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Mcintosh v. Kelly

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 16, 2017

DALLAS McINTOSH, # B-85114, Plaintiff,
v.
BRENDAN F. KELLY, NICHOLAS GAILIUS, JEFF STRATMAN, JEFF BLAIR, TIMOTHY MUELLER, RYAN WEISENBORN, ELBERT JENNINGS, JAMES G. PIPER, UNKNOWN PARTY and CITY OF FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HONORABLE STACI M. YANDLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is now before the Court for preliminary review of the First Amended Complaint (Docs. 7 and 7-1) filed by Plaintiff Dallas McIntosh, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). Plaintiff brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for an unlawful traffic stop, search and seizure that occurred in Fairview Heights, Illinois, on September 25, 2012. (Doc. 7, pp. 1-31; Doc. 7-1, pp. 1-38). He names numerous local and state officials in their individual and official capacities, for violating his rights under federal and state law in connection with the traffic stop. Id. Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment and monetary damages. (Doc. 7-1, pp. 29-30).

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the First Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening - The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal - On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         An action or claim is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that any reasonable person would find meritless. Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross “the line between possibility and plausibility.” Id. at 557. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         First Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges that he was subject to an unlawful traffic stop in Fairview Heights, Illinois around 1:40 a.m. on September 25, 2012. (Doc. 7, p. 3). He was on a date at the time. Id. As he pulled his 2010 Chevrolet Camaro into the parking lot of the Fairfield Inn located near St. Clair Avenue and Fairview Drive, Plaintiff observed a local police officer, Officer Stratman, sitting in his patrol car in the same lot. Id. Plaintiff exited his vehicle and waved to the officer as he walked into the hotel to rent a room. (Doc. 7, p. 4). Officer Stratman acknowledged Plaintiff by nodding back at him. Id.

         Plaintiff entered the Fairfield Inn but returned to his car after deciding not to rent a room there. (Doc. 7, p. 4). He drove his vehicle through an adjacent lot and headed west on Ludwig Drive. Id. Officer Stratman began following Plaintiff. Id. At times, the officer trailed so closely behind Plaintiff's vehicle that he almost ran into the Camaro. Id.

         After turning west on Highway 50, Plaintiff changed lanes and Officer Stratman pulled him over. (Doc. 7, p. 4). Plaintiff recalls the officer collecting his information as well as his passenger's and returning to the patrol car. Id. While Officer Stratman sat in his patrol car, presumably preparing a ticket, Officer Blair arrived in a K-9 unit and performed a “free air sniff” on Plaintiff's vehicle. (Doc. 7, p. 5). Plaintiff does not recall anything that happened afterwards. Id.

         Plaintiff later learned that he was “shot multiple times in vital areas, eventually lapsing into a coma.” (Doc. 7, p. 5). He was hospitalized in critical condition. Id. Although he recovered, Plaintiff was unable to recall most of the events that transpired during the traffic stop, including basic information like the location of the stop, the reason given for the stop or the individual who was present in his vehicle at the time. Id.

         Plaintiff was indicted by Brendan Kelly (State's Attorney) and James Piper (Assistant State's Attorney). (Doc. 7, p. 5). Detective Mueller testified before the grand jury on October 19, 2012, saying, “Officer Stratman stopped the vehicle for failing to signal.” (Doc. 7, p. 6). At the time of making this statement, Detective Mueller allegedly knew that it was false. (Doc. 7, pp. 25-27). Throughout the criminal proceedings, Attorneys Kelly and Piper likewise maintained that Officer Stratman lawfully stopped Plaintiff for “failure to signal when changing lanes.” (Doc. 7, pp. 5-6). They also knew this representation was false and showed the grand jury edited video footage of the traffic stop that excluded Officer Stratman's stated reason for stopping Plaintiff. (Doc. 7, pp. 28-29).

         On September 11, 2014, Attorney Kelly told Plaintiff, his defense counsel (Michael Mettes) and the Court (Honorable Robert Haida) that Plaintiff's “failure to signal when changing lanes” established probable cause for the stop. (Doc. 7, p. 6). On at least 5 separate occasions, Attorney Mettes made the same statement to Plaintiff and his family and he stipulated to this fact at Plaintiff's plea hearing. (Doc. 7, p. 7). On the basis of these representations, Plaintiff entered a guilty plea. Id.

         According to the Illinois Department of Corrections' website (www.illinois.gov/idoc), Plaintiff was ultimately sentenced to 40 years of imprisonment for each of 2 counts of aggravated battery or discharge of a firearm and 7 years of incarceration for 1 count of manufacturing or delivering cannabis (>500 grams). See Bova v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 446 F.Supp.2d 926, 930 n. 2 (S.D. Ill. 2006) (a court may judicially notice public records available on government websites) (collecting cases).

         At his sentencing hearing on January 29, 2015, Plaintiff viewed video footage of the traffic stop for the first time. (Doc. 7, p. 7). The video was taken from Officer Stratman's patrol car. (Doc. 7, pp. 7-8). It depicted Plaintiff changing lanes lawfully and using a signal the entire time he did so. (Doc. 7, p. 8). The video also reveals Officer Stratman's stated reason for the traffic stop. Id. The officer told Plaintiff that, after signaling, he failed to travel an additional 100 feet before changing lanes. Id. In addition, the video includes Officer Stratman's conversation with Officer Blair during which Officer Stratman indicated that he may have seen the same Camaro earlier that day, that the occupant had an extensive criminal record, and that any illegal items were probably “hidden by now.” (Doc. 7, p. 16). Plaintiff maintains that the video footage directly contradicts the reasons given for the stop by Attorney Kelly, Attorney Piper, Detective Mueller and Attorney Mettes. (Doc. 7, pp. 7-8).

         On the basis of the video footage, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea. (Doc. 7, p. 9). He argued that the traffic stop was illegal because Illinois law only requires a driver to signal before changing lanes. (Doc. 7, pp. 9-11). According to Plaintiff, state law imposes no minimum distance requirement for signaling before a lane change in the area he was stopped. Id. Plaintiff also argued that he relied on misrepresentations made by his defense attorney, including a statement that a written warning was never “completed” or issued, when agreeing to enter a plea of guilty. (Doc. 7, p. 12). Plaintiff inquired into the existence of a citation at the hearing on his Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea on November 9, 2015. (Doc. 7, p. 13). Only then did Attorney Piper admit to the existence of a written warning.[1] Id. He was ordered to turn over a copy of it and eventually did so on January 11, 2016. (Doc. 7, p. 14). Plaintiff has since informed the Court that his Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea was denied on January 17, 2017. (Doc. 8).

         Plaintiff now claims that the defendants conspired to violate his constitutional rights in connection with the traffic stop that took place in Fairview Heights on September 25, 2012. (Doc. 7, pp. 30-31). According to the First Amended Complaint, Officers Stratman and Blair intentionally violated Plaintiff's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by conducting an illegal traffic stop, an unlawful search and an illegal seizure because of his race. (Doc. 7, pp. 11-18). Plaintiff maintains that he was stopped for “driving while Black.” (Doc. 7, p. 15).

         According to Plaintiff, Officer Stratman, Detective Mueller, Officer Weisenborn, Officer Doe and Investigator Jennings then worked together to “cover-up the truth” by issuing false and misleading police reports and affidavits following the stop. (Doc. 7, p. 30; Doc. 7-1, p. 23). Their reports were “intentionally vague” and “deliberately deceptive, ” aimed only at establishing ...


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