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Bentley v. City of East Moline

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division

March 30, 2017




         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 31, filed by Defendants City of East Moline and City of East Moline Police Officers Kyle Schultz and Matthew Shattuck (“Officers”).[1] Plaintiff Joshua Bentley filed claims for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and unreasonable search and seizure against the defendant Officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and indemnification claims against the City of East Moline under 745 ILCS 10/9-102. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED regarding the malicious prosecution claims in Counts III and IV, and the Fourth Amendment violations alleged in Counts V, VI, and DENIED regarding the false arrest claims, Counts I and II.


         The events at issue center on the arrest of Joshua Bentley by Officers Matthew Shattuck and Kyle Schultz on July 4, 2013. Joshua Bentley is a resident of East Moline, Illinois. He lives in a two-story building, where he occupies the unit on the second floor. The unit is accessible by staircases in both front and back. The back staircase is on Bentley's property, and leads to a gravel parking area that is also Bentley's property. The lot abuts a public alley. The East Moline Police Department (“the Department”) is located across the street, with an entrance on the alley.

         On July 3, 2013, Bentley's friend Jason Stirk called his mother, Karen Smith. Smith called the Department on the morning of July 4, 2013, and stated to the officer on the phone that Stirk and his friend were going to “create a disturbance” at the Fourth of July parade. UMF 17. Smith relayed to the officer that Stirk had told her he would probably be arrested for the disturbance he planned to cause. Smith incorrectly identified Bentley during the call as Stirk's friend “Josh Bennett.” Department Lieutenant Jon Showalter relayed the information to Officers Shattuck and Schultz, who believed based on this information that Stirk and “Josh Bennett” were going to create a disturbance.

         The officers used a database to identify Stirk's driver's license photo and set out to investigate the tip. Both were in plainclothes, and it is contested as to whether their badges, guns, and radios were visible on their person. Pl.'s DMF 24. After patrolling the parade route to locate Stirk, the officers returned to the Department and learned that a Joshua Bentley resided on the 900 block of 15th Avenue in East Moline. Officer Schultz walked outside of the Department entrance across from Bentley's apartment and recognized Stirk sitting on the back stairs. Both Officers walked over and engaged Stirk in conversation as he remained seated on the staircase. Officer Shattuck ascended several steps up the staircase to do so. Bentley, hearing voices outside his window, looked outside and saw Officer Shultz on his property. He yelled at Schultz multiple times to get off his property. From the window, Bentley could see Officer Schultz indicating to his waist, which Officer Schultz stated occurred when he “displayed [his] badge.” Schultz Dep. 30:7 - 14; Bentley Dep. 62:22-63:9. Bentley exited down the front stairs of his house and walked around to the gravel lot in the back alley, stopping about ten feet from Shultz. Bentley repeated several times that the officers were trespassing and needed to leave.

         It is disputed as to whether or when the Officers identified themselves as police. Bentley stated that “[t]he word police officer was never spoken out loud never once.” Bentley Dep. 49:24. Officer Schultz told Bentley that they were trying to conduct an investigation. Schultz 33:5-13. Bentley continued to state that the Officers needed to leave the property, saying “I don't really need to talk to you about anything . . . you are trespassing.” Bentley Dep. 48:23-25. Though Bentley was speaking loudly and the Officers stated that he was “visually upset, ” Schultz Dep. 52:16, he never made physical contact with the officers or physically prevented the officers from doing their jobs. Stirk and Bentley both describe Bentley's behavior during the interaction as “matter of fact, ” Bentley Dep. 64:10-13; Stirk Dep. 36:8, while Officer Shattuck said Bentley was “continuing to yell. He would not listen. He would not let Detective Schultz explain or myself explain anything to him and continuing to try to interrupt my conversation with Mr. Stirk.” Shattuck Dep. 54:13 - 55:6.

