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Javier Santiago v. Sergeant Ronan

July 12, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber


Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons stated herein, the motion is granted.


On July 28, 2008, a man ("the Informant") walked into Chicago's 13th District police station and told Sgt. Patricia Maher ("Maher") that he had been doing some type of unspecified work on an apartment and that Plaintiff Javier Santiago ("Santiago") had a gun and had threatened to kill him. Maher, who was not named as a defendant in this case, testified she had never met the Informant before that day and, at least at that time, knew nothing about him. She did not remember if she got the Informant's name, address or phone number or ran a warrant check on him. The Informant asked to remain anonymous, and Maher "respected that." Maher Dep. 21, ECF 23-1, PageID No. 108. It appears from the record Maher eventually learned the Informant's name, but Defendants, citing the Informant's privilege, have not released it and the Informant's name is not part of the record.

Maher testified the Informant clearly knew Santiago, knew Santiago's nickname was "Bear," accurately described Santiago's car as a Jetta make, accurately described part of the Jetta's license plate number, and led police to the general area where the Jetta was parked. Maher had never worked with the Informant before, but found him credible in part because he had presented himself to a police station instead of making an anonymous phone call. The Informant expressed his concern "in a manner where he appeared to be genuinely concerned and fearful for his safety." Id. 24, ECF 23-1, PageID No. 109. Using a state prison web site, Maher showed the Informant a photograph of Santiago; the Informant confirmed the man in the photograph was the man who had threatened him.

Maher asked a dispatcher to have a tactical unit police officer on the street call her, and Defendant Sergeant Ronan ("Ronan") responded to this request. The two sergeants spoke on the phone (Ronan used his cell phone rather than police radio) and Ronan verified the Jetta was where the Informant said it would be. Ronan set up surveillance of the Jetta. The Informant remained at the police station for approximately an hour and a half, talking on the Informant's own cell phone with someone who was in close proximity to Santiago. That person told the Informant that Santiago was showering in a nearby apartment. Maher never learned the identity of the person with whom the Informant was speaking.

While Ronan watched the car, he was also in communication with two other Chicago police officers, Defendants Michael Tews ("Tews") and G. Moussa ("Moussa"). Those officers looked up Santiago's information in police databases and learned he did not have a license to drive. They also learned he was on parole for armed robbery and that police had urged officers to be cautious of Santiago due to his gang involvement and criminal history.

When Santiago left the nearby apartment, the person with whom the Informant was talking was able to relay that information as well as Santiago's clothing description to the Informant. The Informant relayed it to Maher, who relayed it to Ronan.

Maher testified she was not sure of the exact information she gave to Ronan regarding the location of the gun. "I believe I relayed that the last time the [Informant] saw Mr. Santiago with the gun, it was in or around the Jetta, but I'm not -- as far as the specifics of what I said I can't recall." Maher Dep. 55, ECF 23-1, PageID 115. Maher also testified that the Informant may have been threatened by Santiago inside an apartment (as opposed to on the street), and she did not recall if the Informant explained how the gun got from inside to the Jetta. Id. At another point, Maher testified she told Ronan she didn't know where the gun was. Id. at 46, ECF 23-1, PageID 113.

Out on the street, Ronan observed Santiago get into the Jetta and then discard the wrapper of a cigarette pack onto the street. Santiago admits he littered. Ronan relayed the littering information to Tews and Moussa. He also advised the officers that Santiago was driving away. Tews and Moussa pulled Santiago over and arrested him for littering and driving without a valid license. Santiago was handcuffed and placed in a police car. Tews then searched the car. While searching in the back seat area, he noted the base of the console between the front driver's seat and the front passenger seat was loose and not bolted down. Tews lifted the console and found a chrome revolver underneath the console and underneath the carpeting of the car.

Tews testified he searched the car as a search incident to arrest; Officer Moussa testified Tews searched the car because it was about to be impounded.

Gun charges against Santiago were eventually dismissed because the state court judge ruled prosecutors had not satisfied the knowledge component of the charge of "knowing possession" of a handgun.

Plaintiff sued numerous officers under numerous theories, but subsequently dismissed all Defendants but Ronan, Tews and Moussa.

He alleges Constitutional violations of false arrest, unlawful search of his person, unlawful search of his car and ...

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