United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
January 7, 2005.
TIMOTHY FINWALL, Plaintiff,
CITY OF CHICAGO, et al. Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: BLANCHE MANNING, District Judge
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff Timothy Finwall brought this action against
Defendants City of Chicago, Detective Martin Garcia, Detective
Dion Boyd, and Mary Boswell alleging section 1983 claims for
false arrest and imprisonment, unlawful detention, due process
violations, and conspiracy and state law claims of malicious
prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress,
respondent superior, and indemnification. Presently before this
Court is Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss [15-1]. For the
reasons set forth below, this Court DENIES this motion.
On March 24, 2001, the Chicago Police Department received a
call from Defendant Boswell stating that a white male had
attempted to abduct her eight year old daughter in front of her
home. According to the report taken from Ms. Boswell's call to
the police, the man approached her daughter and asked her if she
"wished to accompany him on a field trip." Hearing a "man's
voice," Ms. Boswell came out of her home and told the man to
leave. The man then walked away on foot, not in an automobile as
was later reported. Ms. Boswell described the man as
approximately 35 years old, 5'9", and 160 pounds. She later
helped the police put together a sketch ("the Sketch") of the man which was
distributed in the vicinity of Ms. Boswell's home.*fn2
After the Sketch was distributed, on April 1, 2001, Detectives
Garcia and Boyd ("the Detectives") received an anonymous report
stating that the Sketch "resembled a guy [Mr. Finwall] [that the
anonymous informant] went to school with." After running Mr.
Finwall's name through the police data base, the Detectives
learned that his only contact with the police was an arrest 13
years ago for "disarming a police officer." According to Mr.
Finwall, he took a gun away from an intoxicated police officer
who was pointing his weapon at the head of a friend of his. To
avoid the possibility of prison, Mr. Finwall states that he pled
guilty and received probation.
According to Mr. Finwall, the fact that he did not receive any
jail time "motivated [the Detectives] to punish [him]" by
"framing" him for the attempted abduction of Ms. Boswell's
daughter. To frame Mr. Finwall, the Detectives allegedly
"manipulated photographic and line-up identifications" and
"induced" and created false evidence. Specifically, after
arresting him on April 11, 2002, and knowing of his alibi, the
Detectives nevertheless put his 13 year-old mug shot in a
photo-array which "unfairly suggested which picture they believed
to be the perpetrator." Also, after learning from the assistant
states attorney that they could not charge Mr. Finwall with a
crime unless it was established that he left the scene in an
automobile, the Detectives "coerced" Ms. Boswell to state that
she saw the alleged perpetrator leave the scene in a green 1992
Honda Civic which incidentally was the same type of car owned
by Mr. Finwall. Prior to this statement, none of the police
reports or witness statements mentioned the offender leaving in a car. In fact, the reports state that suspect "left
on foot." The Detectives also put Mr. Finwall in a police
"line-up" which "suggested" that he was the offender.
Despite the above evidence, on July 22, 2002, Mr. Finwall was
acquitted of all charges. A little under two years later, he then
brought the instant action seeking redress for his alleged
frame-up and wrongful arrest. Defendants now come before this
Court seeking to dismiss this action on the grounds that the
statute of limitations precludes Mr. Finwall's claims, and if
they are not barred, the Detectives had probable cause to arrest
and charge him.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
In ruling on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the
court must assume the truth of all facts alleged in the
pleadings, construing allegations liberally and viewing them in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See, e.g.,
McMath v. City of Gary, 976 F.2d 1026, 1031 (7th Cir. 1992);
Gillman v. Burlington N.R.R. Co., 878 F.2d 1020, 1022 (7th Cir.
1989). Dismissal is properly granted only if it is clear that no
set of facts which the plaintiff could prove consistent with the
pleadings would entitle the plaintiff to relief. Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Kunik v. Racine County,
Wis., 946 F.2d 1574, 1579 (7th Cir. 1991) (citing Hishon v.
King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)).
The court will accept all well-pled factual allegations in the
complaint as true. Miree v. DeKalb County, 433 U.S. 25, 27 n. 2
(1977). In addition, the court will construe the complaint
liberally and will view the allegations in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. Craigs, Inc. v. General
Electric Capital Corp., 12 F.3d 686, 688 (7th Cir. 1993). The
court, however, is neither bound by the plaintiff's legal
characterization of the facts, nor required to ignore facts set
forth in the complaint that undermine the plaintiff's claims.
Scott v. O'Grady, 975 F.2d 366, 368 (7th Cir. 1992). ANALYSIS
Defendants contend that this Court should dismiss the Complaint
because: (I) the two-year statute of limitations precludes Mr.
Finwall's section 1983 claims; and (II) even if the limitations
period is not applicable, the Detectives had probable cause to
arrest and charge him. The Court will address each of these
contentions in turn.
