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Simpson v. Robb

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division

September 29, 2014



SARA DARROW, District Judge.

Plaintiff Kevin Simpson is the former police reporter for The Pantagraph, a newspaper based in Bloomington, Illinois. In his seven-count Complaint, ECF No. 1, he claims that between 2010 and 2013, several judges, members of the law enforcement community, prosecutors, the City of Bloomington, and private citizens violated his civil rights. The heart of Simpson's complaint is his belief that the Defendants' conduct had devastating and unwarranted effects on his custody rights over his two sons. Before the Court are thirteen motions (and one amended motion) to dismiss, which collectively cover all of the claims against each of the twenty-three Defendants. Mots. Dismiss, ECF Nos. 10, 14, 16, 19, 24, 34, 36, 38, 44, 47, 50, 59, and 64. Also before the Court is Simpson's Motion to Submit Evidence, ECF No. 100. For the reasons outlined below, the Motions to Dismiss are GRANTED, and the Motion to Submit Evidence[1] is MOOT.


At the motion to dismiss stage, well-pleaded facts alleged in the complaint are taken as true and all inferences are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008). Accordingly, the Court rests its decision on the following factual allegations:

I. Defendants Robb, Costigan, and Frietag

Elizabeth Robb is the chief judge of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in Illinois. Casey Costigan and Robert Frietag are judges in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in McLean County, Illinois. Judge Costigan presided over a child custody matter involving Simpson, which Simpson identifies as 01-D-135. Compl. ¶¶ 90-94, 95-104, ECF No. 1. Some of Judge Costigan's rulings were adverse to Mr. Simpson, starting around June 17, 2011. Id. ¶¶ 90-94, 95-104, 127, 132-35, 149-52, 156, 158, 162-63. On August 26, 2011, Judge Costigan was interviewed by Sergeant Randy Wikoff, another Defendant, at the Bloomington Police Department in regard to a "stalking case" against Simpson. Id. ¶ 105. Judge Costigan's statements to Sgt. Wikoff were allegedly "contrary to Simpson's court statements and evidence." Id. ¶ 106. In April 2012, Simpson wrote a letter to Judge Costigan asking him to recuse himself. Judge Robb set a hearing for a Motion to Substitute Judge Costigan. Id. ¶ 129-30. The motion was denied. Id. ¶ 131. On November 27, 2012, Simpson filed a complaint against Judge Costigan with the Illinois Inquiry Board. He also named Judge Costigan as a Defendant in Simpson v. City of Bloomington et al, No. 12-cv-1430 (C.D. Ill. 2013). Id. ¶ 156. He again sought recusal, by motion, of Judge Costigan due to Judge Costigan's meeting with Sgt. Wikoff. Id. ¶ 152.

Judge Frietag presided over a felony criminal case against Simpson; the charge, for intimidation, was filed on June 11, 2011. Id. ¶ 89, 107-08, 110-11. Lieutenant Paul Williams sent an email to Judges Frietag, Robb, and Costigan on August 29, 2011, stating that Simpson had criticized Judge Costigan and the judicial system to Judge Frietag. Id. ¶ 110. Simpson alleges that Frietag did not disclose the communications to him. Id. ¶ 111. On October 7, 2011, Simpson was arrested for a bond violation, and Frietag set bond at $200, 000 three days later. Id. ¶ 118-19. Because he could not post bail, Simpson was jailed for four and a half months pending trial. Id. ¶ 120. On February 23, 2012, despite an adverse evidentiary ruling by Judge Frietag, Simpson was acquitted by a jury of the intimidation charge, which Defendant Assistant State's Attorney Jane Foster had reduced to a misdemeanor. Id. ¶ 123-24.

On August 18, 2011, Simpson filed a complaint against another Defendant, Sheriff Mike Emery, to Judge Robb in her capacity as a member of the courthouse security committee. Id. ¶ 99. On December 28, 2012, Simpson was arrested on allegations of criminal threats against Judges Robb and Costigan. Id. ¶ 167. On February 5, 2013, he pleaded guilty to one count of intimidation. Id. ¶ 178. He later moved to withdraw his plea. Id. ¶ 183. Mr. Simpson also alleges that between March 27, 2013, and April 2, 2013, Judge Robb must have modified a hearing transcript from his recent criminal proceedings. Id. ¶ 185.

II. Defendant McKinley

Randall McKinley was the chief of the Bloomington Police Department ("BPD") during the events described in the Complaint. In January of 2011, McKinley sent emails to police officers describing Simpson as a malcontent and saying that complaints he had lodged against the department were unfounded. Compl. ¶ 55. On February 19, 2011, McKinley was informed that Simpson intended to ask the Illinois State Police to investigate misconduct. Id. ¶ 57. Shortly afterward, the State's Attorney's Office began investigating Simpson. Id.

