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Prieto v. Lopez

June 23, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marvin E. Aspen United States District Judge


MARVIN E. ASPEN, District Judge

Plaintiff Gustavo Prieto filed a six-count amended complaint against Defendants Officer Lopez, Officer Vega, Officer Nehnevay (collectively the "Officer Defendants"), and the City of Chicago Heights. He alleges excessive force (Count I), conspiracy to commit a civil rights violation (Count II), failure to prevent a civil rights violation (Count III), and false arrest (Count IV) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Officer Defendants. Prieto also alleges malicious prosecution under Illinois state law against the Officer Defendants (Count V) and respondeat superior liability against the City of Chicago Heights for malicious prosecution (Count VI). Presently before us is Defendants' motion for summary judgment on all claims. For the reasons stated below, we grant the motion in part and deny it in part.


On the evening of January 30, 2008, Plaintiff Gustavo Prieto met up socially with Sheena Wardell, a woman he had met either that night or a few days before. (Def. Ex. C, Prieto Dep. at 39--41; Def. Ex. I, Dom. Batt. Police Rep. at 2.) Sometime before 3 a.m., Prieto drove Wardell to his home in Chicago Heights. (Def. Facts ¶¶ 10--11.) Prieto and Wardell went to Prieto's bedroom, where Prieto got into bed and Wardell sat on the corner of the bed. (Id. ¶¶ 12--13.) Before long, Wardell decided she wanted to leave and asked Prieto to drive her home; Prieto said he would not do so until the next morning. (Id. ¶ 15.) According to Wardell's later account to the police, she tried to leave, but Prieto grabbed her around the neck, slapped her, and told her she could not leave, insinuating that since Prieto had given her a ride earlier, she must now pay him back sexually. (See Def. Ex. F, Vega Dep. at 28--30; Def. Ex. I, Dom. Batt. Police Rep. at 2.) According to Prieto, he never touched or threatened Wardell in any way. (Def. Ex. C, Prieto Dep. at 145--48.)

In any case, Wardell eventually left Prieto's home, walked to the street corner, and paced back and forth in the middle of the street as she called 911 and requested police to come to Prieto's address for a domestic situation. (Def. Facts ¶¶ 21--22.) Officer Defendants Vega, Nehnevay, and Lopez, along with another officer, heard the 911 call and responded to Prieto's address. (Id. ¶ 24.) All were in uniform. (Id.) Vega arrived first and saw Wardell standing on the corner outside Prieto's home; he spoke with her at that time. (Id. ¶ 25.) Wardell told Vega that when she attempted to leave Prieto's bedroom, Prieto grabbed her around the neck, slapped her, and told her she could not leave, and that Prieto was now sitting in the car parked in his driveway. (See id. ¶¶ 26--27.)

In the meantime, fearing that Wardell might break out the windows in his car-an act apparently performed on a prior occasion by a different female who was upset with Prieto-Prieto followed Wardell outside when she left his bedroom. (Id. ¶ 18.) Prieto went to his car in the driveway and got inside to sit with the heater on; it was cold outside. (Id. ¶ 19.) Prieto could not hear Wardell's conversation with the 911 operator or her conversation with Vega. (Id. ¶¶ 22, 28.)

Officers Nehnevay and Lopez arrived at the scene. (See id. ¶ 24.) After finishing his conversation with Wardell, Vega, with other officers, approached the car Prieto was sitting in and identified himself. (Id. ¶ 30.) Prieto rolled down the driver's side window slightly and asked, "What is your probable cause?" (Id. ¶ 32.) Vega and the officers ordered Prieto to exit his car. (Id. ¶ 36; Compl. ¶ 6.) Prieto did not like the officers' attitude and refused get out. (Def. Facts ¶¶ 33, 37.) Officer Vega radioed for Sergeant Miller to come to the scene and advise on the situation, which he did. (Id. ¶ 38.) At Miller's instruction, Lopez broke out the rear passenger window of Prieto's car and unlocked the vehicle. (Id. ¶ 39; Pl. Facts ¶ 19.)

Once Lopez unlocked the car, Vega, with Nehnevay assisting, opened the driver's side door and pulled Prieto out. (Def. Facts ¶ 43; Pl. Facts ¶ 21.) The next sequence of events is hotly disputed. According to Defendants, once out of the car, Prieto flailed his arms to avoid handcuffs, fell face-first to the ground without being touched, and was handcuffed by Vega and Nehnevay after a brief struggle on the ground. (Def. Facts ¶¶ 44--47, 49.) According to Prieto, once out of the car, he lifted his hands in sign of surrender and said "I'm not resisting." (Pl. Facts ¶ 22.) In response, Officer Defendants either threw Prieto to the ground and then handcuffed him or vice versa. (See Def. Resp. to Pl. Facts ¶ 22.) Officer Defendants then, according to Prieto, kicked and punched Prieto while he was handcuffed and face-down on the ground. (See Pl. Facts ¶ 26.) Prieto could not see which officers allegedly kicked and punched him nor could he identify them by their voices. (Pl. Resp. to Def. Facts ¶ 50; Def. Facts ¶ 51.) Officer Defendants deny throwing, punching, or kicking Prieto. (See Ans. ¶¶ 9, 11 [Dkt. Nos. 27, 48].) At some point, Lopez came around the vehicle, from the passenger side to the driver's side, to assist Nehnevay and Lopez. (See Def. Facts ¶ 48; Pl. Resp. to Def. Facts ¶ 48.)

Once in custody, Prieto was taken to the police station. (See Pl. Facts ¶ 32.) While at the station, Prieto repeatedly asked to be taken to a hospital and was eventually taken to St. James Hospital where he received stitches to his nose for a wound he suffered when he struck the ground after being removed from his vehicle. (Def. Facts ¶ 57.) Wardell also came to the station, spoke there with Nehnevay about the incident, and signed a complaint for domestic battery. (Id. ¶ 59--60.)*fn2 Prieto was charged with domestic battery, resisting arrest, driving under the influence, driving with a revoked license, and driving without insurance. (See id. ¶ 57; Compl. ¶ 14.)*fn3 The charges were eventually stricken off with leave to reinstate. (Lopez Ans. ¶ 16; see Def. Sur-Reply Exs. 1--4.)


Summary judgment is proper only when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). A genuine issue for trial exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510 (1986). This standard places the initial burden on the moving party to identify "those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553 (1986) (internal quotations omitted). Once the moving party meets this burden of production, the nonmoving party "may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleading" but rather must "set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). In deciding whether summary judgment is appropriate, we must accept the nonmoving party's evidence as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.


Prieto alleges several Fourth Amendment claims: excessive force (Count I); failure to prevent the use of excessive force (Count III); and false arrest (Count IV). In addition, he claims that the Officer Defendants maliciously prosecuted him (Count V) and that the City of Chicago Heights is liable for the malicious prosecution (Count VI). Finally, he claims that the Officer ...

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