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Randy Mucha v. Village of Oak Brook

February 14, 2011

RANDY MUCHA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
VILLAGE OF OAK BROOK, A MUNICIPALITY, AND THOMAS SHEAHAN, IN HIS OFFICIAL
AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:07-cv-05350-William T. Hart, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bauer, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED NOVEMBER 29, 2010

Before BAUER, WOOD and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

Sergeant Randy Mucha was arrested in 2006 for unlawfully requesting a criminal background check. After the prosecutors dropped all charges against him, Mucha filed a series of complaints in both federal and state court. The only federal claim to survive the defendants' motions to dismiss was Mucha's false arrest claim. Upon the parties' cross motions for summary judgment, the district court entered judgment in favor of the defendants. This appeal followed. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

In 2004, Acting Police Chief Steve Larson assigned Sergeant Randy Mucha the task of conducting an internal investigation into officer misconduct. His investigation revealed that squad cars frequently parked outside the Gaiks' home for long periods of time, causing Mucha to wonder whether some police officers were sitting idle on the job. Mucha's suspicions were not without merit, and at least one officer was disciplined for improperly parking outside the Gaiks' residence. This was Mucha's first encounter with the Gaiks.

In January 2005, Officer Ben Kadolph reported receiving a phone call from Frances Gaik on his home telephone number even though he had never given Gaik his contact information. Mucha became concerned that police officers had provided the Gaiks with an internal police list containing the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all Oak Brook police. Adding to his general distrust of the Gaiks, Mucha discovered that Frances Gaik was one of the primary organizers of an advocacy group named Citizens For a Better Government, or CBG, which publically criticized the Oak Brook Police Department.

Toward the end of January, Mucha informed his superiors that he was not investigating the Gaiks and that he had never contacted them. Contrary to these representations, however, Mucha had created "lindalucinda," a false electronic identity, and sent Frances Gaik a series of e-mails in order to infiltrate CBG meetings. These e-mails quickly won Frances Gaik's trust, and within days Mucha had arranged for two agents to attend and report back on a CBG meeting. Mucha then drafted a rebuttal to CBG's criticisms and posted his rebuttal on the police union website. Three days later, Mucha learned that Frances Gaik had complained of this posting to his superiors.

On February 1, 2005, Mucha used the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System ("LEADS") to run a criminal background check on Frances Gaik. Only police officers have access to LEADS, and their use of this system is heavily regulated and restricted. One such restriction is the prohibition against using LEADS for personal purposes.

While unaware that Mucha had run a criminal history check, the Gaiks filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Village of Oak Brook, Mucha, and the Village of Oak Brook prosecutor. They alleged that Mucha attempted to stifle Frances Gaik's freedom of expression on matters of public concern by spying on the Gaiks' home and sending surreptitious e-mails to Frances Gaik. Although Mucha has since admitted to these allegations, when the Gaiks deposed Mucha, he testified under oath that he did not have any law enforcement bases for interacting with Frances Gaik, that he did not in fact investigate the Gaiks, and that he did not create the fictional electronic account "lindalucinda."

Meanwhile, in March 2005, Acting Police Chief Larson was replaced by Police Chief Thomas Sheahan. Since all of the above events happened prior to Sheahan's appointment, Sheahan could not have known of these events unless he was informed of them by Mucha or some other individual.

More than a year later, in July 2006, the Gaiks subpoenaed the Illinois State Police and discovered that Mucha had requested a criminal history report on Frances Gaik. Approximately two weeks later, police officers called Mucha and asked him whether he ran a background check on Frances Gaik in February 2005. Mucha replied, "I don't recall," which he later admitted was a lie. Given Mucha's response to this question, together with all other facts known to Sheahan on August 16, 2006, Sheahan obtained a warrant and arrested Mucha for unlawfully requesting a criminal history check in violation of § 18(H) of the Uniform Conviction Information Act, 20 ILCS 2635/1.

Prosecutors eventually dismissed all charges against Mucha. Soon thereafter, Mucha filed multiple claims *fn1 in both state and federal court; the only federal claim surviving the defendants' motions to dismiss was his ยง 1983 false arrest claim. Upon the parties' cross motions for summary judgment, the district court granted judgment in favor of the defendants on the ...


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