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Crawford v. City of Chicago

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

April 25, 2014



JOHN Z. LEE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Michael Crawford has sued Sergeant Ricky Boone and Officers Jamesa Jackson and Courtney Johnson of the Chicago Police Department (collectively, the "Individual Defendants") for false arrest, conspiracy to falsely arrest, and failure to intervene in a false arrest in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("section 1983"). Crawford also has filed suit against the City of Chicago in its capacity as a potential indemnitor under Illinois law.[1] Boone, Jackson, and Johnson now move for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 56 on Counts I (false arrest), II (failure to intervene), III (conspiracy), IV (Illinois state law false arrest/imprisonment), and V (Illinois state law malicious prosecution). For the reasons provided herein, the Court grants in part and denies in part the motion.

Factual Background

Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed. On November 30, 2011, Crawford drove his car to a location near 110th Street and Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, to pick up his friend, Tamila Smith ("Smith"), from her cousin's house. Defs.' Resp. Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. at ¶¶ 1-2. Crawford could tell that Smith had been drinking and was intoxicated when he picked her up. Id. at ¶ 4. After driving around the neighborhood for some time, Crawford informed Smith that he was going to drive her home because she was not wearing a coat or shoes. Smith replied that she wanted to talk to Crawford and was not ready to go home. Id. at ¶¶ 6-8. When Crawford started to drive Smith home against her wishes, Smith began to kick the dashboard, at which point Crawford pulled his car over and parked on the side of the road near the intersection of 101st Street and Vincennes. Id. at ¶¶ 9-10. From this location, Crawford and Smith were close enough to Smith's mother's house that they could see it from the car. Pl.'s Resp. Br., Ex. 1 ("Crawford Dep.") at 44:7-18.

After Crawford stopped the car, he called Smith's mother and told her that she should come outside to get Smith from his car because Smith had been kicking his dashboard and did not want to leave on her own. Id. In response, Smith's mother told Crawford to put Smith on the phone so that she could talk with her daughter. But when Crawford handed Smith the phone, she threw it out of the window. Id. at 44:19-45:3; Defs.' Resp. Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. at ¶ 12. Crawford exited his car and went outside to retrieve his phone, walked to the passenger's side of the car, and told Smith that she needed to get out of his car. Defs.' Resp. Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. at ¶ 13. Smith, however, refused to exit Crawford's car. See id. at ¶¶ 14-16. Crawford then noticed a police vehicle driving northbound on Vincennes towards him and hailed it as he would a taxi. Id. at ¶ 17.

The events that followed are in dispute. According to Crawford, when Smith saw him hailing the police car, she opened the car door and jumped out, landing upright on the sidewalk roughly five feet away from Crawford. Id. at ¶ 18. Once Smith exited the car, Crawford closed the passenger-side door, walked around to the driver's side, got into his car, and drove southbound on Vincennes. Id. at ¶ 19. Smith states that she tried to grab onto the passenger door handle of the car as Crawford drove away and stumbled backwards onto the ground when she was unable to do so. See Pl.'s Resp. Br., Ex. 2 ("Smith Dep.") at 24:24-25:14. Both Crawford and Smith state that Crawford never touched, pulled, or hit Smith at any point during the evening of November 30, 2011. Defs.' Resp. Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. at ¶ 38.

Defendants recount a different version of the facts. Boone testified that he was driving northbound on Vincennes when he observed Crawford and Smith parked on the west side of the street. see Defs.' Br., Ex. C ("Boone Dep.") at 52:20-24. While driving, and from only twenty to twenty-five feet away, Boone saw Crawford pull Smith from his car and strike her to the ground with his hand. Id. at 53:18-54:13, 55:8-11, 56:5-19, 57:7-12, 57:17-58:2, 64:8-11, 64:16-20.

