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Alana Jones v. City of Chicago

May 18, 2011

ALANA JONES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, RICHARD WISER, LUKE KELLY, EDWARD WODNICKI, VITO FERRO, AND BARRETT MORAN, JR., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Yahree Cavin sued the city of Chicago and several Chicago police officers in relation to his arrest and prosecution for armed robbery. He asserted federal due process and conspiracy claims as well as state-law claims of malicious prosecution and civil conspiracy. Cavin died on December 20, 2010, and subsequently Alana Jones, the mother of Cavin's son, was substituted as the plaintiff pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(a)(1). Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all of Jones's claims. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the motion.

Background

On the evening of November 7, 2005, armed individuals wearing masks robbed a McDonald's restaurant located on Navy Pier in Chicago. Cavin, an eighteen-year-old high school senior, was present during the robbery, as were McDonald's employees Sonya Thorne and Tanisha Clark. Cavin had been employed at the restaurant during the previous six months. According to Thorne, who was Cavin's manager, Cavin had been terminated the previous week. During the robbery, the armed individuals took Thorne and Clark into a back office at gunpoint, leaving Cavin in the main area of the restaurant. They then forced Thorne to open a safe and took out two plastic bags containing an unspecified amount of cash. The individuals ultimately left Thorne and Clark in the office and were never identified or apprehended.

Jeff Johnson, a Navy Pier security guard, was the first person to respond to a security call reporting the robbery. Johnson testified at his deposition that when he arrived at the McDonalds, the store's security gate was closed. He also saw a young man running around and jumping in the main dining area of the restaurant. Johnson called out to the person and asked him whether everything was alright. According to Johnson, the person did not tell Johnson about the robbery or ask him to call the police. When the police eventually arrived, Johnson told them about this encounter. Plaintiff admits this person was Cavin. See Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' LR 56.1(A)(3) Stmt. of Facts ¶ 42 ("Admit that security guard Johnson talked to the responding detectives and told them about his conversation and questions with Cavin") (emphasis added).

Officers Richard Wiser and Luke Kelly arrived at the restaurant at approximately 9:37 p.m. When the officers attempted to open locked glass doors to enter the restaurant, they saw Cavin standing inside the restaurant near the counter area. Both officers testified that Cavin looked at them and then disappeared toward the back of the restaurant. The officers forced their way in and reached the back office. They did not, however, find Cavin in that area or elsewhere in the restaurant, nor did they see him leave the restaurant.

Thorne and Clark let the officers into the back office. Thorne told them that she had seen Cavin outside of the restaurant earlier and did not know why he was there. She also stated that Cavin had reappeared near the restaurant's side door holding food trays just as Thorne and Clark opened the door to leave. According to Clark, Cavin asked Thorne if he could put the trays in the back of the restaurant. After Thorne gave him permission, Cavin entered the restaurant. Immediately after he came in, the armed individuals came out of a bathroom outside the McDonald's and rushed into the restaurant behind Cavin, pointing guns at Thorne and Clark and demanding money from the safe. Thorne and Clark told the officers that Cavin had been fired from his job at the restaurant about one week before the robbery.

Officers Wiser and Kelly later encountered Cavin outside of the restaurant, which he had apparently left via another exit. The officers took Cavin into custody and handcuffed him. They also spoke with two Chicago police detectives, Vito Ferro and Barrett Moran, about what they had learned. Officer Wiser told the detectives about Thorne and Clark's explanation of Cavin's presence at the restaurant door seconds before the armed individuals entered. The detectives also interviewed Thorne and Clark separately.

Later, Moran read Cavin his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, and two other police officers transported him to the Area 3 police station. During the trip to Area 3, Cavin told the officers that no one entered the restaurant after he did; someone pointed a gun at him and told him to get on the ground; he went to the restaurant to see Thorne; and he had intended to jump over the counter in the restaurant, but did not because he was threatened with a gun.

The detectives also went to the Area 3 station, where they were met by Assistant State's Attorney Sabra Ebersol. ASA Ebersol was the felony review attorney assigned to the case. The detectives told ASA Ebersol about the circumstances of the robbery and Cavin's arrest. At her deposition, ASA Ebersol testified that she interviewed Cavin and three other people who witnessed the events surrounding the robbery, including Thorne and Clark. After speaking with the witnesses and reviewing a general offense case report created by Officer Wiser, ASA Ebersol concluded that there was probable cause to charge Cavin with armed robbery.

After being charged, Cavin was held at Cook County Jail for approximately twenty-five months. Before the case proceeded to trial, however, the charges were terminated after the prosecution moved to nolle prosequi the charges. Assistant State's Attorney Sharon Kanter, who was also assigned to Cavin's case, testified that the decision to nolle prosse the charges reflected the proecution's view that it could not satisfy its burden of proof at trial. Cavin filed the present action on June 18, 2008. It was transferred to the undersigned judge's docket in late October 2010 after the retirement of Judge Wayne Andersen.

Discussion

On a motion for summary judgment, the Court "view[s] the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in that party's favor." Trinity Homes LLC v. Ohio Cas. Ins. Co., 629 F.3d 653, 656 (7th Cir. 2010). Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). In other words, a court may grant summary judgment "where the record taken as a whole could not ...


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