         Officer Shattuck stated to Bentley that he needed to provide identification or he was going to be arrested. Bentley responded by slapping his left pocket to indicate that he did not have identification on him, and said “I don't have any.” Officer Shattuck descended the stairs and said, “either you show me some ID or I'm going to arrest you.” Shattuck made the decision to arrest Bentley after two to three minutes of the encounter. Schultz Dep. 38:8-9. Bentley was arrested for Resisting - Obstructing a Police Officer in violation of 720 ILCS 5/31-1. Both Officers handcuffed him and walked him over to the Department, where he was bailed out on the same day. The Officers did not return to speak with Stirk after the arrest. The Officers both presented the case to the State's Attorney on or around July 8, 2013, and the attorney “chose not to file charges at that time, ” Shattuck Dep. 60:16-18, leaving open the possibility of filing charges within eighteen months.

         Bentley filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure were violated when the Officers entered his property without warrant and arrested him without probable cause, and that he was subject to malicious prosecution. The claims against City of East Moline (II, IV, and VI) arise under an Illinois statute, 745 ILCS 10/9-102, that provides indemnification by a “local public entity” for tort judgments incurred by employees acting within the scope of their employment. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all counts.


         I. Legal Standard on a Motion for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is proper if “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Magin v. Monsanto, 420 F.3d 679, 686 (7th Cir. 2005) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). At the summary judgment stage, the judge's function is not to weigh the evidence and assess the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial-that is, whether there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Patel v. Allstate Ins. Co., 105 F.3d 365, 370 (7th Cir. 1997). There can be no genuine issue as to any material fact when a party “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322.

         Where the parties' versions of events differ substantially, courts are required to view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (quoting United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)). In qualified immunity cases, this usually means adopting the plaintiff's version of the facts. Scott, 550 U.S. at 378. The court is not required to accept unwarranted factual inferences. Stachowski v. Town of Cicero, 425 F.3d 1075, 1078 (7th Cir. 2005).

         II. 42 U.S.C. 1983 and Qualified Immunity

         a. 1983

         “In order to state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must sufficiently allege that (1) a person acting under color of state law (2) deprived him of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” London v. RBS Citizens, N.A., 600 F.3d 742, 745-46 (7th Cir. 2010).

         b. Qualified Immunity

         “Qualified immunity is an entitlement to avoid trial.” Jones v. Clark, 630 F.3d 677, 679 (7th Cir. 2011). It shields officials, including police officers, from harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably, while ensuring that public officials are held accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009). An “official's right to immunity turns on two questions: first, whether the facts presented, taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, describe a violation of a constitutional right, and second, whether the federal right at issue was clearly established at the time that the alleged violation occurred.” Jones, 630 F.3d at 680 (citing Pearson, 555 U.S. at 129). If the plaintiff cannot establish that the facts, “taken in the light most favorable to [him], show that the defendant violated a constitutional right, ” summary judgment for the defendant is appropriate. See Jewett v. Anders, 521 F.3d 818, 822-223 (7th Cir. 2008). In light of the Supreme Court's holding in Pearson, lower courts may look first to the second prong of the qualified immunity test-whether the constitutional right was clearly established-in consideration of the circumstances of the case. Pearson, 555 U.S. at 236.

         The plaintiff can meet his burden of showing that a right is “clearly established by showing that there is a clearly analogous case establishing a right to be free from the specific conduct at issue or that the conduct is so egregious that no reasonable person could have believed that it would not violate clearly established rights.” Chelios v. Heavener, 520 F.3d 678, 691 (7th Cir. 2008) (quotation marks omitted). “Although it is not necessary that a prior case address the precise factual situation confronting the officer, the unlawfulness of the officer's action should be clear in light of pre-existing law.” Jones by Jones v. Webb, 45 F.3d 178, 183 (7th Cir. 1995) (quotation marks omitted).

         The inquiry into whether a defendant violated clearly established law often relates to the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the underlying constitutional violation. See Jones, 630 F.3d at 679. For that reason, the Court will analyze the applicability of qualified immunity in conjunction with its analysis of whether ...

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