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Cindy C. Abbott and Travis Abbott v. Sangamon County

November 3, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sue E. Myerscough, U.S. District Judge:


Thursday, 03 November, 2011 11:12:56 AM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD


This cause is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 37) filed by Defendants, Sangamon County, Neil Williamson, and Troy M. Sweeney.

In August 2011, Plaintiffs Travis Abbott and Cindy Abbott filed a Second Amended Complaint against Defendants. Plaintiffs asserted, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claims of excessive force, false arrest, and false imprisonment. Defendants have now moved for summary judgment. Defendant Sweeney asserts he is entitled to summary judgment on all counts against him. Defendants Sangamon County and Williamson assert that Plaintiff had indicated an intent to voluntarily dismiss the claims against them.

For the reasons that follow, summary judgment is granted in favor of Defendant Sweeney. Defendant Sweeney is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiffs' false arrest and false imprisonment claims because Defendant Sweeney had probable cause to arrest them. Defendant Sweeney is also entitled to qualified immunity on all three of Plaintiffs' claims. Plaintiffs have not indicated how they intend to proceed against Defendants Sangamon County and Williamson. Plaintiffs shall so do so by November 14, 2011.


On June 25, 2007, Animal Control received a call about a dog running loose on Lyons Road in Spaulding, Illinois. (Undisputed Fact 52*fn1 ). Officers from Animal Control were very familiar with this dog, the road, and the owners of the dog. Animal Control had received calls frequently because the dog was allowed to run loose and was very aggressive. (Undisputed Fact 52).

Officer John Moore, an Animal Control Officer for Sangamon County, responded to the call. (Undisputed Fact 53). Officer Moore observed the dog in the garage area unchained. (Undisputed Fact 54). He also observed Plaintiff Travis Abbott*fn2 , the owner of the dog, run inside the residence. (Undisputed Fact 54). For the next hour and a half Officer Moore attempted to capture the dog. (Undisputed Fact 55). Travis interfered with attempts to catch dog by going to different doors of the residence and calling for the dog, causing the dog to run around the house trying to get inside. (Undisputed Fact 56). Several times while Officer Moore was attempting to catch the dog, Travis yelled threats at him and gave him the finger. (Undisputed Fact 57). Officer Moore specifically recalled Travis yelling, "If you don't leave I'm going to kick your ass." (Undisputed Fact 58). Travis also testified that he told the Animal Control Officers that if they touched his dog, he would knock them out. (Undisputed Fact 91). Due to Travis' threatening words and behavior, Officer Moore called for a police officer to respond to the residence. (Undisputed Fact 59). Travis locked himself in the house when he was informed police officers were en route to the house. (Undisputed Fact 92).

The first officer to arrive was Riverton Police Officer Sergeant Jim Lawley. (Undisputed Fact 60). Sergeant Lawley was asked to stand by until the Sangamon County Deputy could arrive. (Undisputed Fact 3). Sergeant Lawley went to the door and spoke to Travis through the door because he refused to open the door. (Undisputed Fact 8, 60). Sergeant Lawley asked Travis to step outside and talk with him, but Travis refused, stating, "Fuck you. I am not coming out there." (Undisputed Fact 9). Sergeant Lawley informed Travis that if he refused, the Deputy may get a warrant for him based on his refusal to cooperate. (Undisputed Fact 10). Travis "continued to profanely refuse to open the door." (Undisputed Fact 10).

When Deputy Sweeney arrived, Sergeant Lawley filled him in on what had transpired so far. (Undisputed Fact 11). Deputy Sweeney was told that Travis had threatened the Animal Control Officers and made a fist. (Undisputed Fact 106). Deputy Sweeney knocked on the front door but Travis refused to answer. (Undisputed Fact 61).

Around that time Travis' mother, Plaintiff Cindy Abbott, arrived. (Undisputed Fact 14, 62). Cindy parked her vehicle behind Deputy Sweeney's vehicle in the driveway. (Undisputed Fact 62). Deputy Sweeney met Cindy in the driveway to speak to her. (Undisputed Fact 15). Deputy Sweeney requested Cindy bring Travis out of the home so that he could hear Travis' s side of the story. (Undisputed Fact 16). Deputy Sweeney advised Cindy that if Travis refused to come out, he "may seek a warrant." (Undisputed Fact 17).

Cindy went inside the residence and came back out with Travis. (Undisputed Fact 18). Deputy Sweeney asked Travis what had happened. (Undisputed Fact 19). Travis admitted to verbally threatening the Animal Control Officers. (Undisputed Fact 19).

Deputy Sweeney verified that Travis Abbott knew the persons he threatened were Animal Control Officers. (Undisputed Fact 20). According to Sergeant Lawley, Deputy Sweeney advised Travis he was under arrest for obstructing/threatening the Animal Control Officers. (Undisputed Fact 21). Deputy Sweeney testified he told Travis he was under arrest for assault. (Undisputed Fact 107).

Travis protested being arrested and began to back away from Deputy Sweeney. (Undisputed Fact 22). Sergeant Lawley grabbed Travis' arm and advised him not to resist. (Undisputed Fact 23). Travis was handcuffed behind his back, and the cuffs were double locked by Deputy Sweeney. (Undisputed Fact 23). When Sweeney cuffed Travis, he made sure he could fit one finger in the cuffs to confirm the proper fit. (Undisputed Fact 113). Travis became angry with Cindy once he was placed under arrest. (Undisputed Fact 108).

Sergeant Lawley assisted Deputy Sweeney in escorting Travis to Sweeney's squad car. (Undisputed Fact 24). As Travis passed the Animal Control Officers, Travis yelled, "Thanks a lot assholes."

(Undisputed Fact 25). Sergeant Lawley contacted dispatch and advised them the subject was in custody. (Undisputed Fact 24). Deputy Sweeney patted Travis down and advised him to behave and all would go well. (Undisputed Fact 26). Deputy Sweeney placed Travis in the rear seat of his squad car and seat belted him in. (Undisputed Fact 27). The squad car did not have a partition or prisoner transport shield dividing the front and back seats. (Undisputed Fact 68, 114).

After Travis was handcuffed, Cindy went inside the home to lock up and use the restroom. (Undisputed Fact 81). When she came back out Deputy Sweeney was backing his squad car out of the drive way. (Undisputed Fact 82).

After Travis was placed in the squad car, he became agitated, raised his legs up, and struggled around in the back seat. (Undisputed Fact 67). Travis testified he immediately maneuvered his handcuffs from behind his back to the front of his body. (Undisputed Fact 96). Deputy Sweeney was attempting to back up his squad car when Travis became very agitated. (Undisputed Fact 68). Travis was screaming at his mother, Cindy, to get him out of the squad car. (Undisputed Fact 115). Travis denies, however, that he was attempting to escape. (Response to Fact 73).

Deputy Sweeney noticed Travis had manuvered his handcuffs from behind his back to the front of his body. (Undisputed Fact 97). Deputy Sweeney reached back to try to gain control of Travis. (Undisputed Fact 116). Deputy Sweeney's foot slipped off of the brake and his car rolled into Cindy's vehicle. (Undisputed Fact 116). Deputy Sweeney put the car in park and got out of his vehicle. (Undisputed Fact 117).

Sergeant Lawley testified that he was speaking with Cindy "at the time the vehicles came together." (Undisputed Fact 30). Cindy began screaming. (Undisputed Fact 30). Sergeant Lawley attempted to calm Cindy, telling her that Deputy Sweeney just bumped Cindy's vehicle and that it would be covered by insurance. (Undisputed Fact 30). Cindy did not calm down and ...

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