On March 5, 2011, Simpson filed a complaint that McKinley deemed unfounded. Id. ¶ 64. On May 9, 2011, McKinley claimed Simpson was threatening officers. Id. ¶ 70. On May 12, 2011, McKinley asked the Sheriff to have Simpson followed while in the McLean County Law and Justice Center. In a May 13, 2011 email, McKinley notified officers that the State's Attorney's Office was planning to prosecute Simpson, and asked officers to contact McKinley if they arrested Simpson, and not to deal with Simpson alone lest he accuse them of misconduct. Id. ¶ 75; McKinley Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. A.[2] On May 15, 2011, McKinley banned Simpson from city property, citing threats made by Simpson. Compl. ¶ 77. On October 6, McKinley called State's Attorney Bill Yoder regarding Simpson's arrest. Id. ¶ 117.

III. Defendant Engle

Officer Jeffrey Engle is a police officer in the BPD. On November 5, 2009, Engle arrested Simpson. Compl. ¶ 17. Engle made inflammatory remarks about Simpson's children, ex-wife, and family, and later denied that he had done so. Id. Engle allegedly falsified some details in a police report of this event. Id. An investigation of Engle's behavior found no misconduct. Id. ¶ 18.

On June 3, 2011, Engle allegedly wrote a secret letter to administrative staff at BPD claiming that Simpson was attempting to harass him by driving slowly by his house. Id. ¶ 83. On August 15, 2011, Engle wrote a letter to McKinley stating: "It is a matter of when Kevin does something and to whom." Id. ¶ 95. The same letter allegedly contained statements falsely attributed to a friend of Simpson's. Id. Engle testified on August 17, 2011, at a deposition in which he related facts similar to those in the allegedly secret letter. Id. ¶ 96. On September 9, Engle filed a police report related to the earlier stalking incident. Id. ¶ 114. On July 4, 2012, Simpson was driving near Engle's house, and, when Simpson slowed down, Engle reportedly yelled "bitch" and "You're gonna get yours, " and "Don't worry about it." Id. ¶¶ 137-138.

IV. Defendant Williams

Paul Williams is a lieutenant in the BPD. On August 29, 2011, Williams stated in an email to Judges Frietag, Robb, and Costigan that Simpson had been "highly agitated" and had criticized Costigan and the judicial system generally. Compl. ¶ 110. These statements were allegedly false. Id. Williams also stated that Simpson was "fixated" on Costigan, allegedly in order to alarm Costigan and other judges. Id. ¶ 111.

V. Defendant Wikoff

Randall Wikoff is a sergeant in the BPD. In an investigation of a complaint filed by Simpson in 2009, Wikoff allegedly "whitewashed" misconduct by Engle. Compl. ¶ 12. In internal investigations conducted some time afterward, Wikoff allegedly overlooked illegal statements and actions in exonerating other officers of wrongdoing. Id. ¶ 56.

On November 29, 2010, Simpson filed a federal lawsuit, Docket No. 10-CV-1394, against multiple defendants in the BPD, including Wikoff. Compl. ¶ 53. The complaint was subsequently dismissed as to Wikoff.[3] On August 26, 2011, Wikoff interviewed Simpson at the BPD offices, allegedly for the purposes of framing Simpson for stalking. Compl. ¶ 105. On October 6, 2011, Wikoff allegedly conspired with McKinley, Sara Quah, Tim Stanesa, Casey Costigan, Bill Yoder, and Jane Foster to arrest Mr. Simpson for disorderly conduct. Id. ¶ 251. This alleged conspiracy resulted in Mr. Simpson's arrest on October 7, 2011. Id. ¶ 252.

VI. Defendant City of Bloomington

Plaintiff makes many allegations about City of Bloomington employees over the course of his Complaint, as well as about individuals not employed by the City of Bloomington but who participated with City of Bloomington employees in various ways that Plaintiff alleges violated his civil rights. Plaintiff's allegations about those defendants are summarized in the sections of this Order that pertain to particular defendants. Plaintiff makes only one specific allegation about the City itself. The City of Bloomington and Chief McKinley allegedly did not adequately train, supervise, or provide investigative oversight for Citizen Complaints via the Office of Professional Standards. Compl. ¶ 229-31.

VII. Defendant Cyrulik

Gayle Cyrulik was a sergeant with the BPD during the time covered by the Complaint. Cyrulik exonerated Officer Ron Shriver of wrongdoing in relation to a child custody dispute in September 2010. Compl. ¶ 28. In exonerating Officer Mark Ashmore in a separate complaint filed by Mr. Simpson, Cyrulik allegedly did not consider information provided by Simpson that Simpson had been cleared by DCFS. Id. ¶ 49. Cyrulik allegedly overlooked illegal actions in exonerating these BPD officers. Id. ¶ 56.

