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Hasbbin Sughayyer v. City of Chicago

May 5, 2011

HASBBIN SUGHAYYER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, A MUNICIPAL
CORPORATION, OFC. RUDOLPH GARZA AND OFC. SEAN CAMPBELL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Sheila Finnegan

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Hasbbin Sughayyer filed suit against Defendants the City of Chicago (the "City"), Officer Rudolph Garza, and Officer Sean Campbell, alleging that they violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by using excessive force against her during the course of a traffic stop, falsely arresting her, and denying her equal protection of the laws. Plaintiff further alleges that Officer Garza battered her, and that he and Officer Campbell both subjected her to intentional infliction of emotional distress and malicious prosecution in violation of Illinois state law. Plaintiff also seeks to recover against the City under theories of respondeat superior and indemnification.

The case is scheduled to go to trial on June 13, 2011, but Defendants first seek partial summary judgment on Plaintiff's false arrest and malicious prosecution claims, contending that both are barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel.*fn1 For the reasons set forth here, the motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

On July 20, 2008, Plaintiff was driving a rented black Nissan Sentra near W. 63rd Street and S. Mobile Avenue in Chicago. At some point between 9:26 p.m. and 9:45 p.m., Officers Garza and Campbell pulled Plaintiff over, issued her a traffic citation for failure to signal, and ultimately arrested her on charges of drug possession. (Doc. 61 ¶¶ 4, 6, 8; Doc. 65 ¶¶ 4, 6, 8). The parties dispute nearly every detail surrounding the stop and arrest. For purposes of this motion, however, the Court focuses on Officer Garza's testimony during three separate proceedings: (1) the preliminary hearing in relation to the drug possession charges; (2) the administrative hearing stemming from the impoundment of Plaintiff's rental car after her arrest; and (3) the deposition of Officer Garza in this civil lawsuit.

At issue is whether Plaintiff is collaterally estopped from pursuing her false arrest and malicious prosecution claims in this lawsuit because during the impoundment hearing, the Administrative Law Officer ("ALO") found that Plaintiff had drugs in her car, which gave Officers Garza and Campbell probable cause to arrest and prosecute her.*fn2 For reasons discussed in this Opinion, the Court finds that collateral estoppel does not apply here.

A. The Preliminary Hearing (August 12, 2008)

On August 12, 2008 -- a few weeks after Plaintiff's arrest on drug possession charges -- a Cook County Circuit Court Judge conducted a preliminary hearing to determine whether probable cause existed for the arrest. At that hearing, Officer Garza testified, among other things, that:

1. Plaintiff was driving westbound on 65th Street and she failed to use a turn signal when she turned northbound onto Mobile Avenue, leading to the stop of the vehicle. (Doc. 64 ¶ 9; Doc. 66, Ex. A).

2. There was no passenger in Plaintiff's car. (Id.). 3. As he approached Plaintiff's vehicle, he saw her toss a vial that he suspected contained the drug PCP.*fn3 (Id.).

No other witnesses testified at the hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge dismissed the charge of PCP possession based on a finding of no probable cause. He did not discuss why he made this finding. (Id.).

B. The Impoundment Hearing (September 18, 2008)

Plaintiff's rental vehicle was impounded after the arrest because it "was found to contain controlled substances or cannabis . . . or . . . was used in the purchase, attempt to purchase, sale or attempt to sell controlled substances or cannabis, in violation of Section 7-24-225" of the Municipal Code of Chicago (the "Code"). (Doc. 62-1, Ex. G; Doc. 65 ¶ 12). Two months after her arrest, Plaintiff and her attorney attended a hearing to contest the impoundment. During that September 18, 2008 hearing, Plaintiff denied that she had any drugs in the car, and argued that Officer Garza had planted the drugs. (Doc. 61 ¶¶ 15, 16; Doc. 65 ¶¶ 15, 16).

Plaintiff claims that she was not allowed to conduct any discovery prior to the hearing, noting that the ALO denied her request for documents relating to Officer Garza's disciplinary history and past interactions with Plaintiff, and copies of radio transmissions relating to the incident. (Doc. 66, Ex. C, at 1-5). It appears, however, that Plaintiff did receive all information the City intended to rely on at the hearing, as required by section 6.3 of the Code's Procedural Rules & Regulations of the Department of Administrative Hearings. (Id.).

