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Patrick v. City of Chicago

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

October 4, 2016

DEON PATRICK, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          HON. RONALD A. GUZMÁN United States District Judge

         The Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motions for summary judgment [140] [141] [148]. The Court grants judgment on Count III (Brady) in favor of all Defendants and on Count IV in favor of the ASA Defendants as to the failure to intervene claim. Count VI, supervisory liability, is dismissed without prejudice. Plaintiff is entitled to a trial on his remaining claims. A status hearing is set for October 25, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. to set a trial date.

         STATEMENT

         This case concerns the alleged malicious prosecution and wrongful imprisonment of plaintiff Deon Patrick (“Plaintiff”). He claims that seven Chicago police officers, Anthony Villardita, Thomas Johnson, Rick Abreu, Terry O'Connor, Brian Killacky, Sean Glinski, and Michael Berti (“Officer Defendants” or “Officers”), as well as two Assistant State's Attorneys, Joseph Magats and Martin Fogarty (“ASA Defendants” or “ASAs”) (collectively “Defendants”) framed him for murders he did not commit.[1] The operative thirteen-count complaint alleges that Defendants engaged in a myriad of egregious misconduct, such as coercing Plaintiff's confession, fabricating evidence against him, withholding exculpatory evidence, maliciously prosecuting him, and conspiring to maliciously prosecute him. Defendants now move for summary judgment on virtually all of Plaintiff's claims. For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motions.

         BACKGROUND

         I. The Undisputed Facts[2]

         The Lassiter/Haugabook Murders

         The truly undisputed facts here are relatively few. Around 8:00 p.m. on November 16, 1992, Jeffrey Lassiter and Sharon Haugabook were shot and killed in Lassiter's apartment in Chicago. (Officers' Facts [Dkt # 144] ¶ 10.) The police arrived shortly thereafter, with Detectives Villardita and Johnson leading the investigation. (Pl.'s Facts [Dkt. # 162] ¶ 2.) At the scene, the detectives spoke with Faye McCoy, a nearby resident and neighborhood activist, who told them that she saw four black males leaving the courtyard around the time of the murders. (Id.) Two days later, after looking at a photo array set up by the police, McCoy identified one of the men leaving the courtyard as “Goldie” (a.k.a. Dennis Mixon), whom she knew frequented Lassiter's apartment. (Officers' Resp. Pl.'s Facts [Dkt # 183] ¶ 3.) A police report filed the day after the murders further depicted Mixon as a suspect. (11/17/1992 Police Rept. [Dkt. # 164, Ex. 6] at 1.) Particularly, the report stated that various local residents were aware of a conflict between “Goldie” and Lassiter, that Lassiter's apartment was apparently a crack house, and that “Goldie” and his crew of “Vice Lords” wanted to oust Lassiter and move in with their business (selling crack). (Id. at 1-2.) In the weeks that followed, however, neither Mixon nor any of his associates were arrested in connection with the murders. (Pl.'s Facts ¶ 4.)

         The case essentially remained dead in the water until December 2, 1992, when another lead emerged - a fifteen year old named Lewis Gardner, who was arrested with two of his friends for drug possession. (Officers' Facts ¶ 12.) Yet, through a series of disputed circumstances/events, Gardner later confessed to the Lassiter/Haugabook murders and implicated Plaintiff and five others (Paul Phillips, Akia Phillips, Daniel Taylor, Rodney Matthews, and Joe Brown) (collectively “the codefendants”). (Id.; ASAs' Facts ¶¶ 15-20.) With Gardner's confession in hand, the Officers believed they had probable cause to arrest the remaining codefendants, who, one by one, were interrogated and confessed to the murders as well.[3] (Pl.'s Facts ¶¶ 39, 42.)

         The circumstances surrounding their confessions, however, as well as those surrounding Plaintiff's subsequent criminal trial and conviction, are hotly disputed. In fact, there is so little overlap between the parties' versions of events that there are really two stories to tell, each of which finds some support in the record. The Court will therefore summarize them for narrative purposes and deal with disputes of fact or other conflicts, as necessary, in the analysis section.

         II. Defendants' Story[4]

         Defendants claim this case is nothing but straightforward police work that led to the arrest and conviction of eight murderers.

         (i) The Initial Arrests and Confessions

         On December 2, 1992, police were conducting routine surveillance in Gardner's neighborhood when they noticed him and his two friends, Akia and Paul Phillips, behaving suspiciously. (ASAs' Facts ¶¶ 11-13.) The three were subsequently arrested for drug possession and taken to the Chicago Police Department's 23rd District for questioning. (Id.) Paul was soon released on bond, though, leaving only Akia and Gardner. (Id. ¶ 13.)