VIII. Defendant Stanesa

Tim Stanesa is a lieutenant in the BPD. On February 23, 2011, Stanesa allegedly arranged for other BPD officers to harass Simpson during a court hearing. Compl. ¶ 58. Stanesa did not, at the same hearing, correct what the Complaint describes as perjury by Quah.[4] On the same day, Stanesa requested extra BPD patrol of Simpson's home. Id. ¶ 60. On Feb. 28, 2011, Stanesa waited at Simpson's house for Simpson to arrive home. Compl. ¶ 62. During their subsequent conversation. Stanesa allegedly made unspecified false statements in an effort to dissuade Simpson from pursuing charges against the Quahs. Id. Stanesa was responsible in other unspecified ways for creating a bad impression of Simpson within the BPD. Id. ¶ 212. Stanesa allegedly participated in a conspiracy against Simpson with named BPD defendants and others. Id. ¶ 222. On June 11, 2011, the Complaint states, Stanesa conspired with Officers Craft, Engle, and Albert, and Mark and Sarah Quah, to engineer Mr. Simpson's arrest. Id. ¶¶ 242, 248, 263.

IX. Defendants Mark and Sarah Quah

Mark and Sarah Quah were Simpson's neighbors during much of the time covered by the Complaint. On November 10, 2010, Sarah Quah contacted the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS") with allegedly false information relating to a domestic incident that had occurred at Mr. Simpson's home on September 25, 2010. Compl. ¶ 50. She or her husband allegedly perjured himself or herself in later testimony about the incident on February 23, 2011. Id. ¶ 59. On June 11, 2011, the Quahs called the BPD complaining that Simpson was playing his stereo too loudly. Compl. ¶ 87. The Quahs allegedly then participated in the manufacture of a "threat allegation" against Mr. Simpson. Id. ¶ 88.

X. Defendant Jones

Stephanie Jones is Simpson's ex-wife, and was, over the course of the time covered in the Complaint, involved in a child custody dispute with Simpson. On September 11, 2010, Jones told her son to run away from Simpson's house. Compl. ¶ 22. Later, Jones told police that Simpson had hit their child. Id. ¶ 24. On September 13, Jones told Illinois DCFS that Simpson had hit their child. Id . ¶ 29. On September 24, Jones conveyed their children to Simpson, telling the children to keep the prior allegations of abuse secret. Id. ¶ 30.

On September 25, Jones made unspecified allegations to the BPD. Id. ¶ 34. On September 28, Jones filed for an Order of Protection, basing her request on certain unspecified misrepresentations. Id. ¶ 42. On October 15, Jones tried to get Simpson to agree to supervised visits of their children. Id. ¶ 45. During June 2012, Jones did not allow Simpson to see their child during three scheduled visitation periods. Compl. ¶ 134. She also "altered" a court order. Id.

XI. Defendants Albert, Ashmore, Craft, Shriver, and Sutherland

Henry Craft is a sergeant at the BPD. Shawn Albert is an officer at the BPD. Mark Ashmore is an officer at the BPD. Ron Shriver was an officer at the BPD during the time covered by the Complaint. Gary Sutherland is an officer at the BPD. Because these five Defendants filed a joint Motion to Dismiss, the Court summarizes the facts with respect to these officers together.

Shriver did not inform Simpson that Jones had made complaints against him sometime on or before September 11, 2010, when Simpson called the BPD with regard to a child custody argument with Jones. Compl. ¶ 25. On October 15, Shriver repeated some of Jones's allegations of abuse in a "response letter." Id. ¶ 27. On September 25, 2010, Simpson called the BPD during a disagreement with his son's grandmother. Id. ¶ 31. Shriver and Ashmore arrived and attempted to dissuade Simpson from taking his son home. Id. On the same day, Sutherland allegedly "staged a false call" to permit Shriver and Ashmore to go to Simpson's house. Id. ¶ 35. Ashmore and Schriver took Simpson's son into protective custody. Id. ¶ 36. In a report that he wrote of the event, Ashmore did not include certain information favorable to Simpson. Id. ¶ 37. The same day, Ashmore told a DCFS caseworker that Simpson had pushed his child down, an account which allegedly differed from his police report. Id. ¶ 41. Ashmore later made the same claim in an Order of Protection hearing on October 15. Id. ¶ 44.

On May 7, 2011, Ashmore went to Mr. Simpson's house after Simpson was assaulted by a neighbor. Compl. ¶ 66. Simpson then refused to deal with Ashmore and told him repeatedly to leave. Id. ¶ 67. Craft, who was also on the scene, refused Simpson's request for a supervisor, saying, "I guess he doesn't need our help." Id. That same day, Simpson rode his bicycle to the BPD station and gave Craft an account of Ashmore's conduct. Id. ¶ 68. On May 13, Simpson was detouring around a crash site where Ashmore was directing traffic. Id. ¶ 74. Ashmore falsely claimed that Simpson interfered with the traffic investigation. Id.

On June 10, Sutherland allegedly fabricated a statement that he had warned Simpson about his radio being too loud. Id. ¶ 85. On June 11, Simpson called Craft to complain about what he regarded as various false statements made by BPD officers, including those of Sutherland. Id. ¶ 87. Also on June 11, Craft and Albert allegedly conspired ...

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