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Saunders v. City of Chicago

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

January 4, 2017

MICHAEL SAUNDERS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants. VINCENT THAMES, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants. HAROLD RICHARDSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants.

          Sheila Finnegan Magistrate Judge

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs Michael Saunders, Vincent Thames and Harold Richardson (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) bring suit against the City of Chicago (“City”) seeking redress for their alleged wrongful convictions for the 1994 rape and murder of Nina Glover (“Glover”). All three Plaintiffs also name as Defendants Chicago Police Department (“CPD”) Detectives Kevin Boudreau, Richard Paladino, James Cassidy, Thomas Coughlin, William Foley, Frank Valadez, and Pat McCafferty, and Sergeant L. Tuldier. Saunders also names as Defendants CPD Youth Officer Charles Bowen (collectively with the CPD Detectives and Sergeant Tuldier, the “Officer Defendants”) and Assistant State's Attorney (“ASA”) Valentini; and both Saunders and Thames name as a Defendant ASA Johnson (collectively with Valentini, the “ASAs”). Plaintiffs' cases have been consolidated for purposes of discovery and other common issues. See Richardson, Case No. 12-cv-9184, Docket Entry [42].[1] The consolidated case is currently before the Court on (1) Plaintiff Richardson's motion [236] and sealed motion [238] for leave to file a First Amended Complaint adding the ASAs to his case; and (2) Plaintiffs' Joint Objections to Magistrate Judge Finnegan's Discovery Order Regarding the Multi-Purpose Tracking System (“MPTS”) Database ([266]; Saunders, Case No. 12-cv-9158, Docket Entry [261]; Thames, Case No. 12-cv-9170, Docket Entry [261]).

         For the reasons explained below, Plaintiff Richardson's motion [236] and sealed motion [238] for leave to file a First Amended Complaint in Case No. 12-cv-9184 are granted. Plaintiffs' Joint Objections to Magistrate Judge Finnegan's Discovery Order Regarding the “MPTS” Database ([266]; Saunders, Case No. 12-cv-9158, Docket Entry [261]; Thames, Case No. 12-cv-9170, Docket Entry [261]) are overruled.

         I. Plaintiff Richardson's Motion [236] and Sealed Motion [238] for Leave to File a First Amended Complaint

         A. Background

         1. The Proposed First Amended Complaint

         Briefly summarized, Richardson's proposed first amended complaint alleges as follows: On November 7, 1994, Nina Glover's nude body was discovered in a dumpster in Chicago, wrapped in a blood-stained bedsheet. An autopsy revealed that she had been killed by strangulation. Cassidy and other members of the CPD were assigned to investigate the crime. When Cassidy arrived at the crime scene, he obtained identifications from four witnesses, including most relevant here, Johnny Douglas (“Douglas”). Douglas was a convicted felon with a long and violent criminal history, including multiple charges for rape and assault. Douglas had no explanation for being near the crime scene when Glover's body was found. Douglas was an obvious prime suspect in the murder, but Cassidy and the other Officer Defendants failed to check Douglas' background or investigate him further. Douglas went on to commit additional violent crimes against other women, including rape and murder by strangulation.

         Four months after Glover was murdered, the Officer Defendants approached a learning-disabled neighborhood teenager, Jerry Fincher (“Fincher”) about the crime. According to the proposed amended complaint, through use of coercive interrogation, physical violence, and prolonged detention, the Officer Defendants obtained Fincher's false confession to the Glover murder. Fincher also falsely implicated four other neighborhood teenagers in the murder: Richardson, Thames, Saunders, and Terrill Swift (“Swift”). None of these teenagers were involved in the murder or knew the true perpetrator-who was later discovered through DNA to be Douglas. These four teenagers were chosen by Defendants to be framed for the Glover rape and murder, because of Defendants' belief that they were gang members or somehow affiliated with gangs.

         After obtaining Fincher's false confession, the Officer Defendants and ASAs coerced the four boys whom Fincher had named to confess to taking part in Glover's rape and murder. First, through coercion and threats, the Officer Defendants and ASA Johnson obtained a false, recorded confession from Thames, which implicated Richardson, Saunders, Swift, and Fincher. The Officer Defendants then picked up, interrogated, and threatened Swift, and made false promises of leniency if he confessed. Swift eventually falsely implicated himself, Richardson, Fincher, Thames, and Saunders in an oral statement and in a court-reported statement.

