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Pinkney James, Jr. and Maxine James v. the Village of Willowbrook

July 19, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman, Chief Judge:


Plaintiffs Pinkney James, Jr. and Maxine James allege under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1982, 1983, 1985(3), and 1986 that they are victims of various violations of their constitutional and statutory rights because of racial discrimination by the Village of Willowbrook, Willowbrook police officers Theodore Kolodziej, Michael Kurinec, Officer Handzic, Mark Sheldon, Scott Eisenbeis, and Officer Polsliet (the "Officers"), and various Willowbrook residents including George Schwertfeger, Cindy Regan, Brian DelCarlo, John O'Malley, and Joseph Johannas, and Kevin Henry (the "Neighbors"). The Jameses allege that the Officers are liable under § 1983 for excessive force (Count I) and false arrest (Count II), that all defendants are liable under § 1985(3) for conspiracy to deprive them of their civil rights (Count III), that the Officers are liable for failing to prevent the conspiracy under § 1986 (Count IV), that the Village and the Officers are liable for depriving the Jameses of their right to equal protection under § 1983 (Count V), that all defendants are liable for depriving the Jameses of their property rights on the basis of race under § 1982 (Count VI), and that the Village is liable under Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978) (Count VII) and 745 ILCS 10/9-102 (Count VIII).

Pending before the court are three motions to dismiss. First, Schwertfeger and Regan move to dismiss Counts III and VI against them. (Dkt. No. 29.) In a separate motion, DelCarlo, O'Malley, Johannas, and Henry move to dismiss Counts III and VI against them. (Dkt. No. 30.) Finally, the Officers and the Village move to dismiss Counts III, IV, and VI against them. (Dkt. No. 35.) For the reasons explained below, those motions are all denied.


The following facts are drawn from Pinkney and Maxine James's Second Amended Complaint. (Dkt. No. 24 ("Second Am. Compl.").) The Jameses are both African Americans who moved to Willowbrook, Illinois, a predominantly white suburb of Chicago, in 2002. (Id. ¶¶ 20, 66.) The Jameses allege that the Neighbors and Officers discriminated against them on the basis of their race beginning shortly after their move and continuing until September of 2011. (Id. ¶¶ 21-49.) According to the Jameses, that discrimination forced them to put their home on the market. (Id. ¶ 47.)

The Jameses allege a variety of incidents to support their claims. To facilitate the discussion of the defendants' motions to dismiss, the court has grouped them based on whether they occurred during the limitations period and whether they involved the Officers or the Neighbors.

I. Incidents Before December 22, 2009 (Outside Limitations Period)

A. Incidents Involving the Officers

In March of 2003, the Jameses found animal blood thrown all over their driveway and near their doorway. Although the blood was smeared and there was no animal corpse in the vicinity, the unidentified police officer who responded to their call suggested it was an accidental death and did not investigate further. (Id. ¶ 21.)

The Jameses sought police aid seventeen more times between March 2003 and December 2009. In each of those instances, the responding Officers never acted to resolve their problems as requested. Specifically, the Officers refused to investigate, report, or take a complaint from the Jameses six times in fall 2004, fall 2006, February 2007, spring 2007, September 2008, and July 2009. (See id. ¶¶ 24, 29, 31-33, 37.) For example, on September 8, 2008, a white male tried to enter the James home and refused to leave. (Id. ¶ 33.) Pinkney waived down Officer Eisenbeis' police car for help. (Id.) Eisenbeis responded "your house, your problem. Get off your ass" and did nothing. (Id.) When Pinkney persisted stating "you are the ones that are supposed to do something," Eisenbeis yelled back "Fuck You!" (Id.) The Jameses explained the event at the police station but Deputy Sheldon*fn1 said "I got a black friend, so I know how black people are" and would not investigate, prosecute, or report the complaint. (Id.) In another incident in July 2009, unidentified officers did nothing when the Jameses asked to file charges against Cindy Regan for driving onto their property and shouting threats. (Id. ¶ 37.) On other occasions the Officers refused to investigate complaints that the Jameses were receiving hate mail, that unidentified people were trespassing on their property, and that someone was trying to break in. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 29, 31-32.)

Three other times the police told the Jameses they would investigate, but did nothing. (Id. ¶¶ 22, 36, 41.) The first time, an unidentified officer promised to investigate a "strange man" staring through Pinkney's bedroom window in the summer of 2003, but did not report any results to the Jameses. (Id. ¶ 22.) Several years later, in March 2009, an unknown officer promised an investigation after a hate letter threatened the Jameses, using a racial slur and telling them to sell their home and "go back to the ghetto." (Id. ¶ 36.) In the fall of 2009, a man attempted to strike Maxine in a small black SUV. (Id. ¶ 41.) The Jameses provided the license plate number of the vehicle and Deputy Sheldon stated that he would investigate, but Deputy Sheldon failed to let the Jameses file a complaint or to follow-up on the investigation. (Id.)

