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Webb v. Sinnott

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

October 26, 2017

ROBERT IUFFUES WEBB II, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES SINNOTT, WILLIAM BUSSE, and CITY OF JOLIET, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MATTHEW F. KENNELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On June 26, 2014, two officers of the Joliet Police Department, James Sinnott and William Busse, arrested Robert Iuffues Webb II on several charges, including obstructing the officers in the course of duty, a crime under Illinois law. The charge was terminated through a nolle prosequi. Webb alleges the officers and the City of Joliet violated his rights in connection with the arrest and engaged in malicious prosecution.

         Webb has filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c). The defendants have moved for summary judgment. The Court denies Webb's motion and partially grants and partially denies the defendants' motion.

         Background

         Three events are central to Webb's claims: an initial interaction on the street between Webb and the officers, a subsequent encounter at Webb's house, and the events in the courthouse leading to the entry of a nolle prosequi on Webb's charge.

         I. Initial interaction

         The parties disagree about what prompted the initial encounter between Webb and the officers. Webb, who is African-American, claims that the officers stopped him because of his race and his history of activism on behalf of African-American residents. Sinnott and Busse argue that they approached Webb during their patrol of his neighborhood because of his unusual appearance.

         Webb concedes that the officers found him standing without shoes on a public sidewalk while wearing torn and dirty clothing. The defendants claim they encountered him staring into the sky. Webb says he was surveying the area after leading a neighborhood clean-up.

         The officers approached Webb in their squad car. After Webb refused to answer the officers' questions, one of the officers exited the car to ask him his name and learn if he was alright. Webb refused to answer. Webb claims that Sinnott, while still asking him for his name or other identification, placed his hands inside Webb's front and back pockets. Sinnott denies this occurred.

         Webb then asked the officers why they were conducting what he believed to be a Terry stop. The officers told Webb that they were performing a "wellness check, " not a Terry stop. Sinnott and Busse then approached a neighbor to try to learn more about Webb.

         II. Subsequent encounter at the house

         While the officers spoke with Webb's neighbors, Webb remained at the location of his original interaction with the officers. One neighbor provided the officers with Webb's address, which was near the location of the original interaction. The officers claim they wanted Webb's address to find someone who could confirm his identity and that he did not need aid. Once the officers learned Webb's address and began to approach his house, Webb started to run to the house.

         A sidewalk runs along the front of Webb's home, and a path leads from the sidewalk to the front door of the house. Webb intercepted the officers at the junction of the sidewalk and the path and told them that they could not access his property without trespassing. As Webb describes, "I . . . posted myself in front of defendants Sinnott and Busse . . . to block his movement onto the premises[.]" Compl. ¶ 27. Though the details differ, both parties agree that Sinnott attempted to approach Webb's front door, but he and Webb made contact on the path. They again made contact on or near the steps leading to Webb's door. Sinnott and Busse then arrested Webb for obstructing an officer.

         Webb says that after he was placed in the officers' squad car, Sinnott went into his house and walked around indoors for approximately ten minutes, coming out at one point to tell Busse "you ought to see this." Webb Dep. at 69. Sinnott says he only tried to find another party at the residence; he denies entering Webb's house. The officers eventually brought Webb to the police station for processing.

         III. Prosecution

         Although Webb was initially charged with several crimes, the only charge remaining at the time of his scheduled January 2015 trial was for obstructing an officer. Webb appeared at the courthouse and saw both officers outside the courtroom in the morning. The prosecutor, Charlene Recio, told the officers that Webb's case would not be heard in the morning. Webb claims that Recio asked them to return at 1:00 p.m. Sinnott disagrees with this account. He contends that the prosecutor told him she would call him when it was time for trial to begin. When the judge called Webb's case, however, neither officer was present. The judge then re-scheduled Webb's case for later in the afternoon. When the case was called a second time, neither officer was present. The prosecutor then entered a nolle prosequi, and Webb's case was dismissed. The officers contend they were attempting in good faith to return but did not have sufficient time to travel to the courthouse.

         In December 2015, Webb filed suit against Sinnott and Busse and the City of Joliet. His complaint includes thirteen claims. Counts 1 through 5 are claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in which Webb alleges violations of the Fourth Amendment for, respectively, (1) the initial stop and search, (2) excessive use of force, (3) false arrest, (4) false police reporting, and (5) false imprisonment. In Count 6, Webb alleges a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. Count 7 is a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a) in which Webb alleges the officers denied him the full and equal benefit of all laws due to his race. Count 8 is a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) in which Webb alleges a conspiracy to interfere with his civil rights. In Counts 9 through 11, Webb alleges violations of the Illinois Constitution. Count 12 is a state-law malicious prosecution claim. Count 13 is a section 1983 claim in which Webb alleges that the City of Joliet is liable for its failure to train officers and for a policy or practice of discrimination. The Court notes that although Webb appears to allege in the body of his complaint that Sinnott's entry into and search of his home was improper, see Compl. ¶ 33, there is no count in the complaint asserting a Fourth Amendment claim based on that entry and search.

         Webb has moved for judgment on the pleadings for Counts 6, 8, 9, and 12. The defendants have moved for summary judgment on all of Webb's claims except for Counts 2 and 4.

         Discussion

         Webb has moved for judgment on the pleadings. Rule 12(c) permits judgment on the pleadings if the moving party "demonstrate[s] that there are no material issues of fact to be resolved." N. Ind. Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc. v. City of South Bend, 163 F.3d 449, 452 (7th Cir. 1998). The Court may only consider the pleadings, including the complaint, answer, and attached exhibits. Id. "Although not typical, a plaintiff may bring a motion under this Rule." Beattie v. CenturyTel, Inc., 234 F.R.D. 160, 172 (E.D. Mich. 2006).

         Webb argues in his motion the Court should find that the defendants should be deemed to have admitted paragraphs 56-64, 66, and 73-75 of his complaint. He contends that the defendants should have conducted interviews and compiled materials rather than claim inadequate information in their answers to these paragraphs. As the defendants note, Webb raised this argument in an earlier motion to strike. See dkt. no. 14. The Court declines to deem these allegations as admitted for the same reasons it cited in overruling Webb's argument during the June 15, 2016 status hearing in this case.

         The defendants have moved for summary judgment. A party is entitled to summary judgment if the party "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). There is no genuine dispute if "no reasonable jury could find in favor of the non- moving party." Smith v. Lafayette Bank & Trust Co., 674 F.3d 655, 657 (7th Cir. 2012). To decide a ...


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