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Payne v. Maher

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

February 18, 2014



MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge.

Dionell Payne has sued three Chicago police officers (Sergeant Richard Maher and Officers Peter Medina and Miguel Bautista), two civilians (William Denton and Jerry Henderson), and the City of Chicago. Payne alleges false arrest, malicious prosecution, denial of due process rights, intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), and conspiracy. Payne was originally represented by counsel. Counsel withdrew after conducting a significant amount of discovery, and Payne then proceeded with the case pro se. Denton and Henderson never responded to the complaint after being served with summons, so the Court held them in default but deferred entry of a judgment against them pending resolution of the claims against the officers and the City. Those defendants have now moved for summary judgment.


Payne alleges, and he testified, that while on the west side of Chicago on February 8, 2010, he was accosted by Denton and Henderson, who told him to empty his pockets and then beat him and threw him to the ground when he refused. Payne suffered severe injuries in the altercation. The defendant officers came to the scene and found Denton and Henderson still there, with Payne lying on the ground and asking for an ambulance.

Maher, the first officer to arrive at the scene, testified that he saw Payne lying on the ground and called for an ambulance.[1] He then interviewed Denton and Henderson, who reported that they had come upon Payne getting out of a vehicle that belonged to one of them, holding a toolbox that had been in the vehicle. They asked Payne what he was doing, and he brandished a pocket knife and said he was going to leave with the toolbox. They told Maher that they disarmed Payne and threw him to the ground, and Denton called 911. Maher testified that both Denton and Henderson appeared upset. Maher also testified that he saw a toolbox and an orange pocket knife sitting on the trunk of the vehicle.

Two other officers then arrived; they are not named as defendants. Maher told Payne that he was going to be arrested and directed one of the officers to stay with him. Officers Bautista and Medina then arrived. Maher told them what Denton and Henderson had reported and told the officers to reinterview them. Medina and Bautista interviewed them separately, and they reported essentially what they had told Maher.

At the police station, Denton and Henderson gave similar statements to a detective and Cook County prosecutors, who approved a felony charge against Payne. The officers arrested Payne, and he was charged with attempted armed robbery. He spent about eight months in jail, a good deal of it in the hospital. The charges against him were dismissed (nolle prossed) in September 2010. He has been unable to work since that time due to the injuries he suffered. Payne filed this suit one year to the day after the charges against him were dismissed.

Payne contends that Denton and Henderson fabricated their story. He denies having had a knife in his possession and denies having attempted to rob Denton and Henderson. He contends that the police did an inadequate investigation before arresting and charging him. Payne testified during his deposition that he did not speak to any police while at the scene, see Payne Dep. at 63, but he recalls asking an officer at the hospital where he was taken why he was being guarded, and when told he was under arrest for robbery, he disputed the basis for the charge. See id. at 60-61.

Plaintiff's claims

In count 1 of his complaint, Payne asserts a claim of false arrest against Maher, Bautista, and Medina under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Count 2 is a claim against the individual defendants under section 1983 and state law for malicious prosecution (prosecution without probable cause). Count 3 is a state-law IIED claim against the individual defendants. Count 4 is a conspiracy claim against the individual defendants under section 1983. Count 5 is a due process claim under section 1983 against the individual defendants for fabricating evidence and withholding exculpatory evidence. Count 6 is claim against the City for indemnification under 745 ILCS 10/9-102 and based on respondeat superior.

For the most part, Payne's claims depend on his contention that he was arrested without probable cause. Defendants argue that probable cause existed, or alternatively they are entitled to qualified immunity; Payne cannot assert a malicious prosecution claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; there is no evidence of a conspiracy; the due process claim cannot succeed because the charge against Payne was dropped before trial; and the IIED claim is time-barred or alternatively fails on the merits.


Because the defendants have moved for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in the light most favorable to Payne and draws reasonable inferences in his favor. Summary judgment is appropriate only if the defendants show there is no genuine issue of material fact and they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).

Payne's claims, as the Court has noted, depend for the most part on whether he was falsely arrested. That, in turn, depends on whether a reasonable jury could find that probable cause was lacking. Probable cause exists if the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time were sufficient to warrant a prudent person in believing that the suspect had committed, was committing, or was ...

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