not provide a valid Illinois driver's license or proof of insurance, Officer Novy arrested him, placing him in the backseat of his squad car.

  Officer Escobar joined the two at some point during this initial encounter. The officers searched Mr. Davis' truck, after obtaining Mr. Davis' permission to do so, and found a pair of women's thong underpants and a stub from the Brookfield Children's Zoo. They then asked him to sign a card stating: "I give the Bolingbrook police department permission to search the following: [here, Officer Escobar had filled in "residence"] located at the following: [here, Officer Escobar had filled in 1095 Bothwell," Mr. Davis' address]. I give this permission voluntarily & without threats or promises of any kind." See Plaintiff's Exhibit 8. Mr. Davis signed the card, and the officers searched his home. That search turned up nothing to suggest that Mr. Davis was involved in any way with child pornography or other child exploitation.

  After the search, the officers and Mr. Davis went back outside, where Officer Novy issued citations to Mr. Davis for driving without a valid Illinois' driver's license, for driving an uninsured vehicle, and for having an obstructed registration sticker on his rear license plate — all violations of the Illinois vehicle code. Officer Novy allowed Mr. Davis to give a signature in lieu of posting a bond, and then he left; Officer Escobar left while Novy was writing up the citations.

  Almost a year later, on January 24, 2003, Mr. Davis sued Officer Novy and Officer Escobar, alleging that they violated his constitutional rights in the course of the initial stop, and in the subsequent searches of his person, his truck and his home.

  B. The Trial

  The case was tried before a jury on May 17, 18 and 19, 2004. At trial, Mr. Davis testified first. He explained that, on February 9, 2002, he decided to drive through the neighborhood to take pictures of snow mounds so that he could show the Village how the snow impeded his access to the streets and sidewalks, and to try to find a way to solve the problem. Tr. at 106. He described the route he drove, which, according to the map shown to the jury, put him in or near the area reported in the 9-1-1 call. Tr. at 111-12.

  Mr. Davis testified that, at some point while he was out on his picture-taking expedition, he noticed a police car following him, and he was eventually pulled over. Tr. at 110, 112-13. He testified that, when Officer Novy approached the truck, he asked the officer whether he had done anything wrong, and Officer Novy had responded "no." Tr. at 113. According to Mr. Davis, Officer Novy said he stopped him because the police department had "received an anonymous 911 phone call from some woman stating that I had been taking pictures of children." Tr. at 114. Mr. Davis testified that Officer Novy then asked him for his driver's license and insurance card; he produced his Indiana driver's license, which he learned was no longer valid, but he was unable to provide an insurance card. Tr. at 115, 117.

  Mr. Davis testified that Officer Escobar arrived on the scene about this time, and, after the two officers conferred briefly, Officer Novy asked Mr. Davis if he could search his truck. Tr. at 117-18. Mr. Davis testified that he asked what would happen if he refused, and Officer Novy told him that they would have to impound his truck and take him to jail. Tr. at 118. Mr. Davis testified that he then agreed to the search; Officer Novy searched his truck for about 30 to 45 minutes, while Mr. Davis sat on the tailgate of his truck, with Officer Escobar standing in front of him in a defensive posture. Tr. at 119-20, 122.

  Mr. Davis testified that, after Officer Novy searched the truck, he told Mr. Davis he was under arrest; Officer Novy patted him down and asked him to empty his pockets, which he did. Tr. at 123. Mr. Davis testified that Officer Novy then placed him in the backseat of the squad car and told him that he wanted to search his house, which was just a few blocks away. Tr. at 13-24. Mr. Davis testified that he again asked what would happen if he refused, and Officer Novy again told him that he would impound his truck and take him to jail. Tr. at 124. Mr. Davis testified that the officers presented him with a consent card, and he signed it. Tr. at 124, 127. The three then proceeded to his house, where Officer Novy searched through his bedroom (in the closets, dresser drawers, and boxes) and took a cursory ...


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