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Lovelace v. Gibson

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

November 9, 2017

CURTIS LOVELACE, LOGAN LOVELACE, LINCOLN LOVELACE, and CHRISTINA LOVELACE, on behalf of her minor son, LARSON LOVELACE, Plaintiffs,
v.
ADAM GIBSON, ROBERT COPLEY, JOHN SUMMERS, DINA DREYER, ANJANETTE BISWELL, UNKNOWN QUINCY POLICE OFFICERS, GARY FARHA, JAMES KELLER, THE CITY OF QUINCY, and THE COUNTY OF ADAMS, Defendants.

          OPINION

          SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This cause is before the Court on the Partial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint (d/e 28) filed by Defendants City of Quincy, Adam Gibson, Robert Copley, John Summers, Dina Dreyer, and Anjanette Biswell. Because the challenged counts of the Complaint state a claim for relief, the Motion is DENIED.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         In May 2017, Plaintiffs Curtis Lovelace, Logan Lovelace, Lincoln Lovelace, and Christine Lovelace, on behalf of her minor son Larson Lovelace, filed a Complaint against numerous defendants arising out of events following the death of Curtis's first wife, Cory Lovelace. For purposes of clarity, the Court will refer to each member of the Lovelace family by his or her first name.

         The Complaint alleges that the defendants fabricated evidence and initiated criminal proceedings against Curtis for the alleged murder of Cory. The Complaint further alleges that the defendants illegally detained Curtis's sons, Logan, Lincoln, and Larson, and interrogated them without the presence of an attorney or a parent.

         Plaintiffs bring federal and state claims against police officers employed by the Quincy Police Department, including Detective Adam Gibson, Police Chief Robert Copley, Sergeant John Summers, Lieutenant Dina Dreyer, Detective Anjanette Biswell, and unknown Quincy police officers. Chief Copley is sued in his official and individual capacity while the other police officers are sued in his or her individual capacities. Plaintiffs also bring claims against Coroner James Keller in his individual and official capacities; Adams County State's Attorney Gary Farha in his individual capacity; the City of Quincy; and the County of Adams. In July 2017, Defendants City of Quincy, Detective Gibson, Chief Copley, Sergeant Summers, Lieutenant Dreyer, and Detective Biswell (the Quincy Defendants) filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (d/e 28) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint. Christensen v. Cnty. of Boone, 483 F.3d 454, 458 (7th Cir. 2007). To state a claim for relief, a plaintiff need only provide a short and plain statement of the claim showing he is entitled to relief and giving the defendant fair notice of the claims. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008).

         When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting all well-pleaded allegations as true and construing all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor. Id. However, the complaint must set forth facts that plausibly demonstrate a claim for relief. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007). A plausible claim is one that alleges facts from which the Court can reasonably infer that the defendants are liable for the misconduct alleged. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Merely reciting the elements of a cause of action or supporting claims with conclusory statements is insufficient to state a cause of action. Id.

         III. FACTS ALLEGED IN THE COMPLAINT

         The following facts come from Plaintiffs' Complaint. These facts are accepted as true at the motion to dismiss stage. Tamayo, 526 F.3d at 1081.

         Curtis's wife, Cory, died on February 14, 2006. The Adams County Coroner's Office conducted an inquest into the cause of Cory's death. The Coroner's Inquest did not conclude that Cory was the victim of a homicide.

         In 2013, Detective Gibson reopened the investigation of Cory's death. Plaintiffs allege, on information and belief, that the investigation was undertaken with the knowledge, approval, and consent of Attorney Farha, Chief Copley, Sergeant Summers, Lieutenant Dreyer, Coroner Keller, and unknown Quincy police officers in an effort to frame Curtis for Cory's murder.

         Detective Gibson's investigation revealed “no new information that would assist an office[r] acting in good faith in determining that [Cory] was murdered, much less that Curtis Lovelace was a murderer.” Compl. ¶ 36. During the course of the investigation, Detective Gibson discovered numerous pieces of exculpatory information and information that confirmed that Cory was not murdered. Nonetheless, Gibson persisted in the investigation. Ultimately, in an effort to bring charges against Curtis, the individual defendants-Attorney Farha, Coroner Keller, Chief Copley, Sergeant Summers, Lieutenant Dreyer, Detective Gibson, Detective Biswell, and unknown Quincy police officers-resorted to fabricating evidence, coercing witnesses, presenting false information to the grand jury to obtain an indictment, withholding and concealing exculpatory evidence, and other unlawful acts to frame Curtis for a crime he did not commit.

         On August 27, 2014, prosecutors presented charges against Curtis to a grand jury. Plaintiffs allege, on information and belief, that Detective Gibson was the only witness. Detective Gibson provided false, misleading, and incomplete information to the grand jury. Plaintiffs allege, on information and belief, that the grand jury returned an indictment.

         On August 27, 2014, Curtis was arrested and taken to the Quincy Police Department. Detective Gibson interrogated Curtis.

         Plaintiffs allege, on information and belief, that, on August 27, 2014, Curtis's sons, Logan, Lincoln, and Larson were involuntarily detained at their school by school staff and school resource officers at the direction of Chief Copley, Sergeant Summers, Lieutenant Dreyer, Detective Gibson, and Detective Biswell. The school resource officers were also employees of the Quincy Police Department. Thereafter, Logan, Lincoln, and Larsen were taken to the Quincy Police Department, where their detention continued. The children were not allowed to contact their parents, other family members, or attorneys. Their parents were never officially notified of their detention. Detective Gibson and Detective Biswell interrogated Logan, Lincoln, and Larsen.

         Curtis's first trial was held in January and February 2016. The trial concluded on February 5, 2016, with the jury deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict.

         Plaintiffs allege, on information and belief, that Attorney Farha, Coroner Keller, Chief Copley, Sergeant Summers, Lieutenant Dreyer, Detective Gibson, and Detective Biswell failed to produce exculpatory evidence to the State and to Curtis's defense. The exculpatory evidence included emails from Dr. Scott Denton, evidence that witness statements had been coerced and fabricated, and evidence that certain police reports prepared by Chief Copley, Sergeant Summers, Lieutenant Dreyer, Detective Gibson, and Detective Biswell were fabricated and incorrect. The first trial proceeded to conclusion without disclosure of this evidence, which would have changed the outcome of Curtis's first trial.

         After the conclusion of the first trial, Curtis retained new counsel and continued to investigate his own innocence. Curtis uncovered evidence that had previously been withheld. Some of the evidence was ultimately produced through the discovery process in response to discovery requests. Some of the evidence came from disclosures from prosecutors as soon as the prosecutors learned of the evidence. Some of the evidence came through Freedom of Information Act requests to the Quincy Police Department, the Coroner's Office, and other entities. The evidence included emails sent by Dr. Scott Denton, Detective Gibson, and Coroner Keller in which Dr. Denton revealed his opinion that there was not sufficient forensic evidence to sustain Curtis's conviction. Plaintiffs allege that prosecutors disclosed this evidence prior to the second trial and advised the Court that they did not previously have the information. The evidence also included documents and communications showing that Detective Gibson obtained reports and information from other forensic experts that were exculpatory to Curtis but had never been disclosed to Curtis. Plaintiff allege, on information and belief, that this evidence was not disclosed to prosecutors prior to the first trial.

         Curtis was able to use the previously withheld exculpatory evidence at his second trial. On March 10, 2017, the jury found Curtis ...


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