Once in the spring of 2006, unidentified officers failed to stop unidentified neighbors who were shouting at the Jameses. (Id. ¶ 25.) Also in the spring of 2006, Officers Handzic and Eisenbeis actually joined unidentified neighbors in shouting at the Jameses that their music was too loud and that they needed to move. (Id. ¶ 26.) Specifically, Officer Handzic stated that the neighbors want to keep it "nice" and "don't want you people ruining that." (Id.) Officer Eisenbeis called the Jameses "gang bangers who hadn't been caught yet" and suggested that the logo on Maxine's sunglasses represented a Chicago street gang. (Id.)

During the summer of 2006, Officer Eisenbeis circled the James home daily and accelerated to hit James family members, almost hitting Maxine once. (Id. ¶ 27.)

On two other occasions in 2009, unidentified officers caused harm to the Jameses by making their visitors feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in Willowbrook. (Id. ¶¶ 34, 35.) First, an unidentified Willowbrook police officer encountered the Jameses' visitor at a grocery store table with a slice of pizza and told him "he better not be there when he drove back by," scaring the friend and deterring him from visiting again. (Id. ¶ 34.) Later, two unidentified officers came to the James home and asked Pinkney's girlfriend to show identification, stating that they "did not want a 'bad element' in the community." (Id. ¶ 35.) As a result, Pinkney felt he could not have visitors without risking harassment. (Id.)

Officers also acted to protect and defend the behavior of three different offenders about whom the Jameses complained. (Id. ¶¶ 38-40.) In July 2009, Officer Polsliet responded to the Jameses' call about a white male who entered their property without permission, tried to enter their car, and refused to leave the property. (Id. ¶ 38.) Polsliet talked to the offender, but did not arrest him and instead shook his hand. (Id.) Also in July 2009, George Schwertfeger recorded the Jameses in their living room and threatened them. (Id. ¶ 39.) The Jameses called the police, but Deputy Sheldon responded that Schwertfeger had a right to record them. (Id.) Finally, in July 2009 Maxine called the Willowbrook police after a man attacked her. (Id. ¶ 40.) The responding officer laughed and threatened to arrest Pinkney, who had defended Maxine, but did not arrest the attacker. (Id.)

B. Incidents Involving Neighbors and Unknown Individuals

The Jameses allege that the Neighbors are responsible for a variety of harassing acts against them, although they do not identify who is responsible for many of the acts their complaint describes. For example, the animal blood the Jameses found in March 2003 came from an unknown source. (Id. ¶ 21.) Similarly, the Jameses do not identify the strange man staring through their window in summer 2003 (id. ¶ 22), the person who shot pellets at the Jameses' property in spring 2004 (id. ¶ 23.), the source of the various hate letters they received (id. ¶ 24), the neighbors who shouted racial taunts at them in spring 2006 (although they included "some of the defendants") (id. ¶¶ 25, 26), the person who burglarized their home in spring 2007 (id. ¶ 31), the trespassers who attempted to enter their house and car (id. ¶¶ 33, 38), or the men who attacked Maxine and tried to hit her with a car in the summer and fall of 2009 (id. ¶¶ 40-41.)

They do allege, however, that by 2006, George Schwertfeger, Brian DelCarlo, John O'Malley, Joseph Johannas, and Kevin Henry regularly trespassed on the Jameses' property without permission and shouted racial slurs at them. (Id. ¶ 28.) In spring 2007, the same group of Neighbors routinely left dog waste on the Jameses' lawn and ordered their dogs to attack the Jameses if they protested. (Id. ¶ 30.) They also specify that "a friend of the JOHANNAS family" entered the Jameses' property without permission in February 2007 and said "the neighbors said you people don't belong here!" (Id. ¶ 32.) When the Jameses told her to leave, she yelled "I have no respect for you!" (Id.)

In addition, they allege that in July 2009, Cindy Regan drove onto the Jameses' property and shouted threats about them continuing to live in the neighborhood. (Id. ¶ 37.) Also in July 2009, George Schwertfeger recorded the Jameses in their living room, made threats about them refusing to move out, and admitted to sending a hate letter to the Jameses in March 2009. (Id. ¶ 39.)

II. Incidents After December 22, 2009 (Within Limitations Period)

A. Incidents Involving the Officers

Between December 22, 2009, and September 2011, the Jameses allege five incidents of misconduct by the Officers. First, on December 22, 2009, Commander Michael Kurinec with other Officers entered the James property without a warrant and handcuffed Pinkney and Maxine, allegedly without probable cause. (Id. ¶ 42.) The Jameses allege that although they did not resist or commit a crime, Kurinec, Handzic, and Kolodziej used excessive force to drag them down the driveway, beat them, shove them, handcuff them violently, and cause them injuries. (Id. ¶¶ 42, 51-53.)

Second, in March 2011, unidentified officers discouraged the Jameses from filing a complaint against Schwertfeger, who had directed racial slurs and threats at them. (Id. ΒΆ 44.) Also in March 2011, the "police department" did not aid Pinkney or Maxine as complaining witnesses in a criminal proceeding against Schwertfeger ...

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