         While in lockup, Gardner asked to speak to one of the on-duty police officers, Officer Forrest, in private. (Id. ¶ 14.) Officer Forrest then walked Gardner down to the station's youth office, where Gardner spontaneously volunteered that his drugs were supplied by “C-Deon” (a name associated with Plaintiff) and that C-Deon was involved in the Lassiter/Haugabook murders. (Id.) Naturally, Officer Forrest took these remarks seriously and asked Gardner if he would be willing to talk to detectives, to which Gardner agreed. (Id. ¶ 15.) Gardner was then taken to the Area 6 Violent Crimes Unit (“Area 6”) and interviewed by Detectives Villardita and Johnson around 7:00 p.m. (Id. ¶ 16.)

         After Gardner gave an oral confession to the detectives, inculpating himself and the codefendants, Villardita called the State's Attorney's Office Felony Review Unit[5] to request approval of felony charges. (Id. ¶ 17.) Accordingly, Assistant States Attorney Fogarty was dispatched to Area 6 the same day and arrived at approximately 9:00 p.m., but he did not memorialize Gardner's confession with a court reporter until roughly 2:00 a.m. the next day. (Id. ¶¶ 18-21.)

         With Gardner out of the way, Officer Forest returned to the 23rd District, where he was advised that Akia had given a false name (Dion Bonner) and birthdate, which required reprocessing him as an adult under his actual identity. (Id. ¶ 25.) During the reprocessing, Akia asked Officer Forrest where Garnder went and learned that he was moved to Area 6. (Id. ¶ 27.) What followed was another unexpected, but voluntary, comment: Akia said that Gardner must be at Area 6 because of the murders. (Id.) Recognizing that this was no mere coincidence, Officer Forrest arranged for Akia to be taken to Area 6 for questioning as well. (Id. ¶ 27.) And, much like Gardner, Akia was interviewed by Detectives O'Connor and Abreu around 7:30 p.m., after which he orally confessed to the murders and implicated the other codefendants. (Id. ¶ 28-29.)

         Now, with two confessions and eight suspects, the case was taking on a new life and complexity, which prompted a Felony Review Unit supervisor to order another set of hands for assistance - Assistant States Attorney Magats. (Id. ¶¶ 31-32.) He arrived at Area 6 sometime between 11:00 p.m. on December 2nd and the early morning of December 3rd, where he largely remained, along with Assistant States Attorney Fogarty and the Officer Defendants, until December 4th. (Id.) It was during this period that the remaining codefendants were arrested, brought to Area 6, and interrogated, culminating in seven signed confessions. (Id. ¶¶ 33-37.)

         (ii) Plaintiff's Arrest and Confession

         Plaintiff's arrest, interrogation, and confession were no different. He was arrested by Detectives O'Connor, Abreu, Delaney, and Killacky at approximately 11:30 p.m. on December 2, 1992 and taken to Area 6, where he initially denied any involvement in the murders. (Id. ¶¶ 41-43.) The next day, at about 8:20 p.m., he was put in a lineup with Taylor, Matthews, and Paul Phillips. (Id. ¶ 44.) Faye McCoy viewed the lineup and identified each of them as kids from the neighborhood. (Id. ¶ 45.) She further stated, according to a report written by Detectives Delaney and Killacky, that she saw the four kids leaving the area around Lassiter's apartment on the night of the murders, but that she was afraid to testify against them. (Id.) Shortly after the lineup, Plaintiff confessed to Detectives O'Connor and Abreu. (Id. ¶ 45.)

         Around midnight, Assistant States Attorney Magats entered Plaintiff's interrogation room and introduced himself as a State's Attorney with the Felony Review Unit. (Id. ¶ 49.) The two spoke for about a half hour, with Detective O'Connor as a witness. (Id. ¶ 48.) During this time, Plaintiff again orally confessed and further agreed to have his confession memorialized in handwritten form, which Magats prepared and reviewed with Plaintiff in detail. (Id. ¶¶ 49, 52.) The whole process was fairly routine, and Plaintiff appeared to be of sound mind throughout, leaving Magats with no reason think that his confession was anything but knowing and voluntary. (Id. ¶ 54.)

         (iii) The Next Steps and the Taylor Question

         Magats contacted his supervisor, Anna Demacopoulous, to discuss whether felony charges should be approved. (Id. ¶ 61, 67.) (Neither he nor Fogarty had the authority to do so, id.) She reviewed the files, approved charges against Plaintiff and each codefendant, and the case proceeded to the grand jury. (Id. ¶ 68.) There was one wrinkle, though: Daniel Taylor.