I. Statute of Limitations for Section 1983 Claims
The parties here do not dispute that the two-year Illinois
statute of limitations (735 ILCS 5/13-202) applies to Mr.
Finwall's section 1983 claims. The contested issue is when the
statute accrued. The City contends that the clock began running
on the date of his arrest April 11, 2001 which would mean
that this Complaint, which was filed on July 15, 2004, is time
barred. Mr. Finwall, on the other hand, asserts that the statute
did not start running until the date of his acquittal on the
alleged fabricated criminal charges July 22, 2002, which would
make his section 1983 claims timely.
The general rule for false arrest claims is that the statute of
limitations accrues on the date of the arrest. See Gonzalez v.
Entress, 133 F.3d 551, 554 (7th Cir. 1998). The rationale for
this rule is that "a wrongful arrest claim does not necessarily
undermine a conviction," e.g., a person may still be
rightfully convicted despite being wrongly arrested. Wiley v.
City of Chicago, 361 F.3d 994, 996 (7th Cir. 2003). Applying
this rationale and the Supreme Court's decision in Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1004), however, the Seventh Circuit has
held that this rule does not apply to all false arrest claims.
Wiley, 361 F.3d at 996. Where the alleged unlawful arrest can
"impugn the validity of the plaintiff's conviction," the section
1983 claim does not accrue until the "criminal charge or
conviction is set aside or dismissed." Id. at 997.
In Wiley, the plaintiff alleged that a Chicago police officer
arrested him after the officer planted drugs on him and falsely reported that he witnessed the
plaintiff "engaged in illegal activity." Id. at 995. After the
drug charge was dismissed in state court, the plaintiff brought a
section 1983 claim alleging that the officer "fabricated evidence
in order to arrest him and thereafter misrepresented his guilt to
prosecutors." Id. at 995-96. The district court dismissed the
claim on the grounds that a claim for false arrest begins to run
on the date of the arrest and that plaintiff's cause was barred
by the two year statute of limitations. Id. at 996.
Reversing the district court, the Seventh Circuit held that the
plaintiff's claim accrued not on his arrest but upon the
dismissal of the criminal charges. Id. at 997. According to the
court, based on the allegations in the complaint, the arrest and
prosecution were based "solely on the basis of the drugs planted"
by the defendant officer, and therefore, "any attack on the
arrest would necessarily challenge the legality of a prosecution
premised on the planted drugs." Id. As such, an action charging
false arrest based on the "planted drugs" would "necessarily
imply the invalidity of a potential conviction." Id.
Here, other than an anonymous tip that the sketch of the
alleged child abductor "resembled" a person the tipster went to
high school with, the Detectives had no real evidence against Mr.
Finwall. This is particularly true given that he had a very
strong alibi he was at work as a bartender at the time and no
doubt had many witnesses to confirm his whereabouts. The evidence
which the detectives used in convincing the prosecutor to charge
him was all allegedly fabricated by the Detectives. Before
arresting him, Mr. Finwall alleges that the Detectives
"manipulated photographic and line-up identifications" and
"coerced" Ms. Boswell to state that she saw him getting into a
green 1992 Honda Civic the same type of car registered to Mr.
Finwall. This Court thus holds that, based on the facts in the
Complaint, because the arrest and prosecution were allegedly
based solely on the fabricated evidence of the Detectives, an action for false imprisonment filed before the dismissal of the
criminal charge would have "necessarily impl[ied] the invalidity
of a potential conviction." As such, the statute of limitations
in this case did not begin to run until Mr. Finwall was
acquitted, and therefore, this action is timely.*fn3
II. Probable Cause
Finding that this action is within the statute of limitations,
the Court turns next to whether the Detectives had probable cause
to arrest Mr. Finwall. While it is true that the existence of
probable cause bars a claims for false arrest, this rule does not
apply where the alleged probable cause is the result of
fabricated evidence. See Smith v. City of Chicago,
913 F.2d 469, 473 (7th Cir. 1990); Cervantes v. Jones, 1997 WL 433685,
at *3 (N.D. Ill July 29, 1997); Kingsland v. City of Miami,
382 F.3d 1220, 1226 (11th Cir. 2004).
Here, as explained in detail above, other than an anonymous tip
that the sketch of the alleged child abductor "resembled" Mr.
Finwall, the Detectives had no real evidence linking him to the
attempted abduction. Indeed, Mr. Finwall alleges that the
prosecutor told the police this, which resulted in them
"manipulat[ing] photographic and line-up identifications" and
creating false evidence, so that they would have sufficient
probable cause to arrest and charge him. Therefore, this Court
holds, that based on the facts alleged in the Complaint, Mr.
Finwall has sufficiently alleged that he was arrested without
probable cause. CONCLUSION
For the reasons discussed, this Court DENIES Defendants' Motion
to Dismiss [15-1] as to the section 1983 claims but GRANTS the
motion as to the state law claims against the Individual