From here, the facts again are undisputed. After observing Crawford and Smith's interaction on the west side of Vincennes, Boone radioed in a "battery in progress" over dispatch and reported that the suspect was heading south on Vincennes in a vehicle. Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(A) Stmt. at ¶ 22. Boone then continued north on Vincennes, made a U-turn, and pulled up next to Smith as she stood on the west side of the road. Id. at ¶¶ 22, 24. Boone asked Smith whether she had just gotten out of Crawford's car. When she told him that she had, Boone asked her to get into his squad car and asked her for a description of Crawford's vehicle. Id. at ¶¶ 25, 28. Boone then conveyed a description of Crawford's vehicle, a 2004 silver Ford Explorer, over dispatch. Id. at ¶ 26; Crawford Dep. at 26:9-11; Boone Dep. at 58:10-19. Boone never asked Smith whether Crawford had hit her, and Smith states that she never told him or anyone else that Crawford had. See Defs.' Resp. Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. at ¶ 22; Smith Dep. at 39:8-40:2.

Officers Jackson and Johnson, who were nearby, heard Boone's initial dispatch call and immediately drove west on 107th Street toward Vincennes in pursuit of Crawford. Id. at ¶ 23. Neither Jackson nor Johnson observed the interaction between Crawford and Smith; they only learned of the incident when they heard Boone's dispatch call over the radio. Id. at ¶ 31.

Shortly thereafter, Boone received a message over dispatch informing him that a vehicle resembling the one that he had described in his previous message had just been stopped at 105th Street and Vincennes. Id. at ¶ 27. When Boone and Smith arrived at that location, they saw that Crawford had already been handcuffed and was surrounded by roughly four Chicago police officers. Id. at ¶ 29. At this point, Boone exited his squad car and told the police officers that the person in handcuffs, Crawford, was the suspect whom he had witnessed earlier with Smith. Id. at ¶ 35.

At some point while the officers were discussing Crawford's arrest, Smith was moved to Jackson and Johnson's car. Id. at ¶ 40. Jackson and Johnson then asked Smith where she would like to be dropped off, and she responded that she wanted to go to her cousin's house. Id. at ¶¶ 43-44. During the drive, the officers asked her whether she wanted to sign complaints against Crawford. She declined. Id. at ¶ 46. After dropping Smith off at the home of one of her relatives, Jackson and Johnson returned to the police station. Jackson and Johnson were responsible for preparing the arrest report, case report, and the complaint against Crawford. Id. at ¶ 50. In preparing Crawford's arrest report, Jackson relied heavily on Boone's first-hand account that he had witnessed Crawford pull Smith out of his vehicle and hit her with a closed fist onto the pavement. Id. at ¶¶ 51, 53. Again, neither Jackson nor Johnson observed Crawford committing any crimes but relied solely on Boone's account. Id. at ¶ 54.

When Boone later discovered that Smith had chosen not to sign a complaint against Crawford, Boone filed a complaint himself pursuant to the Illinois Domestic Violence Act and charged Crawford with one count of domestic battery. Id. at ¶ 56. The charge was subsequently dropped after the prosecutor discussed the events of November 30, 2011, with Smith. Id. at ¶ 57.


Summary judgment is appropriate if "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court gives "the non-moving party the benefit of conflicts in the evidence and reasonable inferences that could be drawn from it." Grochocinski v. Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw, LLP, 719 F.3d 785, 794 (7th Cir. 2013); see Eastman Kodak Co. v. Image Technical Servs., Inc., 504 U.S. 451, 456 (1992).

I. Boone

Defendants argue that summary judgment should be granted as to Counts I, IV, and V because: (1) Boone had sufficient probable cause to arrest Crawford; (2) Boone is entitled to qualified immunity; and (3) even if Boone lacked probable cause and is not entitled to qualified immunity, he is nonetheless entitled to partial immunity under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act. The Court addresses each argument in turn.

A. Probable Cause

"Probable cause to arrest is an absolute defense to any claim under Section 1983 against police officers for false arrest." Mustafa v. City of Chi., 442 F.3d 544, 547 (7th Cir. 2006). Police officers have "probable cause to arrest when the facts and circumstances within their knowledge and of which they have reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient to warrant a prudent person in believing that the suspect had committed or was committing an offense." Sheik-Abdi v. McClellan, 37 F.3d 1240, 1246 (7th Cir. 1994). "Moreover, the court's inquiry is limited to what the officer knew at the time of the arrest and not what has been gained from hindsight." Harney v. City of Chi., 702 F.3d 916, 922 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing Mucha v. Vill. of Oak Brook, 650 F.3d 1053, 1057 (7th Cir. 2011)). "In deciding this question of law as part of a motion ...

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