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Kola v. Village of Harwood Heights

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

August 14, 2014

JOHN F. KOLA, Plaintiff,


ANDREA R. WOOD, District Judge.

On November 12, 2012, Defendant Ronald J. Zyniewicz was injured outside of the Landmark Pub, a drinking establishment in Harwood Heights, Illinois owned by Plaintiff John F. Kola. That night, the pub was the site of a charitable benefit hosted by a City of Chicago police sergeant and attended by several dozen police officers. Although Zyniewicz initially told an investigating Harwood Heights police officer that he could not recall how he became injured, he subsequently signed a sworn complaint naming Kola as his attacker. In addition to Zyniewicz's complaint, the Harwood Heights police also obtained a statement from a bartender at the pub who said that she saw Kola attack Zyniewicz. Although the police interviewed other witnesses who were present at the pub on the night in question, no one other than the bartender claimed to have seen or heard the attack on Zyniewicz. On December 14, 2012, Kola was charged with misdemeanor battery for the incident.

The charges against Kola were eventually dropped. Subsequently, on December 13, 2013, Kola filed the nine-count Complaint in this case, which asserts substantive federal and state law claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and conspiracy. (Dkt. No. 1.)[1] The Complaint names the following defendants: the Village of Harwood Heights; Commander John DeVries, the police officer with the Village of Harwood Heights who allegedly caused Kola to be arrested and prosecuted; and Zyniewicz.[2] In the Complaint, Kola alleges that Commander DeVries lacked probable cause to place him under arrest, persisted in Kola's prosecution despite having evidence that Kola was innocent, wrongfully withheld exculpatory evidence from Kola in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and conspired with Zyniewicz to extort money from Kola by means of a planned civil lawsuit. Currently before the Court is the motion to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed by Commander DeVries and the Village of Harwood Heights (the "Motion"). (Dkt. No. 12.) For the reasons stated below, the Motion is granted.


The following allegations are taken from the Complaint and attached exhibits.[3] On November 12, 2012, the Landmark Pub, an establishment in Harwood Heights, Illinois owned by Kola, held a charitable benefit for a Chicago police officer. (Compl. ¶¶ 4, 7, Dkt. No. 1.) Sergeant Robert Rentner of the Chicago Police Department, one of the benefit's sponsors, and Zyniewicz were both at Landmark Pub that evening. ( Id. ¶¶ 7-10.) At around 10:00 p.m., Kola removed an intoxicated Zyniewicz from the pub. ( Id. ¶ 14.) At some point after Zyniewicz was removed from the pub, he was a victim of an attack. Another pub customer, Kieran Taylor, found Zyniewicz near the parking lot of a church across the street and called the paramedics. (Compl. Ex. 1 at 2; Ex. 4 at 2.)

Initially, Zyniewicz did not identify his assailant. Zyniewicz spoke with a Harwood Heights Police Officer, Brandon Cusack, three days after the incident and stated that he was physically attacked by an unknown assailant. (Compl. ¶ 11.) The case report narrative prepared by Cusack, which has a "reported" date of November 15, 2012, states that Daniel Donnelly accompanied Zyniewicz to the Harwood Heights Police Department. (Compl. Ex. 1 at 2.) Donnelly told the police that he had spoken with a bartender named Toni Brooms, who told him that a bartender named "Carly" was working the night of the benefit and "observed Mr. Kola forcefully push the victim out of the bar and across the street to the lot of the Bethel Church." ( Id. ) The report further states that "Carly then observed Mr. Kola then repeatedly punch and kick the victim and then urinate on him as he lay on the ground, unconscious." ( Id. ) The report notes that Carly contacted the paramedics. ( Id. )

In investigating the alleged attack on Zyniewicz, Commander DeVries also interviewed a number of individuals, including: Sergeant Rentner; Taylor, the customer who dialed 911; Carly Hagglund, a bartender working at the pub that night; and Siobhan Mischke and Roberta Inzerillo, two other pub employees that were with Hagglund for some portion of that night.[4] (Compl. ¶ 12.) The interviews with Hagglund, Taylor, Mischke, and Inzerillo were all summarized in Commander DeVries's police report dated December 14, 2012 describing his investigation of the case. However, the December 14, 2012 report did not mention the interview with Sergeant Rentner. ( Id. ¶ 19.)

