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Garrett v. Needleman

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

July 12, 2017

LORENZO GARRETT #M-20194, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT NEEDLEMAN and PAUL PERAINO, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JORGE L. ALONSO United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Lorenzo Garrett, an Illinois state prisoner, brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that defendants, two Chicago police officers, violated his constitutional rights by illegally stopping him, using unjustified force, and then denying him access to medical care for his injuries. Before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment [38]. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         On the evening of July 24, 2015, Officers Needleman and Peraino were on a “gang suppression mission” dressed in full Chicago Police Department uniforms and driving a marked patrol car. (Defs.' SOMF ¶ 1.) During their surveillance, defendants noticed a vehicle whose driver was not wearing a seat belt. (Id. ¶ 2.) Defendants signaled the car to pull over and Officer Peraino approached the driver's side of the vehicle, while Officer Needleman approached the passenger side. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) Plaintiff was a passenger in the vehicle. (Id. ¶ 3.) When the driver could not produce a valid driver's license, defendants ordered plaintiff and the driver out of the vehicle. (Id. ¶¶ 5-7.) When Officer Needleman attempted to perform a protective pat down of plaintiff, he pushed Needleman away with his shoulder, rammed the officer with his head, and then tried to pull away. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.) The officers then performed an “emergency take down.” (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff continued to resist the officers as he lay on the ground by trying to pull away, flailing his arms, biting Officer Peraino on his wrist, and scratching Officer Needleman on the back of his neck. (Id. ¶14.) During the fracas, a sergeant and backup officers arrived. (Id. ¶ 15.) Law enforcement officers used no further force once plaintiff was finally under control. (Id. ¶ 16.) At some point during the encounter, the officers discovered that plaintiff was armed with a loaded black nine-millimeter semi-automatic handgun. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12.) Plaintiff claimed ownership of the gun; however, the gun was not registered, and plaintiff was not carrying a Firearm Owners Identification (“FOID”) card. (Id. ¶ 13.)

         A dashboard camera mounted in the squad car recorded the traffic stop and plaintiff's ensuing struggle with the officers. (See DVD accompanying Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. time-stamped July 24, 2015.) The video footage supports defendants' representations. According to the video, just as Officer Needleman started to pat down plaintiff, the latter bucked the officer and began swinging his arms. (Id. at 6:49:06 p.m.) Seeing the other two wrestle, defendant Peraino immediately ran over to assist Needleman. (Id.) Other officers arrived on the scene not long after and joined the fray. (Id.) Plaintiff was down on the ground and in handcuffs by 6:50:52 p.m., whereupon most of the officers walked away.[1] (Id.) At 6:51:22 p.m., several officers escorted plaintiff, with his hands behind his back, out of camera range and presumably into the squad car. (Id.) Plaintiff did not appear to be injured, in pain, or even particularly disheveled. (Id.) The entire incident, from the traffic stop to plaintiff's detention, transpired in under four minutes.

         Officers booked plaintiff at an area precinct and immediately thereafter transported him to Rush University Medical Center because he claimed injuries stemming from the arrest. (Defs.' SOMF ¶ 17.) Plaintiff arrived at the hospital[2] at 7:15 p.m., less than a half hour after he was arrested. (Id.) Health care providers took four x-rays of plaintiff's left shoulder. (Id. ¶ 19.) The doctor who reviewed and interpreted the x-ray images found that plaintiff's left shoulder was not broken, fractured, or dislocated. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21.) Hospital employees also performed a CT scan of plaintiff's skull. (Id. ¶ 22.) A second doctor determined that there was no orbital fracture. (Id. ¶¶ 23-24.) The doctor noted that plaintiff's “orbit” (his eyes and the supporting structure) were within “normal limits.” (Id. ¶ 25.) The anterior cranial fossa was intact, and no intracranial abnormality was visible. (Id. ¶ 26.) A third doctor performed an eye exam and found nothing amiss. (Id. ¶¶ 27-29.)

         Plaintiff was initially charged with six counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, one count of unlawful use or possession of a weapon by a felon, and six counts of aggravated battery to a peace officer. (Id. ¶ 31.) He ultimately pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated battery to a peace officer, as well as one count of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. (Id. ¶ 32.) As part of the plea colloquy, plaintiff stipulated that he had exited the vehicle, made a quick movement, and pulled away when Officer Needleman attempted to perform a protective pat down. (Id. ¶ 33.) He further conceded that he had scratched Needleman's neck and bitten Peraino on his wrist. (Id. ¶ 34.) He additionally admitted that he had drawn a handgun from his waistband, that the weapon was a nine-millimeter semi-automatic pistol loaded with seven live rounds, and that he did not have a valid FOID card. (Id.) The trial judge sentenced plaintiff to fifteen years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. (Id. ¶ 36.)

