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Tony Piatt v. Joseph S. Eisenhauer

July 5, 2011

TONY PIATT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOSEPH S. EISENHAUER, LARRY THOMASON, DOUG MILLER AND BOB RICHARD, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael P. McCUSKEY Chief U.S. District Judge

E-FILED

Tuesday, 05 July, 2011 04:25:54 PM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION

This case is before the court for ruling on the Petition to Assess Attorney's Fees (#19) filed by Defendants Joseph S. Eisenhauer, Larry Thomason, Doug Miller and Bob Richard. Plaintiff, Tony Piatt, has filed a Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Petition to Assess Attorney's Fees (#21). This court has carefully considered the arguments of the parties. Following this careful and thorough review, Defendants' Petition to Assess Attorney's Fees (#19) is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed a Complaint (#1) in this court under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 alleging that he was denied equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment because of his race. Plaintiff, who is Caucasian, alleged that he was discriminated against and fired to placate the concerns of African American citizens in Danville, Illinois.

On May 2, 2011, this court entered an Opinion (#16) and granted Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. The undisputed facts showed that Plaintiff had been a police officer since 1995. On March 8, 2008, Plaintiff was off duty and, at approximately 2:00 a.m., argued with Willie Thomas and Benny Rhodes, who are African American, at a Steak and Shake restaurant in Danville. Plaintiff then pulled his off duty weapon and pointed it at Rhodes. Plaintiff's off duty weapon was a Smith and Wesson .38 revolver which was loaded and had no safety. Plaintiff testified at his deposition that the muzzle of his gun was pointed at Rhodes' head from about 18 inches away. Following this incident, Plaintiff was placed on administrative leave while the Vermilion County Sheriff's Office conducted an investigation of the incident. When that investigation was completed about two weeks later, Plaintiff briefly returned to work and an internal affairs investigation was commenced on March 26, 2008. Following this investigation, Plaintiff's employment was terminated.

This court concluded that the facts of this case showed that Plaintiff engaged in extremely inappropriate, dangerous conduct on March 8, 2008. This court noted that, following an arbitration hearing, the arbitrator concluded that there was just cause for the termination of Plaintiff's employment. The arbitrator stated, "[n]o police department can afford to employ a sworn officer who behaves in this manner. Police officers are employed to protect the public, not threaten to kill them over petty slights." This court then concluded that Plaintiff had provided no evidence to support his argument that the decision to terminate his employment was made because of the outcry from the African American community. This court stated:

First of all, Plaintiff did not dispute that his employment was terminated as a result of the internal affairs investigation. In addition, the fact that there was a public reaction to this incident is understandable and does not mean that Defendants could not make the decision to impose appropriate discipline. Stated simply, the record firmly supports the conclusion that the decision to terminate Plaintiff's employment was justified based upon Plaintiff's conduct.

Plaintiff has produced nothing but speculation to support his argument that he would not have been terminated if he was African American.

This court also rejected Plaintiff's argument that Defendants' failure to thoroughly investigate the incident "could lead a jury to conclude that the Defendants were trying to quickly push through [Plaintiff's] termination to appease the African American community." This court concluded that Plaintiff could not complain that Defendants did not conduct an adequate inquiry into his actions when there was no real dispute regarding those actions. Plaintiff testified at his deposition that he pulled out his loaded .38 revolver and pointed it at Rhodes' head, with the muzzle about 18 inches away. This court again pointed out that the evidence showed that Plaintiff was disciplined for conduct in which he admittedly engaged.

This court concluded that Plaintiff made no showing that there was any genuine dispute of material fact and provided no evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, that any of the Defendants engaged in discrimination based upon his race. This court therefore ...


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