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Earnest Lee Young v. City of Peoria

October 24, 2012

EARNEST LEE YOUNG PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF PEORIA, KENNETH ORWIG, AND PAUL TUTTLE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Court

E-FILED

Thursday, 25 October, 2012 02:44:46 PM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

ORDER

This matter is now before the Court on Defendant City of Peoria, Kenneth Orwig, and Paul Tuttle's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5) and Magistrate Judge Byron G. Cudmore's ("Judge Cudmore") Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 7). In his Report and Recommendation, Judge Cudmore concludes that this Court should abstain from interfering with Plaintiff Earnest Young's ("Young") underlying state court criminal proceeding and, moreover, should grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss due to Plaintiff's failure to state a claim. For the reasons stated herein, the Court ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation and, in so doing, GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On December 9, 2010, Young, a black convicted felon,*fn1 was arrested on a domestic battery charge at a residence he shared with his white convicted felon girlfriend Jean Rodriguez ("Rodriguez") and his brother Bobby Lee Young ("Bobby Young"). (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶9, 10); (ECF No. 12 at 2). Defendant Paul Tuttle ("Tuttle"), a Peoria City Police officer assigned to the Crime Scene Unit, was called to remove a shotgun from the residence after Young was arrested. (ECF No. 1 at ¶9). With the knowledge and approval of his supervisor Sergeant Kenneth Orwig ("Orwig"), Officer Tuttle removed the shotgun, marked it as non-evidence and transported it to the City Police Department for storage. Id. at ¶¶ 9, 10. Officer Tuttle performed a background check on the shotgun, tracing it to Bobby Young who held a valid Illinois Firearm Owner's Identification Card. Tuttle then performed a background check on Young, Bobby Young, and Rodriguez. Id. at ¶¶11, 12. Young claims that Tuttle, with Orwig's knowledge and approval, placed the gun in the "non evidence section of the Peoria City Police Department Property Room as being [Young's] property when they knew the gun was the legal property of [Young's] brother who also resided in the home" and that they intentionally conspired to selectively prosecute Young as opposed to Rodriguez although they "both had knowledge of the gun in the home." Id. at ¶14. Young claims that the officers conspired to have Young selectively prosecuted because he is black but not Rodriguez because she is white. Id. at ¶¶15, 16. Tuttle and Orwig furthered this conspiracy by labeling the shotgun as Young's property only rather than including Rodriguez's name, placing it in the non-evidence storage area, and concealing material facts and evidence from the prosecutor, the judge, and/or their supervisors*fn2 at the Department. Id. at ¶16. At all times relevant to the instant case, Young asserts Tuttle and Orwig acted under color of law. Id. at ¶17. Young claims the City of Peoria ("City"): has demonstrated a pattern and/or practice of subjecting similarly situated criminal suspects including the Plaintiff to a Crime Scene Unit within the Peoria Police Department, to which this United constantly and intentionally conspires to engage in selective prosecution by intentionally concealing material facts and/or evidence collected from the crime scene not telling the prosecutor, a judge, and/or their supervisors and/or not taken [sic] corrective measures on their own to insure [sic] similarly situated criminal suspects including the plaintiff is not legally deprived of liberty because evidence obtained is intentionally not revealed especially involving firearms. (ECF No. 1, ¶18)(emphasis in original).

On December 21, 2010, a grand jury indicted Young on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, misdemeanor domestic battery, and felony domestic battery in violation of Illinois law. (ECF No. 8); (ECF No. 10 at 5). On December 2, 2011, Young filed a Motion to Quash, stating that arresting officer John Williams ("Williams") engaged in selective prosecution when he arrested Young, but not Rodriguez, on the felon in possession charge. (ECF No. 7, 1-3). On December 15, 2011, the Circuit Court of the Tenth Judicial Circuit denied that Motion. (ECF No. 7, 4-5).

Young commenced the instant case on March 13, 2012, wherein he complained that Orwig and Tuttle conspired to engage in selective prosecution and that the City has demonstrated a pattern of subjecting criminal suspects similarly-situated to Plaintiff to selective prosecution. Defendants filed their response, arguing that this Court should abstain under the Younger doctrine or, alternatively, that Plaintiff failed to state a claim. In their Motion, Defendants noted that the underlying criminal state proceeding was still pending. (ECF No. 6 at 2). In his Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 12), Judge Cudmore agreed that the Younger doctrine applied and that Plaintiff's Complaint failed to plausibly state a claim against the defendant officers or the City. Plaintiff objected to the Report and Recommendation, asserting that "extraordinary circumstances exist that make Younger abstention inappropriate" (ECF No. 13); however, Plaintiff did not explain what those extraordinary circumstances were but instead reiterated his claim that Defendants Tuttle and Orwig subjected him to selective prosecution.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A district court may refer a claim to a magistrate judge to conduct a hearing. See 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B). Following the hearing, the magistrate judge must submit his proposed findings of fact and recommendations for disposition to the district court. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b). Either party may file written objections to the report and recommendation within 14 days. Id. If no party objects to the magistrate judge's action, the district court may accept the recommendation and reconsider sua sponte any matter determined by a magistrate judge. Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Centers, Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 760 (7th Cir. 2009). Failure to object to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation will constitute a waiver of objections of both factual and legal questions on appeal. Brokaw v. Brokaw, 128 F.App'x 527, 530 (7th Cir. 2005). "The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended decision, receive further evidence, or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b).

In reviewing a motion to dismiss, this Court views the Complaint's allegations in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, draws all reasonable inferences in favor of Plaintiff, and takes as true all well-pleaded facts and allegations in the Complaint. Kolbe & Kolbe Health & Welfare Benefit Plan v. Med. College of Wis., Inc., 657 F.3d 496, 502 (7th Cir. 2011). The Court is mindful that it must afford a pro se plaintiff's allegations, however inartfully pleaded, a liberal construction. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).

In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, the Supreme Court indicated that although it "[did] not requir[e] heightened fact pleading of specifics" it did require complaints to contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." 550 U.S. 544 (2007). As such, plaintiffs must include facts supporting a claim for relief that "nudg[e] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible." Id. Likewise, in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the Supreme Court ruled that courts considering a motion to dismiss should "begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to an assumption of truth." 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). The Supreme Court held that complaints must be supported by well-pleaded factual allegations. These allegations are entitled to an assumption of veracity; the reviewing court should then determine whether they "plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. At the motion to dismiss stage, this Court may disregard legal conclusions or recitations of a cause of action which contribute nothing to the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility analysis. McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 617-618 (7th Cir. 2011).

DISCUSSION

The Court first turns to the Exhibits to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 7-9). These Exhibits are comprised of filings made in the underlying criminal case against Young in the Circuit Court of the Tenth Judicial Circuit. Because these state court documents are a matter of public record, they are undisputed, and the Court may take judicial notice of them without converting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5) into a motion for summary judgment. See Doss v. Clearwater Title Co., 551 F.3d 634, 640 (7th Cir. 2008). A court may take judicial notice of facts that (1) are not subject to reasonable dispute and (2) are either generally known within the territorial jurisdiction or capable of accurate and ready determination through sources whose accuracy cannot be questioned. Ennenga v. Starns, 677 F.3d 766, 773-774 (7th Cir. 2012). Accordingly, the Court finds it appropriate to take judicial notice of the Exhibits because they ...


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