         Despite confessing to a role in the murders, and each codefendants' confession placing him at the murder scene, Taylor told Detectives Villardita and Johnson at one point that he could not possibly have been at Lassiter's apartment on that night because he was already in lockup at the 23rd District for disorderly conduct. (Officers' Facts ¶ 19.) Accordingly, Detectives Villardita and Johnson set out to investigate the potential alibi. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21.)

         They searched Taylor's criminal history report, yet found nothing for November 16, 1992. (Id. at ¶ 20.) But out of an abundance of caution, Villardita also asked 23rd District Officer Steve Caluris to manually look at the arrest reports from that night, to see if anything had slipped through the cracks. (Id. at ¶ 21.) And indeed, something had: Officer Caluris, on December 6th, located a disorderly conduct arrest report for a “Daniel Taylor” that indicated he was in lockup from 6:45 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on the night of the murders, after which he was released on bond. (Id. ¶¶ 23, 25.) This posed potentially serious problems for the integrity of the case, so Villardita and Johnson searched for more concrete evidence of Taylor's whereabouts that night, such as his fingerprints or mugshot at the 23rd District, but to no avail. (Id. ¶ 26.) They did, however, obtain copies of Taylor's arrest report and bond slip, along with a list of names and assignments for 23rdDistrict personnel who worked that night. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 27.)

         The “Taylor alibi” evidence was thus inconclusive, at least according to Villardita and Johnson. (Id. ¶ 25.) Nonetheless, they felt duty-bound to record this information in a police report. (Id.) They also informed Assistant States Attorney David Styler (who would later lead the grand jury proceedings) about the potential conflict between the confessions and Taylor's whereabouts. (Id. ¶ 30.) Styler undertook his own investigation, too, interviewing various 23rdDistrict officers and even searching for one of Taylor's potential cell mates at the 23rd District, James Anderson. (Id. ¶¶ 33-34, 45-51.) None of this changed the momentum of the Lassiter/Haugabook investigation, however, and each of the codefendants was eventually indicted by a grand jury, thereby ending Defendants' active roles in the case.

         (iv) Plaintiff's Trial

         Two Assistant States Attorneys - Thomas Needham and Jeanne Bischoff - were assigned to prosecute the charges against Plaintiff and the codefendants. (Id. ¶¶ 5-6, 54, 60.) Like Assistant States Attorney Styler, they were each made aware of the conflict between Taylor's confession and the alibi evidence. (Id.) Plaintiff's trial attorney, John Theis, was similarly aware of the Taylor alibi, albeit through different means: he shared office space with Taylor's attorney, Nathan Diamond. (Id. ¶ 66.) Theis, however, did not further investigate the Taylor alibi or pursue it as part of Plaintiff's trial strategy. (Id. ¶¶ 69-70.) Indeed, he did not even object to the state's motion in limine to exclude from Plaintiff's trial any mention of Taylor's disorderly conduct arrest. (Id. ¶ 73.) Thus, no evidence of the Taylor alibi was introduced at Plaintiff's trial. (Id. ¶ 81.) In fact, the only evidence introduced against Plaintiff was his own confession and various testimony, most of which came from Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 81-86.) The result: Plaintiff was found guilty on March 10, 1995 and sentenced to natural life in prison, where he remained for the next nineteen years until his conviction was vacated on a motion by the Cook County Conviction Integrity Unity in 2014. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 87.)

         III. Plaintiff's Story

         Plaintiff has a different take on things. He does not dispute the general sequence of events depicted by Defendants; he disputes what happened at each step. In his eyes, the Lassiter/Haugabook investigation and the confessions were all carefully fabricated lies.

         (i) The Initial Arrests

         The tone of the investigation was set just a few days before the first arrest, when Detectives Villardita and Johnson left a note in a General Progress Report (“GPR”) to the Officer Defendants: “Clear this case by the time we come back from our days off.” (11/29/1992 GPR [Dkt. # 164, Ex. 12] at 1.) This is where the parties' stories diverge.

         Contrary to Officer Forrest's account, for example, Gardner denies that he ever spoke with anyone in private or “volunteered” a confession. (Pl.'s Facts ¶ 7.) Indeed, he claims to have been with his mother while at the 23rd District (since he was a juvenile) and that the two were asked to go to Area 6 for questioning, with Gardner assuming that it was related to his drug arrest. (Id.). Once they arrived at Area 6, however, Gardner's mother was told to go back to work and that she would be called to pick him up after the detectives were finished. (Id.) What followed was a concerted effort by Defendants to break the arrestees' wills and force them to confess.