         The Officer Defendants then arrested Richardson, told him they had caught him in front of the Glover crime scheme, and threatened to kill him. They took him to the police station, handcuffed him to the wall of an interrogation room, interrogated him without a parent or guardian, told him they had evidence linking him to the Glover rape and murder, pressured him to implicate himself in the crime, and made false promises of leniency. “Defendant ASA Johnson was initially involved in securing the false and fabricated statements from [Richardson], before passing the task of attempting secure a statement from [Richardson] to Valentini.” [238-1] at 16. After hours of pressure, Richardson eventually gave in and agreed to repeat the false account of the Glover rape and murder that the Officer Defendants had provided to him. In an oral statement, Richardson falsely implicated himself, Thames, Saunders, Swift, and Fincher. However, despite further pressure and false promises of leniency from the Officer Defendants, Richardson refused to sign a written statement documenting him confession, because he knew it was untrue. Finally, the Officer Defendants used threats of physical harm and coercion to obtain a false written confession from Saunders, in which he also implicated Richardson, Thames, Swift, and Fincher.

         Each of the teenagers was charged with first degree murder and aggravated sexual assault. After charges were filed, the Officer Defendants and ASAs continued to coordinate efforts to implicate the five teenagers and to fabricate additional evidence, including fabricating reports describing how Richardson's confession was obtained, strategizing how to conceal their misconduct in interrogating the boys, and sharing a document detailing what the Officer Defendants and the ASAs should say when questioned about the circumstances of the Glover investigation. At a suppression hearing in the criminal case, Johnson “falsely claimed that [Richardson] had confessed to him.” [238-1] at 16. Richardson was convicted at a bench trial, without any physical evidence, solely based on his oral confession. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Swift, Saunders, and Thames were also convicted following bench trials and each sentenced to between 30 and 40 years in prison. Fincher's confession was deemed to be illegally obtained following a suppression hearing, and all charges against him were dropped.

         Following conviction, Richardson and the other Plaintiffs continued to maintain their innocence and seek exoneration. On November 16, 2011, the Circuit Court of Cook County granted Richardson and his co-defendants' joint petition to vacate their convictions. On September 14, 2012, the State of Illinois granted Richardson a certificate of innocence.

         2. Procedural History

         Richardson filed his original complaint against the Officer Defendants and the City on November 1, 2012. See [1]. Richardson alleged Section 1983 claims against the Officer Defendants for violation of his rights under the Fifth Amendment and the Due Process Clause, failure to intervene, conspiracy, and supervisory liability. He also alleged state-law claims against the Officer Defendants for malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy. In addition, he alleged a Section 1983 Monell policy claim and state-law claims for respondeat superior and indemnification against the City.

         Richardson did not name ASAs Valentini and Johnson as Defendants in his original complaint. In contrast, Saunders named both Johnson and Valentini as defendants in his original complaint, which he filed on November 15, 2012. See Saunders, Case No. 12-cv-9158, Docket Entry [1]).[2] Thames also named Johnson (but not Valentini) as a defendant in his first amended complaint, which he filed on November 20, 2012. See Thames, Case No. 12-cv-9170, Docket Entry [5].

         The parties have engaged in extensive discovery since the governing complaints were filed. Fact discovery formally closed on April 22, 2015, but there are still motions pending before Magistrate Judge Finnegan and this Court concerning discovery, and additional discovery yet to be completed. Summary judgment has not yet been briefed.

         On May 9, 2016, Richardson received discovery documents from the FBI, including most significantly a report recording an interview between Johnson, FBI Special Agent Moore (“Moore”), and two DOJ attorneys (the “Moore Report”). The interview described in the Moore Report took place months before Richardson filed his lawsuit. Johnson did not mention the interview in written or oral discovery in this litigation, and Richardson was unaware of the Moore Report until he received it from the FBI earlier this year. In his interview with Moore, Johnson allegedly made damning admissions about the investigation of the Glover rape and homicide and the manner in which the Officer Defendants worked alongside ASAs Johnson and Valentini to procure the confessions that were ultimately the basis for Plaintiffs' wrongful convictions. Johnson's admissions allegedly provided evidence that the ASAs worked alongside the Officer Defendants, during the interrogations and thereafter (for instance, during a suppression hearing), to fabricate and coerce Plaintiffs' confession and ensure that they would hold up in court. Johnson allegedly admitted that Valentini promised Richardson leniency in exchange for a confession, that Johnson falsely claimed not to remember things that troubled him about the Officer Defendants' timelines, and that Valentini agreed to conform his testimony to that of the Officer Defendants.

         About two months after receiving the Moore Report, Richardson moved for leave to file an amended complaint to add Johnson and Valentini as defendants to the Section 1983 and state-law claims that he had previously brought against only the Officer Defendants. Moore, Valentini, and the City oppose Richardson's motion on the basis that amendment would be ...


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