Sergeant Rentner, however, prepared a memo describing his meeting with Commander DeVries and provided it to his commander on November 21, 2012. (Compl. Ex. 2.) In that memo, Sergeant Rentner stated that he "never saw anyone battering or doing harm to the victim, " and that he did not believe Kola could have committed the attack on Zyniewicz. (Compl. ¶¶ 15-16 & Ex. 2 at 2.) Sergeant Rentner stated that he saw Kola walk Zyniewicz out of the pub, and then saw him afterwards on the front steps of the pub smoking. (Compl. Ex. 2 at 2.) According to Sergeant Rentner, Zyniewicz was "highly intoxicated" and "taking other patrons beer from the bar top and drinking them being that the bartender refused to serve the intoxicated patron." ( Id. )

Hagglund, the bartender, was interviewed on November 15, 2012, and told police that "she observed John Kola throw the victim out the front door and down the stairs where he struck the ground and did not get up." (Compl. Ex. 4 at 1.) She stated that she "yelled at John to stop at which time John then started kicking the victim in the face, [sic] and mid-section with his foot several times and then urinated on him. The victim never got up or even tried to fight back, John grabbed the victim by his arms and dragged him n/b down the sidewalk of Oriole Ave." ( Id. ) Hagglund then went back into the pub and informed Taylor, who then called 911 on Zyniewicz's behalf. ( Id. at 2.) Taylor confirmed to police that he "was approached by Carly who was extremely upset about the victim being battered by John Kola." ( Id. ) The other employees, Mischke and Inzerillo stated that they "did [sic][5] see or hear anyone being battered or hear Carly yell at John Kola." ( Id. )

On December 12, 2012, Zyniewicz signed a misdemeanor complaint against Kola. (Compl. ¶ 20.) Two days later, on December 14, 2012, Zyniewicz told Commander DeVries that Kola "grabbed him by his left shoulder and with force escorted him out the front door and pushed him down the stairs where he struck the ground... [and he] does not know what happened to him after he was thrown out of the bar." ( Id. ¶ 22.) That same day, the Harwood Heights Police charged Kola with battery sufficient to cause bodily harm. ( Id. ¶ 21.) The narrative supplement from December 14, 2012 states that Zyniewicz told officers that, after he had six beers at the pub, Kola "arrived and for unknown reason [sic] asked the victim to leave the bar and when the victim asked why he had to leave the owner grabbed him by his left shoulder and with force escorted him out the front door and pushed him down the stairs where he struck the ground...." (Compl. Ex. 4 at 1.)

In his Complaint in this action, Kola alleges that Zyniewicz was actually attacked by "his cousin or some other unknown party, " and that Zyniewicz and Commander DeVries conspired to have Kola falsely arrested, imprisoned, and prosecuted for the attack. (Compl. ¶ 39.) The Complaint further alleges that Zyniewicz previously gave statements to Officer Cusack and a treating physician in which he reported that he was "punched by his cousin in the face." ( Id. ¶ 52.) At some point after Kola was charged, his counsel issued a subpoena for any documents, notes, or other materials that referred to any interviews of any persons associated with the case. ( Id. ¶ 33.) Kola now alleges that Commander DeVries failed to tender any documents or information with respect to the interviews with Sergeant Rentner or other police officers, resulting in the wrongful withholding of exculpatory evidence. ( Id. ¶ 34.)


Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Pleading facts merely consistent with a defendant's liability and pleading legal conclusions disguised as factual allegations are, by themselves, insufficient. Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). This pleading standard does not necessarily require a complaint to contain detailed factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Rather, "[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 728 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

The Seventh Circuit has stated that it is proper to "consider documents attached to the complaint as part of the complaint itself." Reger Dev., LLC v. Nat'l City Bank, 592 F.3d 759, 764 (7th Cir. 2010); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c) ("A copy of a written instrument that is an exhibit to a pleading is a part of the pleading for all purposes."). In this case, Kola attached to the Complaint the arrest report, the memorandum of the interview with Sergeant Rentner, Zyniewicz's misdemeanor complaint ...

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