         (ii) The Confessions

         The circumstances surrounding each codefendants' confession are the focal point of Plaintiff's story and discussed in greater detail in the analysis section. But here are the basics: no codefendant denies signing a confession for one reason or another; however, each has subsequently (1) had his charges dismissed or been exonerated, (see Id. ¶¶ 21-22, 98-100), and (2) recanted his confession and claimed that it was the product of Defendants' coercive interrogation tactics (e.g., sleep deprivation, starvation, violence, false promises of lenience, or the ASAs masquerading as public defenders), (see, e.g., Gardner Dep. [Dkt. # 164, Ex. 16] at 165:7-12; Akia Dep. [Dkt. # 164, Ex. 19] at 151-74; Pl.'s Dep. [Dkt # 152, Ex. 1] at 528:13-531:14; Taylor Dep. [Dkt # 164, Ex. 21] at 246:2-23).

         The codefendants have testified, moreover, that the confessions were entirely fabricated, in that none of them actually had any part in the murders or were even around Lassiter's apartment on the night in question. (See, e.g., id.) Indeed, Defendants' entire “investigation” was really just a hand-drafted story on a spiral notebook - a “master confession” - that Defendants concocted and coerced the codefendants into signing. (See, e.g., Gardner Dep. at 165:7-186:12; Akia Dep. at 151:9-163:14.) This wasn't a one-shot process, either: Defendants prepared numerous drafts of the confessions, revising any conflicting facts or stories as the interrogations unfolded, and even negotiated with some of the codefendants the various (fabricated) roles they could play in the murders (See, e.g., Pl.'s Dep. at 600:1-603:10) (explaining that the “original confession” depicted Plaintiff as murdering Ms. Haugabook, but that Defendants changed the story, at Plaintiff's request, to depict him as murdering Mr. Lassiter, since Plaintiff did not want to be known for murdering a woman.) Then, as each fabricated confession was signed, Defendants used them as leverage against the remaining codefendants who hadn't confessed. (See, e.g., Akia Dep. at 181:3-12; Pl.'s Dep. at 529:4-11.)

         (iii) More Fabricated Evidence

         The fabrication didn't end with the confessions, though. Defendants also had to square away the Taylor alibi and Faye McCoy (who, to this day, maintains that she never saw the codefendants leaving the murder scene).

         The Gillespie/Grimes Report

         After learning of the Taylor alibi, Villardita and Johnson took it upon themselves to diminish its credibility. First, they created a police report that stated they had met with the 23rdDistrict officer on “first watch” (i.e., the front desk) who signed Taylor's bond slip, Officer Gillespie. (Pl.'s Facts ¶ 48.) The report explained that Gillespie didn't remember seeing Taylor that night, which Gillespie has since reaffirmed. (Id.) But it also quoted him as saying that Taylor “could have been gone” by the time Gillespie signed the bond slip, around 10:00 p.m., (id.), a point that Gillespie later found troubling. (See Gillespie Dep. [Dkt # 164, Ex. 52] at 104:16- 105:7) (“I don't know why I would [have said] that. Because, first of all, I don't understand what [the report] mean[s] by [“could have been gone”] . . . . Who was gone and who signed the slip? I wouldn't have said that because, like I said earlier . . . I wouldn't be given a bond with someone's signature on it and then fill out the bond and sign it.”)

         Beyond casting doubt on whether anyone actually saw Taylor at the 23rd District, the report went a step further and stated that another witness - Adrian Grimes - saw Taylor and the codefendants near Lassiter's apartment on the night of the murders. (Pl.'s Facts ¶ 48.) But Grimes has since recanted that statement. (See Grimes Dep. [Dkt 164, Ex. 45] at 45-48) (explaining that he testified against Taylor because the police came to his house and arrested him on drug charges, beat him while in lockup, and then offered to make those charges go away if he would testify that he saw Taylor near Lassiter's apartment with the codefendants).)

         The Berti/Glinksi Supplementary Report

         Villardita and Johnson didn't stop with one report, either. They also asked two of the Officer Defendants who responded to the Lassiter/Haugabook murders, Berti and Glinski, to write a supplementary report about that night. (See Pl.'s Facts ¶ 53.) While it is unclear whether the detectives told Berti and Glinski what to say, (see Officers' Resp. Pl.'s Facts ¶ 53), the supplementary report nonetheless states that the two officers saw Taylor running in the streets near Lassiter's apartment and questioned him around 9:30 p.m. - an event curiously absent from their original report, which indicated the only black male they spoke to (and arrested) was named “Tillis, ” (compare 11/16/1992 Police Rep. [Dkt. # 164, Ex. 86] at 2, with 12/14/1992 Supp. Rep. [Dkt. # 164, Ex. 59] at 2).

