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Hoi T. Huynh v. Daniel Rivera

January 31, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.


This lawsuit arises out of Plaintiff Hoi T. Huynh's arrest for and subsequent conviction of child endangerment for leaving her grandson unattended in a parked car while she went into a store. Before the Court are motions to dismiss filed by Defendants Timothy C. Evans [11]; Daniel Rivera, Debby Kirby, the City of Chicago, Kenneth Pang, John Javis, and William Bloc [22]; Erin McEwin [26]; the Board of Education of the City of Chicago [31]; WGN-TV [33]; Richard A. Devine, Charise Valente, Anita Alverez, Spight Walker, Nairee Hagopian, and Monica Perez [36]; the Democratic Organization of Cook County [40]; and Angela Brent [56]. For the following reasons, all of Defendants' motions are granted and Plaintiff's amended complaint [9] is dismissed. As explained below, portions of the complaint are dismissed with prejudice and others without prejudice. In addition, for the reasons explained below, the order of default previously entered against Defendant Hieu [66] is vacated.

I. Background*fn1

Plaintiff spent the morning of January 12, 2008 caring for and running errands with her grandson Anthony Joseph Lee ("Lee"). January 12 was one day before Lee's second birthday. After having lunch together, Plaintiff and Lee traveled to a Dollar Tree store in Chicago so that Plaintiff could exchange some napkins that she previously had purchased for two balloons for Lee's upcoming birthday. Upon arriving at the store, Plaintiff parked in a space right in front of the store. Lee was sleeping in a car seat located in the car's back seat. The outside temperature was approximately 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but the temperature inside the car was hot because Plaintiff had been running the car's heater. The car was so warm that Plaintiff took off the blanket that covered Lee and placed it on the floor of the car so that Lee would be more comfortable. Plaintiff tried to wake her grandson up, but Lee was sleeping soundly, so Plaintiff decided to run into the store to make her exchange. Plaintiff turned off the car engine, locked all of the doors and went into the store.

Plaintiff does not identify in her complaint the length of time that she actually was in the store. While in the checkout line, Plaintiff saw a police car drive up and park next to her vehicle. Plaintiff left the line and ran out to her car, opened the door, and sat in the driver's seat. Her grandson was still sleeping. Plaintiff then saw a policeman approaching, so she got out of the car to speak with him.

After a few minutes, another police car arrived, blocking Plaintiff's car into the space. The second policeman-Defendant Officer Daniel Rivera-pulled the Plaintiff away from her car, handcuffed, and arrested her. Plaintiff alleges that during the handcuffing, Rivera held Plaintiff's handcuffed right hand above her head and waived it back and forth while shouting "She is arrested!" to a group of onlookers. While Rivera was waiving Plaintiff's hand above her head, the other cuff swung around and hit her in the face. Rivera then handcuffed both of Plaintiff's hands and put her into the back of his squad car.

Five minutes later, a cameraman from Defendant WGN-TV arrived at the scene and began to film. Defendant Officer Kenneth Pang then woke Lee up, covered Lee's face with a blanket, and moved Lee to a police car.

Plaintiff was then transported to the District 17 Chicago Police Department. Plaintiff was "carefully searched" by a female officer and then spent the following three hours with her right hand handcuffed to a "dividing fence of the investigation booths." Around 5 p.m., Plaintiff was charged with child endangerment. Plaintiff was then sent to another facility on Grand Avenue in Chicago, where she was searched again, fingerprinted, photographed, and detained for an additional two hours. Plaintiff was released at around 7:15 p.m., after having spent seven hours in police custody. By the time that Plaintiff returned home, Lee had been returned to his family.

Around 9:30 p.m. that evening, Plaintiff saw the WGN Nightly News piece about the incident. The piece was about 29 seconds long. The video showed Defendant Officer Pang transferring Lee to his police car and also showed Defendant Officer Rivera closing the door to the squad car that contained Plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that "[a]lthough the story was somewhat balanced" it was "untrue, inaccurate, and negative news against the Plaintiff." ¶ 55.

Due to the charge of child engenderment, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS") opened an investigation. An investigator named Scholastica Nakitto (not a Defendant) interviewed Plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that while Plaintiff provided Nakitto with the names of contact information for others who could attest to Plaintiff's fitness as a caregiver, Nakitto did not contact those individuals. In March, DCFS sent Plaintiff a letter informing Plaintiff that "DCFS has determined that you have abused or neglected a child." ¶ 59. Plaintiff alleges that Nakitto's supervisor was Defendant Angela Brent.

The criminal prosecution against Plaintiff commenced in March and April of 2008. Plaintiff alleges that her prosecution was politically motivated. Defendant Charise N. Valente prosecuted Plaintiff with Defendants Richard A. Devine and Anita Alvarez supervising. Defendants Rivera and Pang testified at Plaintiffs trial, as did Defendant William Block, then a member of the Chicago Fire Department. Plaintiff alleges that each witness committed perjury at the trial. Plaintiff also identified a number of other alleged irregularities that took place at her trial (for example, Plaintiff was not permitted to introduce certain pieces of evidence. ¶ 84).

On June 19, 2008, Plaintiff was convicted of endangering the life or health of a child under 720 ILCS 5/12-21.6 and sentenced to one year of court supervision. It is unclear whether Plaintiff pursued an appeal of the verdict (see ¶ 92) but there is no suggestion that the conviction has been called into question in any way.

Subsequent to her conviction, Plaintiff contacted various government officials in an effort to clear her name. These efforts were unsuccessful and resulted in various alleged abuses committed against her. For example, the "legal office" of the Chicago Police Department repeatedly hung up on Plaintiff (¶ 92); Defendant Evans' office told Plaintiff to stop calling and threatened to call the police on her (id.); and a secretary to Defendant Alvarez (Defendant Monica Perez) treated Plaintiff "horribly" when Plaintiff called Alvarez's office (id.). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Spight Walker-a sheriff's deputy working at the Richard J. Daley Center Courthouse-falsely accused Plaintiff of touching him, handcuffed Plaintiff, and brought her to a lockup in the building.

Plaintiff filed the instant suit on January 12, 2010 (the last day of the limitations period). Plaintiff has at all times appeared pro se. Plaintiff's current complaint [9] is brought against nineteen named Defendants as well as a "Meagan Doe" and John and Jane Does. The complaint indicates that the individual Defendants are all sued "in their official, professional, and individual capacities." Count I is a RICO claim, 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq., alleging corruption against all Defendants. Count II alleges a conspiracy by all Defendants to violate Plaintiff's Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. Count III alleges a conspiracy by all Defendants for false arrest, search, detention under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 -- 1986. Count IV alleges conspiracy, assault, battery, and malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. Count V is entitled "Malicious Abuse of Process / Refusing or Neglecting to Prevent" and appears to charge the City of Chicago, the Board of Education, and various other individuals with failing to properly supervise "police officers and lawyers" or otherwise prevent them from violating Plaintiff's rights. Count VI asserts a state law cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Count VII is titled "Frauds / Misrepresentation & Unjust Enrichment / Conversion" but is basically unintelligible. Because in paragraph 161, Plaintiff seems to accuse Defendants of "put[ting] Plaintiff through all legal frenzy," several of the Defendants have interpreted the claim as one for common law malicious prosecution. Plaintiff's suit asks the Court for damages only-it does not seek injunctive relief.

II. Legal Standard for Rule 12(b)(6) Motions to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the case. See Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint first must comply with Rule 8(a) by providing "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" (Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)), such that the defendant is given "fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Second, the factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the "speculative level," assuming that all of the allegations in the complaint are true. E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 569 n. 14). "[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts ...

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