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Skube v. Koester

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

August 13, 2015

TAMARA SKUBE, Plaintiff,
v.
TRAVIS KOESTER, In His Individual and Official Capacities as Deputy of the Sangamon County Sheriff's Office, SANGAMON COUNTY, Defendants

Decided August 11, 2015.

For Tamara Skube, Plaintiff: Daniel Alan Noll, LEAD ATTORNEY, NOLL LAW OFFICE LLC, Springfield, IL; Jon Gray Noll, NOLL LAW OFFICE, Springfield, IL.

For Neil M Williamson, As Sheriff of Sangamon County, Solely in His Official Capacity, Captain Joseph Roesch, Solely in His Official Capacity at the Sangamon County Sheriff's Office, Deputy Travis Dalby, Solely in His Official Capacity at the Sangamon County Sheriff's Office, Deputy Travis Koester, In His Individual and Official Capacities at the Sangamon County Sheriff's Office, Defendants: Theresa M Powell, LEAD ATTORNEY, HEYL ROYSTER VOELKER & ALLEN, Springfield, IL.

OPINION

Page 826

SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

On February 27, 2015, the Court issued an opinion giving notice to the parties under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(f) that the Court was considering granting summary judgment in favor of the Plaintiff, Tamara Skube, on her excessive force and false arrest claims against the Defendant, Deputy Travis Koester, in his individual capacity. The Defendants were given an opportunity to submit additional briefing to the Court arguing why the Court should not grant summary judgment

Page 827

in favor of the Plaintiff on these claims. The Defendants filed their brief on March 6, 2015, and the Plaintiff filed her reply on March 13, 2015. The Court now finds that no reasonable officer could believe he had probable cause to arrest Skube, so summary judgment is GRANTED in favor of Skube on her false arrest claim. As a result, the non-minimal force that Deputy Koester used in effecting that arrest was per se unreasonable, and summary judgment is GRANTED in favor of Skube on her excessive force claims.

I. BACKGROUND

The questions currently before the Court are (1) whether a reasonable officer would have believed that he had probable cause to arrest Skube for obstructing or resisting arrest after she quickly walked toward him, stopped a few feet away, verbally objected to his actions, and did not comply with his orders for a period of 12 seconds; and (2) whether Deputy Koester acted reasonably in using a taser on dart mode against Skube twice to effect her arrest.

The factual background of this case was discussed in detail in the Court's February 27 opinion. The specific events relevant to this opinion are as follows: Deputy Koester arrested Skube's companion, Clifton Flagg, the night of July 21, 2011, after Flagg refused to perform a field sobriety test. Video, d/e 1-8 at 4:54-6:00. Flagg questioned why Deputy Koester was stopping and arresting him, but Flagg did not become belligerent at any point, nor did he resist being placed under arrest. See Vid. at 2:45-10:22. After Deputy Koester placed Flagg in Deputy Koester's squad car under the supervision of another officer, Deputy Koester asked Skube to exit the passenger's side of Flagg's SUV and stand next to the squad car, which was parked a short distance behind the SUV. Vid. at 11:42-11:52. Deputy Koester then returned to the passenger's side of Flagg's SUV, where Deputy Koester began looking through Skube's purse. Vid. at 11:54-12:07; Skube Dep., d/e 107-6 at 47.

In response, Skube[1] quickly approached Deputy Koester, exclaiming, " Hey, you have no right." Vid. 12:08-12:09. Deputy Koester turned to face Skube, stating, " Back up now or you're under arrest." Vid. 12:10-12:12; Deputy Koester Dep., d/e 107-1 at 285. Skube continued to object that Deputy Koester did not have the right to search the vehicle, to which Deputy Koester replied, " I'm not searching it, I'm inventorying it. And if you don't do what I tell you right now you're going to be tased." Vid. 12:12-12:15. Skube continued to object, and Deputy Koester told her, " Turn around, you're under arrest." Vid. 12:15-12:17. Skube responded, " How am I under arrest?" and held her arms out to her sides in a questioning gesture, and Deputy Koester again told her, " Turn around and put your hands behind your back." Vid. 12:18-12:22. Skube took a step back and began to repeat that Deputy Koester " had no right," and Deputy Koester repeated his order to " Turn around and put your hands behind your back." Vid. 12:22-12:24.

At that point, Deputy Koester raised his taser and fired it in dart mode into Skube's abdomen. Vid. 12:24-12:25. Skube turned away, screaming, as Deputy Koester approached her while telling her, " Get on the ground." Vid. 12:26-12:28. Skube and Deputy Koester then went off-screen and were no longer visible, but the video ...


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