         STANDARDS

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In considering such a motion, the court construes the evidence and all inferences that reasonably can be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Kvapil v. Chippewa Cty., 752 F.3d 708, 712 (7th Cir. 2014). “Summary judgment should be denied if the dispute is ‘genuine'‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Talanda v. KFC Nat'l Mgmt. Co., 140 F.3d 1090, 1095 (7th Cir. 1998) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)); see also Bunn v. Khoury Enters., Inc., 753 F.3d 676, 681-82 (7th Cir. 2014). The court will enter summary judgment against a party who does not “‘come forward with evidence that would reasonably permit the finder of fact to find in [its] favor on a material question[.]'” Modrowski v. Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166, 1167 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994)).

         Local Rule 56.1 supplements Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56; its purpose “is to make the summary judgment process less burdensome on district courts, by requiring the parties to nail down the relevant facts and the way they propose to support them.” Sojka v. Bovis Lend Lease, Inc., 686 F.3d 394, 398 (7th Cir. 2012). Rule 56.1(a)(3) requires the moving party to provide “a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue[.]” Cracco v. Vitran Express., Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 632 (7th Cir. 2009). Each paragraph of the statement must contain specific references to supporting materials in the record that are relied upon to support the facts set forth in that paragraph. See N.D. Ill. L.R. 56.1(a). “The opposing party is required to file ‘a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon.'” Cracco, 559 F.3d at 632 (quoting N.D.Ill. L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(B)). Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) requires the non-moving party to present a separate statement of additional facts that requires the denial of summary judgment. See Ciomber v. Coop. Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 635, 643-44 (7th Cir. 2008). “For litigants appearing in the Northern District of Illinois, the Rule 56.1 statement is a critical, and required, component of a litigant's response to a motion for summary judgment.” Sojka, 686 F.3d at 398. “When a responding party's statement fails to dispute the facts set forth in the moving party's statement in the manner dictated by the rule, those facts are deemed admitted for purposes of the motion.” Cracco, 559 F.3d at 632; see also Frey Corp. v. City of Peoria, 735 F.3d 505, 513 (7th Cir. 2013). District courts may rigorously enforce compliance with Rule 56.1. See, e.g., Stevo v. Frasor, 662 F.3d 880, 886-87 (7th Cir. 2011) (“Because of the high volume of summary judgment motions and the benefits of clear presentation of relevant evidence and law, we have repeatedly held that district judges are entitled to insist on strict compliance with local rules designed to promote the clarity of summary judgment filings.”).

         DISCUSSION

         Consistent with the Local Rules, defendants filed a statement of material facts along with their motion for summary judgment. Each substantive assertion of fact in defendants' Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) Statement is supported by evidentiary material in the record. Also in accordance with the Local Rules, defendants filed and served on plaintiff a Local Rule 56.2 Notice [50], which explains in detail the requirements of Local Rule 56.1.

         Plaintiff did not to respond to defendants' statement of facts, submit his own statement of additional facts, or provide a list of disputed facts that require a trial to resolve. Instead, plaintiff's five-paragraph response [54] to the motion for summary judgment merely asserts: “[T]he photos and medical reports show that [plaintiff']s rights were violated by the use of excessive force and force that was used to cause injury in excess of normal submission maneuvers, inflicting permanent bodily harm. Defendants struck plaintiff with closed fists, causing facial injuries.” (Pl.'s Reply at 1.) Plaintiff goes on to ask, rhetorically, “If there were no injuries, then why the seven to ten day follow-up [to his medical examination following his arrest]?” (Id.) Because plaintiff has failed to controvert defendants' facts with any admissible evidence, the Court deems those facts admitted for summary judgment purposes. See, e.g., Apex Digital, Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 735 F.3d 962, 965 (7th Cir. 2013); Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003). Accordingly, the above facts, all supported by the record, are undisputed for purposes of the summary judgment motion.

         As explained in detail below, plaintiff has failed to show that there is a genuine dispute as to any outcome-determinative facts, and defendants have established that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The video evidence shows that defendants pulled over the car in which plaintiff was a passenger, not that the car was parked, as claimed in the complaint. Additionally, plaintiff's guilty plea bars him from pursuing the excessive force claim he advances because he alleges facts inconsistent with his related convictions. Regardless, the video substantiates defendants' account of events and refutes the allegations in the complaint. Furthermore, the unrefuted evidence demonstrates that ...


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