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Willoughby v. Village of Fox Lake

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

December 21, 2017




         For the reasons stated below, the Village of Fox Lake's motion to dismiss Count II of the Second Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is denied, and George Filenko's motion to dismiss Count I of the Second Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is granted.


         The following facts are drawn from plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint and taken as true for purposes of these motions. On September 1, 2015, Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, a police lieutenant for the Village of Fox Lake, Illinois (the “Village”), committed suicide in a secluded area in Fox Lake by shooting himself twice. (2d Am. Compl. ¶ 14.) Shortly beforehand, in an effort to stage his suicide to look like a homicide, Gliniewicz had sent a radio transmission to the Fox Lake police department in which he falsely stated that he was in pursuit of three people whom he described only as two “male whites” and one “male black.” (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.) It was later revealed that Gliniewicz's actions were likely motivated by a probe of the Fox Lake police department by its village manager, who was then on the verge of discovering that Gliniewicz had embezzled funds from the Explorer program, a Village program he had led for youths in the community who had an interest in law enforcement. (Id. ¶ 15.)

         Gliniewicz's death received immediate national media coverage, and an expansive investigation began immediately, with participation by officers from numerous municipal police departments in Lake County (pursuant to the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force (the “Task Force, ” at the Village's request for assistance), as well as the Lake County Sheriff's Department, the Illinois State Police, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Id. ¶ 16.) Officers of members of the Task Force who participated in the investigation acted under the direction of defendant Commander George Filenko. (Id. ¶ 22.)

         Unbeknown to the public, there was good reason at the outset to suspect that Gliniewicz's death was a suicide, and even the initial responders from the Fox Lake police department noted irregularities that were inconsistent with a murder. (Id. ¶ 19.) Despite this knowledge, the Fox Lake police department continued to perpetuate the narrative that Gliniewicz's death was a homicide, and continued to participate extensively in, and detain citizens pursuant to, an investigation that they knew or had reason to know was “pure fiction.” (Id. ¶ 20.) The agencies and officers assisting the Fox Lake police department also perpetuated the false narrative and detained citizens without probable cause. (Id. ¶ 21.) In connection with the investigation, as many as 100 people were “stopped, questioned, arrested, or otherwise detained and deprived of their liberty as purported suspects.” (Id. ¶ 18.)

         Plaintiffs, Raymond Willoughby, Damien Ward, and Dan Cooper, were among these people. Willoughby and Ward were arrested on the day of Gliniewicz's suicide. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) Willoughby was traveling along the woods near his house when he was arrested by unidentified police officers. (Id. ¶ 41.) He was handcuffed, held at the scene for one to two hours, and then transported to the Round Lake police department, where he was held for several more hours and then released. (Id. ¶¶ 43-45.) Ward was leaving his home that morning when he was confronted by law enforcement personnel, handcuffed, and taken into custody. (Id. ¶¶ 46, 48.) Unidentified officers tried to enter Ward's home without a search warrant. (Id. ¶ 50.) Ward was ordered to submit to a gunshot-residue test and then released after about two hours. (Id. ¶¶ 51-52.) The next day, Cooper was handcuffed and taken by several unidentified defendants to the Fox Lake police station. (Id. ¶¶ 53-54.) He was released after about ten hours. (Id. ¶ 57.) None of the plaintiffs had committed any crimes or broken any laws, and there was no probable cause for their seizures. (Id. ¶¶ 42, 47, 56, 58.)

         The investigation of Gliniewicz's death and plaintiffs' arrests were the “byproduct of rampant official misconduct rising to the level of a de facto policy of condoning such misconduct amongst Fox Lake police officers.” (Id. ¶ 23.) Gliniewicz, during his thirty years with the Fox Lake police department, was the subject of numerous departmental and citizen complaints for misconduct that included passing out from intoxication while behind the wheel of his car and, after being helped home by a police officer, reporting his vehicle as stolen the next day; public intoxication; threatening to shoot a dispatcher; sexual harassment; and repeated tardiness and/or absence, including absence “attributed to alcohol.” (Id. ¶¶ 24, 27.) Despite these incidents, Gliniewicz rose through the ranks of the department, eventually attaining the rank of Lieutenant. (Id. ¶ 25.) The lack of attention to official misconduct was so pervasive that on February 1, 2009, one or more members of the department wrote anonymously to the Village mayor about Gliniewicz's conduct and police chief Michael Behan's lack of oversight. (Id. ¶ 26.) The authors of the letter cited various incidents of Gliniewicz's misconduct and stated that they had complained to Behan about Gliniewicz's actions, but were “‘disappointed time and time again with Chief Behan's lack of action.'” (Id. ¶ 27.) The authors of the letter also alleged that “‘[o]n many arrests, the person being arrested has cautioned the officer about continuing the arrest because they were personal friends with ‘Joey' [Lt. Gliniewicz] or ‘Mikey' [Chief Behan].'” (Id.) In spite of these allegations made directly to the mayor, Gliniewicz and Behan remained in their supervisory positions for six years thereafter. (Id. ¶ 28.)

         In 2014, Anne Marrin began serving as the Village Administrator. (Id. ¶ 29.) Among her tasks was auditing Village divisions, including the police department's Explorer program that Gliniewicz operated. (Id.) In August 2015, Marrin requested the Explorer program's books and records from Gliniewicz. (Id. ¶ 35.) Gliniewicz evidently resented Marrin because he feared that her audit would reveal that he had been embezzling funds from the Explorer program for personal use. (Id. ¶¶ 31.) He considered such outrageous retaliatory measures as planting cocaine on Marrin and advocating for arranging with a gang member for a murder for hire. (Id. ¶ 30.) Members of the Fox Lake police department, including Chief Behan, were aware of Gliniewicz's embezzlement and did nothing to intervene. (Id. ¶ 32.) On the morning of August 31, 2015, less than twenty-four hours before Gliniewicz committed suicide, Gliniewicz sent Behan a text message regarding the embezzlement, stating that Marrin “has now demanded a complete inventory of exploder [sic] central and financial report . . . FML.” (Id. ¶¶ 36-37.) “FML” is an abbreviation that means “fuck my life.” (Id. ¶ 36 n.2.)

         Other upheaval in the Fox Lake police department also occurred during the same time frame. Behan had been placed on administrative leave in August 2015 in relation to his alleged failure to adequately investigate an excessive-force incident. (Id. ¶ 33.) Shortly thereafter, he announced his retirement, and he formally retired on the day before Gliniewicz's death. (Id. ¶¶ 33-34.) Despite Behan's retirement, he continued to exercise involvement and authority over the Fox Lake police department, including being physically present at the scene of the suicide and at the department that day. (Id. ¶ 34.) But Behan and Fox Lake personnel “either did not share Gliniewicz's history of misconduct and the department's history of ignoring his misconduct, diminished the significance of [the] same, or encouraged that it not be considered in the investigation into his death.” (Id. ¶ 38.) Furthermore, Behan did not share with investigators the text message that Gliniewicz had sent him the previous day, which would have suggested the possibility of suicide. (Id.)

         Plaintiffs sue the Village, Filenko, and John Doe municipal police officers, deputy sheriffs, state police officers, and FBI agents.[1] The Second Amended Complaint contains two counts. Count I is a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unlawful search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Count II is a claim against the Village based on Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). The Village moves to dismiss the Monell claim. Filenko moves to dismiss Count I.


         “A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) tests whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted.” Richards v. Mitcheff, 696 F.3d 635, 637 (7th Cir. 2012). The complaint must “give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (ellipsis omitted). A plaintiff's “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. Stated differently, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial ...

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