The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge
For the reasons stated below, the Court DISMISSES this case with prejudice and cancels all settings herein.
This lawsuit involves an excessive force claim brought by a pretrial detainee (Shauntez Hairston) against a corrections officer at the St. Clair County Jail (Mikal Milton). It was scheduled to commence jury trial on February 1, 2010. On January 19, 2010, Defendant Milton filed a motion for sanctions (Doc. 110), seeking dismissal of this case based on a document just received via supplemental discovery disclosure made by Plaintiff's counsel.*fn1 The document in question purported to be the affidavit of Lieutenant Regina Ray, a supervisor and one of four shift commanders at St. Clair County Jail. The original of the affidavit was produced to defense counsel via U.S. Mail on January 15, 2010, prompting the January 19th motion for sanctions.
Plaintiff's appointed counsel filed a written response to the motion. The Court held a hearing on January 22, 2010, after securing the appearance of both Plaintiff Hairston and Lt. Ray. Having reviewed the parties' briefs, conducted a hearing, received live testimony, heard extensive argument of counsel, and assessed the documentary evidence in the record (including the affidavit in question and other affidavits prepared or submitted by Plaintiff Hairston), the Court concludes that dismissal is warranted.
The undersigned Judge is utterly convinced that the document in question (the Ray Affidavit, Exhibit 1 from the 1/22/10 hearing) was fraudulently prepared and/or altered by Plaintiff Hairston and that Hairston did this intentionally -- not by accident or mistake. The affidavit relates to a central, indeed the central, issue in the case -- whether Defendant Milton used excessive force against Hairston on June 14, 2007.
Hairston admits that he prepared the Ray Affidavit, that it is written in his own hand, and that he wrote the word AFFIANT on the document. He claims that prior to preparing the affidavit, he had a "meeting" with Lt. Ray, that he asked her if she would "write an affidavit" for him after he was "beat up by Milton." Hairston testified that Lt. Ray agreed that if Hairston wrote the affidavit up, she would sign it.
Hairston testified that he drafted the Ray Affidavit, scratched through and corrected several errors, and sometime later, presented it to Lt. Ray at her office, where she willingly signed and then notarized the document. Hairston testified that he later added the word AFFIANT under Ray's signature.
Hairston's testimony lacks credibility, his version of events is far-fetched, and the Court rejects it outright for several reasons. First, Lt. Ray -- a well-educated, college graduate who has worked at the jail for 24 years as a supervisor and shift commander -- convincingly testified that she has not and would never draft, prepare, or sign an affidavit on behalf of an inmate or detainee. To do so would violate strict rules and policies at the jail, thereby jeopardizing her job.
Second, the contents of the Ray Affidavit bolster this conclusion. The affidavit flatly states that "Officer Michael Milton used excessive force against Hairston." It defies logic that a shift commander would give testimony against a fellow corrections officer at her own jail, in the midst of a lawsuit over the incident in question. Nor is it logical that Lt. Ray would rush to the aid of detainee Hairston, who had filed multiple complaints and at least one lawsuit against her. See Hairston v. Cole, et al., Case No. 08-cv-0569-MJR-PMF, S.D. Illinois.
The Court finds believable and credits the testimony of Lt. Ray that she would not sign an affidavit like this on behalf of an inmate/detainee, that she did not sign this affidavit for Hairston, that she never met with Hairston, and that she never promised or offered to sign any affidavit he wrote for her. The Court also credits the testimony of Lt. Ray that, as a notary, she would never notarize her own signature. She has known since she first became a notary (sometime around 2004) that to do so would contravene notary practice guidelines/rules.
The Court also finds believable and credits the testimony of Lt. Ray that she would have noticed, and would have refused to notarize, any document with a prominent blank line in the first paragraph and her name prominently written:
"I, Regina Elaine Ray, First being sworn under the penalty of Perjury,..."
This further supports the conclusion that the Ray Affidavit is a fraudulent or altered document.*fn2 Additionally, the record before this Court contains numerous other affidavits submitted by Mr. Hairston, a frequent litigant in this District (see, e.g., Exhibits 2, 3 & 4 from the 1/22/10 hearing). Those affidavits follow a fairly standard format and lay-out, none of which matches or resembles the Ray Affidavit.
Stated simply, Lt. Ray was an impressive and credible witness who answered honestly, gave ground when necessary, and struck the Court as a seasoned jail employee with no ax to grind -- a person who is proud of her job and takes her responsibilities ...