         The McCoy Lineup Report

         Next, Detectives Villardita and Johnson, along with Officers Delaney and Killacky, worked together to fabricate Faye McCoy's responses to the line-up report. (The officers wrote the report, but Villardita and Johnson were the ones behind the glass talking to McCoy, see Pl.'s Facts ¶ 28.) McCoy, however, denies ever suggesting that she was afraid of the codefendants or that she saw any of them leaving the murder scene. (See McCoy Dep. [Dkt. # 164, Ex. 5] at 59:8-61:4.) Quite the contrary: she testified that after the lineup, she told the Officers “they had the wrong people; go and find Goldie.” (Id. at 59:19-20.)

         The Seymore Report

         Lastly, Plaintiff claims that Villardita and Johnson directed two non-defendant officers, Elmore and Gildea, to seek out and interview Michael Seymore, the person who apparently sold Gardner the drugs for which he was initially arrested. (Pl.'s Facts ¶ 51.) Villardita and Johnson later memorialized the interview in a report and falsely indicated that Seymore also saw Taylor near Lassiter's apartment on the night in question. (Id.)

         (iv) The Grand Jury

         With seven fabricated confessions and various pieces of fabricated evidence to support their case, Defendants passed it on to Assistant States Attorney Styler to present to the grand jury. Although Styler has not been named as a defendant, Plaintiff insists that he played a vital role in continuing the violation of his rights. Shortly after the Taylor alibi surfaced, for example, Styler sought to extinguish it by having Grimes and Seymore testify to seeing Taylor at the murder scene before 10:00 p.m. (Pl.'s Facts ¶ 85.) Two weeks later, Styler put the nail in the coffin by calling Detective O'Connor as a witness to testify to the entire sequence of events, most of which was gleaned from the codefendants' fabricated confessions. (Id. ¶ 87.) The grand jury returned an indictment against all seven codefendants immediately afterwards. (Id.)

         (v) Plaintiff's Trial and the Withheld/Fabricated Evidence

         At trial, Plaintiff's attorney had a tough choice on his hands: what to make of the Taylor alibi. (Id. ¶¶ 89-90.) Despite the hole it could poke in the integrity of the investigation, the documents Theis was provided in discovery, such as the Berti/Glinski report and the Grimes/Seymore reports, suggested to him that the Taylor alibi was possibly a clerical mistake. (See Pl.'s Facts ¶¶ 48, 52, 53, 90.) This is significant because there were real costs to introducing a less-than-solid alibi about a codefendant: at Plaintiff's pretrial hearing, the judge ruled that if Plaintiff opened the door to evidence about any of his codefendants, then he would lose the protection afforded by Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123 (1968)[6] and all of the evidence related to them would be admitted, including the six confessions that placed him at the murder scene. (Id. ¶ 92.) Since Theis had no reason to suspect any of the evidence he received was fabricated, he accordingly chose not to present the Taylor alibi at trial.[7] (Id. ¶¶ 48, 52, 53, 90.)

         Instead, Theis focused on the absence of physical evidence linking Plaintiff to the crime and Faye McCoy's testimony that Plaintiff was not one of the men she saw leaving the crime scene. (Id. ¶ 93; see also 3/8/1995 Trial Tr. [Dkt. # 164, Ex. 78] at 81-109; 3/9/1995 Trial Tr. [Dkt. # 164, Ex. 30] at 64-73.) But these arguments were ultimately unavailing: the gravamen of the testimony implicated Plaintiff in the murders, his written confession was read to the jury, and the prosecution impeached McCoy based on her (fabricated) statements from the lineup report, all of which led to a guilty verdict. (Id.)

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate where the admissible evidence shows that no genuine dispute exists as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). “A ‘material fact' is one identified by the substantive law as affecting the outcome of the suit.” Bunn v. Khoury Enters., Inc., 753 F.3d 676, 681 (7th Cir. 2014) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). “A ‘genuine issue' exists with respect to any such material fact, and summary judgment is therefore inappropriate, when ‘the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Bunn, 753 F.3d at 681-82 (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Conversely, “where the factual record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is nothing for a jury to do.” Bunn, 753 F.3d at 682 (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (emphasis in ...


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