United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Z. LEE United States District Judge.
the Court are Plaintiff Daniel Cahill's Objections to the
March 4, 2016, Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge
Cox regarding his motion to sanction Defendants for
destruction of evidence . Although Judge Cox recommended
granting the motion, Cahill contends that the sanction she
proposed is inadequate. For the reasons given below, the
Court agrees and adopts a modified version of the Report and
claims in this case-which include state claims for false
arrest and malicious prosecution and a federal claim for
violation of the Fourth Amendment- are based on the
Defendants' accusations that he possessed cocaine at a
County lockup. Cahill was initially arrested on December 15,
2011, by Defendants Martinez and Nieves, police officers with
the Cook County Sheriff's Office, for driving on a
suspended license. The officers then transported him to the
lockup in Maywood for processing. Everyone agrees that they
arrived there at approximately 9:00 p.m.
parties sharply disagree over what happened while Cahill was
at the lockup. Defendant Layton testified in a deposition for
this case that he patted Cahill down shortly after he was
brought in and that, during the patdown, he saw Cahill drop a
small, tissue-wrapped, white package to the floor. Layton
Dep. at 96-97 . Layton explains that he then took Cahill
to another part of the lockup for photos and fingerprinting,
leaving the package lying on the floor. Id. at
103-04. After that, Layton brought Cahill back to where the
package still lay and searched him again. Id. at
107-08. Only after this search did Layton pick up the package
he says he had seen Cahill drop earlier. Id. at 100.
He looked inside and then brought it to Martinez.
Id. at 112.
confronted Cahill with the suspected cocaine. Resp. Mot.
Sanctions, Def.'s Ex. B, “Martinez Dep.” at
50:2. Cahill initially denied that it was his but, according
to Martinez, confessed upon being told that surveillance
cameras would have captured him dropping it. Id. at
denies dropping the package, denies that he was in possession
of cocaine at any time while at the lockup, and denies that
he ever said otherwise. Compl. ¶¶ 7-13. In
Cahill's telling, he expressed relief when Martinez
brought up the cameras, believing that the video footage
would prove his innocence.
on the officers' accounts of what happened at the lockup,
Cahill was charged with felony possession of cocaine. His
criminal defense attorney, Robert Schrimple, acted quickly
after the arrest to obtain all video footage of his
client's time at the lockup. He sent a subpoena to the
Cook County Sheriff's Office in Maywood, see
Mot. Santions, Pl.'s Ex. F, Subpoena, and also provided a
copy to the County's legal department, Hr. Tr. at
Don Milazzo, who was in charge of the Maywood lockup at the
time, also took some action to preserve the video. On January
10, 2012, a few days before the video was scheduled to be
destroyed, he completed a “Request for Hold of Video
Surveillance, ” seeking the preservation of “all
video of Prisoner Daniel Cahill who arrived in the Maywood 24
Hr. L/U at 2100 hrs [9:00 p.m.] ¶ 15 Dec. 2011, and left
the facility at 0740 hrs on 16 Dec. 2011.” Reply Br.,
Pl.'s Ex. C, “Request for Hold.” Milazzo does
not recall why he completed the hold request, see
Hr. Tr. at 50:8-50:10, and he concedes that he never followed
up to confirm that his hold request had been honored,
id. at 52:7-52:10.
did follow up after serving his subpoena-many times-but no
one in the Sheriff's Office or legal department could
give him any information. Id. at 130:15-132:13.
Then, in mid-February, a lawyer for the County sent him a
letter representing that the video from the time Cahill was
at the Maywood lockup was no longer in existence. Mot.
Sanctions, Pl.'s Ex. G, “Feb. 14 Letter.” The
lawyer explained that “all video had been destroyed by
the time the Sheriff's Office was able to determine the
video was under the control of the Cook County Facilities
Management Department.” Id.
turned out that some video of Cahill from the lockup that
night still existed after all. Officer Martinez had submitted
a request on December 16, 2011, for video of Cahill
discarding the cocaine, which he said happened at
“approximately 2120-2140 hrs [9:20 p.m. to 9:40 p.m].
See Resp. Mot. Sanctions, Def.'s Ex. C,
“Martinez Request.” In response to this request,
James Collins, a technician from the Facilities Department,
transferred some video onto his laptop computer and then onto
a DVD. Martinez picked up the DVD and, at some point, turned
it over to the State's Attorney's office.
video Martinez sent the prosecutor covers from 9:16 p.m. to
9:24 p.m. Mot. Sanctions, Pl.'s Ex. A,
“Video.” It does not show Cahill dropping
anything. Instead, when the video begins, the small white
package is already on the floor, and Cahill is nowhere to be
seen. Fifteen seconds in, Cahill is brought across the room
from somewhere off camera and placed right next to the
package. He seems to be completely oblivious to its presence.
Layton then thoroughly searches him while both men ignore the
package. Upon completion of the search, Layton kicks the
package, picks it up, and opens it before leaving the room
viewing this video, the Assistant Cook County State's
Attorney handling the case concluded that the state would not
be able to prove the charges against Cahill. The charges were
dismissed, and Cahill brought this lawsuit.
Motion for Sanctions for Spoliation of Evidence , Cahill
argues that Defendants had a duty to preserve the video
footage from his time in the lockup and intentionally failed
to do so because the video would have proven his innocence.
He was prejudiced by the destruction of the evidence because,
he contends, the full video would have shown that someone
other than him dropped the cocaine. (Apparently other
arrestees had been through that area of the lockup shortly
before him.) The motion proposes sanctions ranging from
default judgment to an adverse ...