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Wallace v. Ochoa

June 9, 2010

GISELLE WALLACE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OFFICER OCHOA # 8819, OFFICER PIETRUSIEWICZ # 16186, AND CITY OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge

Giselle Wallace has sued Chicago police officers Oswaldo Ochoa and Theresa Pietrusiewicz and the City of Chicago. Wallace asserts claims against Ochoa and Pietrusiewicz under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of her Fourth Amendment rights and for false imprisonment under state law, as well as a claim against the City for indemnification of the officers under 745 ILCS 10/9-102. The defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the motion in part and denies it in part.

Facts

Because the defendants have moved for summary judgment, the Court draws "all reasonable inferences from undisputed facts in favor of the nonmoving party and [views] the disputed evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Harney v. Speedway Super-America, LLC, 526 F.3d 1099, 1104 (7th Cir. 2008).

Wallace is an African-American woman who was born on June 23, 1971. According to her Illinois driver's license, she is 5'4" tall and weighs between 145 and 150 pounds. She also has a tattoo on her left breast, a fact whose relevance will become apparent in a moment.

On the morning of July 3, 2009, Wallace was driving from her workplace to her home, westbound on Chicago Avenue, to have lunch. She was stopped by Ochoa, who was alone in a Chicago police squad car driving behind her. During his deposition, Ochoa testified that he saw Wallace's left shoulder and did not see her wearing a safety belt. Wallace has stated in an affidavit that she was wearing her seat belt in a proper manner at the time and that it was not tucked under either of her arms. It is undisputed that she had committed no other violations of the law. Ochoa activated the lights and siren on his squad car and caused Wallace to pull over to the curb.

Before getting out of his squad car, Ochoa typed Wallace's license plate number into a computer located in the squad car. The computer revealed the existence of a warrant from St. Louis, Missouri for a forgery offense.*fn1 The report stated that the subject of the warrant was Jennifer Lynn Wallace, a white female with a birth date of June 23, 1971, 5'6" tall, 190 pounds, with black hair and hazel eyes, and a Social Security number of xxx-xx-6960, as well as a St. Louis address and a Missouri driver's license with the number Jxxxxx9009. The report also stated that the subject had a tattoo on her left breast.

Ochoa then approached Wallace's car and asked for her driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance, all of which she provided. Her Illinois driver's license, the number of which was Wxxxxxxx1778 (some digits omitted), listed her name as Giselle T. Wallace and said her eyes are brown, her height is 5'4", her weight is 141 pounds, her date of birth is June 23, 1971, and her residence is in Chicago. Ochoa has testified that from looking at Wallace, he believed her to have hazel-colored eyes; Wallace states that she has brown eyes and was not wearing tinted contact lenses. Ochoa also observed that Wallace had tattoos on her neck and in the area of her left breast; it is undisputed that she has such tattoos.

Ochoa has testified that he told Wallace he had stopped her because he did not observe her wearing her seat belt and that she responded by lifting her left arm and showing that the belt's shoulder strap was tucked under that arm -- which would have been an improper way to wear the belt. Wallace states in her affidavit that she did not do what Ochoa claims but rather simply stretched out her arms to show that she was wearing her seat belt properly -- which is what she states she was doing.

Ochoa returned to his squad car and ran Wallace's driver's license information through his computer. The same warrant information appeared that Ochoa had seen after running Wallace's license plate. Ochoa then returned to Wallace's car; there is a dispute about what he asked at that point. Wallace asked Ochoa what the problem was, and he relied that there was "something popping up on [her] license."

At some point, Officer Pietrusiewicz arrived on the scene. She got into Ochoa's squad car and saw the same report he had seen on his computer. Ochoa told Pietrusiewicz that Wallace had "popped a warrant."

Pietrusiewicz approached Wallace's car and asked her for her Social Security number, which she provided. (She also contends that Ochoa had earlier asked her for her Social Security number and he had given it to him as well.) The number she provided was xxx-xx-2905. Pietrusiewicz observed Wallace to be a woman with black hair and hazel eyes and with tattoos on her neck and the left side of her chest. Pietrusiewicz and Ochoa both say they observed Wallace to have light skin, but Wallace denies this. Ochoa's arrest report, prepared later, lists Wallace's race as black.

Pietrusiewicz returned to Ochoa's squad car and ran Wallace's name, birth date, Social Security number, license plate number, and driver's license number on Ochoa's computer. The warrant from Missouri again popped up. Several minutes later, Ochoa and Pietrusiewicz returned to Wallace's car and asked her to get out. She asked why, and Ochoa said, "You have a warrant." Wallace got out of her car. Ochoa told her (either there or later in his squad car or both) that he needed to access a computer at the police station. Wallace was handcuffed and taken into custody. Pietrusiewicz moved Wallace's car to a nearby legal parking space. The ...


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