At the hearing, Plaintiff testified in her own defense, and called her father as a witness. (Doc. 61 ¶¶ 18, 19; Doc. 65 ¶¶ 18, 19). Officer Garza also testified as to his version of events, and Plaintiff's counsel had an opportunity to cross-examine him. (Id. ¶ 17; Doc. 65 ¶ 7). Plaintiff objects that the ALO improperly limited the scope of that cross-examination in that he declined to allow her attorney to question Officer Garza regarding the radio transmissions, the racially offensive comments he allegedly made to her during the stop, or the actions he allegedly took towards her such as showing her his tattoos and "getting up over [her] in the back seat of the squad car." (Doc. 64 ¶¶ 13-15). In any event, there is no dispute that Officer Garza testified:

1. Plaintiff was alone in her vehicle. (Doc. 64 ¶ 19A).

2. Plaintiff tossed a vial into the air towards the passenger seat, and Officer Garza retrieved it from on top of that seat. (Id. ¶¶ 19B, 19C).

3. Officer Garza had made six prior arrests for PCP. (Id. ¶ 19G).

4. Plaintiff asked for a supervisor on the scene. (Id. ¶ 19H).

5. The initial traffic stop was for failing to signal while turning from 65th Street onto Mobile Ave. (Id. ¶ 19D).

6. Officer Garza and Officer Campbell were in a lot on Mobile Ave. just south of 65th Street when they first saw Plaintiff's vehicle. (Id. ¶ 19E).

7. After seeing Plaintiff turn from Mobile Ave. onto 65th Street without signaling, Officer Garza and Officer Campbell pulled in immediately behind her. (Id. ¶ 19F).

At the conclusion of the hearing, the ALO observed that the "police frame and plant" was an "implausible defense," and found Plaintiff liable for having drugs in her car. (Doc. 66, Ex. C, at 75). She was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine plus an additional $170, and given 35 days to appeal. (Doc. 61 ¶ 20; Doc. 65 ¶ 20).

C. Deposition Testimony (July 16, 2010)

After Plaintiff filed this lawsuit, Officer Garza testified at a deposition on July 16, 2010, which was approximately two years after the arrest. His testimony differed in certain respects from testimony he had given during the impoundment hearing. Officer Garza testified (in part):

1. When Plaintiff's vehicle was stopped, there was a passenger in it named Jannette Portalatin. (Doc. 64 ¶ 20A).

2. Plaintiff tossed a vial toward the passenger side of the vehicle which bounced off the window and landed in the passenger's lap. The passenger then tried to close her legs to hide the vial. (Id. ¶ 20B; Doc. 66, Ex. G, at 53, 62-63).

3. Officer Campbell retrieved the vial from the car (not Officer Garza). (Id. ¶ 20C).

4. Officer Garza had not made any prior arrests for PCP. (Id. ¶ 20G). 5. Officer Garza questioned the passenger and she admitted that the vial contained PCP. (Garza Dep., at 91-92).

6. Plaintiff did not ask for a supervisor on the scene. (Doc. 64 ¶ 20H).

7. Officer Campbell handcuffed Plaintiff and her passenger together behind Plaintiff's car, though the passenger was later driven to an intersection near her home and released. (Id. ¶ 20I; Garza Dep., at 99-100).

8. The initial traffic stop was for failing to signal while exiting a parking lot east of Mobile Ave. and turning onto 65th Street. (Id. ¶ 20D).

9. Officer Garza and Officer Campbell had been sitting in the squad car for about 10 minutes on Narragansett on the southeast corner with 65th Street when they first saw Plaintiff's vehicle. (Id. ¶ 20E).

10. After seeing Plaintiff turn from the parking lot east of Mobile Ave. onto 65th Street without signaling, they drove eastbound on 65th Street past Plaintiff as she was heading westbound, made a u-turn and then followed her. (Id. ¶ 20F).

Plaintiff also deposed Officer Campbell in connection with her lawsuit. His testimony was inconsistent with Officer Garza's impoundment hearing testimony in certain respects, but largely consistent with Officer Garza's subsequent deposition testimony. The main exception is that Officer Campbell testified that the vial landed on the floor after Plaintiff tossed it rather than on the passenger's lap. (Id. ¶¶ 21A-21C, 21G; Doc. 66, Ex. F).

D. Defendants' Motion

Defendants now move for partial summary judgment on the false arrest and malicious prosecution claims, contending that Plaintiff is collaterally estopped from pursuing these claims in light of the ALO's finding during the ...


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