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Munoz v. Graham

November 21, 2006

THOMAS MUNOZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DETECTIVE JIM GRAHAM, DETECTIVE PAUL CARPENTER, AND DETECTIVE RICK DHABALT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 26). Pro se Plaintiff Thomas Munoz alleges that Defendants violated his Constitutional rights in their role as Detectives of the Springfield Police Department (SPD). Munoz asserts that Defendants violated his Constitutional rights when they arrested him based on an incident that occurred outside of the City of Springfield. Munoz alleges claims against Defendants individually and in their official capacities. Defendants assert that they are entitled to summary judgment on all of Munoz's claims. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Summary Judgment is allowed.

BACKGROUND

On December 20, 2004 at approximately 9:00 a.m., Officer Kent Bragg of the Rochester, Illinois Police Department was called to the St. Jude Catholic Church in Rochester to speak with Father Bill Carpenter. The following information is taken from Bragg's police report. Amended Complaint (d/e 15), Ex. B. Rochester Detail Incident Report (Rochester Police Report). Father Carpenter reported that, on December 18, 2004, at approximately 5:30 p.m., a member of the church saw a "suspicious man near the reception hall and also Father Carpenter's residence which are located next to each other." Id., p. 2. The church member, Ray Roth, saw the man attempt to open the front door to the reception hall. He was unable to do so, however, because the door was locked. The man then attempted to open the front door of Father Carpenter's residence. When he could not open the front door, the man "walked to the side of the residence and attempted to make entry through a side door." Id.

At this point, Roth exited the vehicle in which he had been sitting, and approached the man to see if he could assist him. When Roth did so, he recognized the man from prior church functions as Thomas Munoz. Munoz told Roth that he was looking for Father Carpenter to give him a Christmas decoration. Munoz retrieved the decoration from his car and gave it to Roth. After doing so, Munoz left the area in a dark colored mid-size car.

Father Carpenter told Bragg that he wanted to report the incident "due to the suspicious nature of Munoz." Rochester Police Report, p. 2. The priest reported that Roth, an employee of the Illinois Department of Corrections, "felt that Munoz's mannerisms were suspicious and consistent with someone who was not being truthful." Id. Officer Bragg contacted Roth, who confirmed what Father Carpenter had told the officer. Roth added that "while at the front door of Father Carpenter's residence, at some point Munoz reached into his front pant pocket however [Roth] stated that he was unable to see what or if anything was in Munoz's hand." Id. Roth further stated that Munoz was on parole status with the Illinois Department of Corrections and has several past arrests associated with thefts from schools and places of worship. Bragg's report concludes by stating "the investigation regarding Thomas Munoz continues." Id.

On December 21, 2004, Monsignor Eugene Costa was found badly beaten in a park in Springfield, Illinois. Defendants were assigned to investigate the case. Motion in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 28) (Plaintiff's Opposition). Ex. J-(a), p. 1.*fn1 As a part of the investigation, on December 27, 2004, Defendants Dhabalt and Carpenter visited the offices of the Springfield Catholic Diocese. The following information comes from Dhabalt's report of the investigation. Plaintiff's Opposition, Ex. E. When asked to identify possible suspects in the Costa beating, Monsignor John Renken told the Detectives that Munoz had "been causing some trouble for the church." Id., p. 1. He stated that Munoz was a suspect in a two unsolved thefts from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, one of which occurred in late December 2004 and one of which occurred in August 2004. Near the time of each of the thefts, Munoz had been working at the Cathedral as a caterer. Renken added that Munoz had a record of breaking into churches and stated that he believed that Munoz had recently tried to break into St. Jude's Church in Rochester.

Defendants Dhabalt and Carpenter returned to the police station and began to check computer records for information relating to Munoz and the church thefts. Dhabalt contacted the catering service, which confirmed that Munoz had been working on August 14 and December 26, 2004. Dhabalt's report states as follows, "While continuing to work other leads we also decided to look into the incident in Rochester." Plaintiff's Opposition, Ex. E, p. 1.

Dhabalt contacted St. Jude's rectory and was informed that Father Carpenter would be out of town for a week. Dhabalt next contacted Roth, who told Dhabalt that he was in the diocesan deaconate program and as a result he was familiar with several individuals who were around the church on a regular basis. One of these individuals was Thomas Munoz. Roth met Munoz while performing deacon duties at Sacred Heart Church in Springfield. One day after Mass, Munoz approached Roth and expressed an interest in becoming a liaison to the Hispanic community. Roth informed Munoz of certain requirements for serving with the church, including a background check. At that time, Roth noticed tattoos on Munoz's neck that Roth recognized to mean that Munoz had been in prison. The men discussed this. Roth stated that after the discussion about Munoz's background, "Munoz stopped hanging around." Id., p. 2.

Roth then told Dhabalt about the December 18, 2004, incident at St. Jude's. Roth stated that he was sitting in his truck waiting for his wife to get out of Saturday evening Mass. He saw a small, dark car pull into the parking lot near the rectory. Roth thought this was unusual because it was too late to go to Mass and the car parked far from the front doors of the church. Roth observed a man get out of the car with something in his hand. The man walked up to the church office/rectory and tried to pull the door open a couple times. When the door did not open, the man walked over to Father Carpenter's house and pulled on the front door a couple of times. When that door did not open, the man walked around the side of the garage to a side door on the house and tried to open it.

When Roth saw the man heading toward the side door, he exited his truck and approached him. When Roth did so, he recognized the man as Munoz. Roth called Munoz by name and asked him what he was doing. Roth identified himself as Deacon Ray from Sacred Heart Church. Munoz said that he was there to deliver a Christmas present to Father Carpenter. Roth stated that it was obvious that Mass was going on and that the rectory and Father Carpenter's house were dark. Roth told Munoz to get his present and Roth would deliver it. Munoz went back to his car and retrieved a potted poinsettia that appeared to Roth to be old. The dirt was dried out and some leaves were missing. Munoz gave Roth the plant and left. Roth believed that Munoz's story was contrived and that "Munoz might have had other intentions." Id., p. 2.

Roth stated that Father Carpenter decided to make a police report several days later, after Roth told him about the incident, and the men found scratches on the door locks of the doors to the office where Roth had seen Munoz with something in his hand. Roth said that, thinking back, it may have been a screwdriver or a pry tool in Munoz's hand, but he could not say for sure. Roth also advised Dhabalt of another incident at the church where someone he believed to be Munoz walked into a women's church meeting in the middle of the day. The man appeared startled that there were people in the church and quickly retreated without explaining why he was there. This concluded Dhabalt's conversation with Roth.

Dhabalt's report states that the next day all three Defendants went to Divernon, Illinois, and staked out Munoz's house. When Munoz arrived home, the Detectives confronted him in his garage, identified themselves as SPD officers, and began to question Munoz about his comings and goings at St. Jude's. Dhabalt described Munoz as "very forth coming with information." Id., p. 3. Munoz invited the Defendants into his home and continued to speak with them until his roommate arrived. Dhabalt stated that Munoz was "not nearly as willing to talk" to the Detectives after the roommate arrived, so the Detectives left. Id.

Dhabalt reported that the day after the Defendants met with Munoz, they reviewed the information with a sergeant. The men "decided that Munoz was not being truthful about his involvement at St. Jude's or at the Cathedral." Id. Therefore, they "decided that [they] could get a warrant for Attempt Burglary at St. Jude's ...


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