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Harris v. City of Chicago

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

February 13, 2018

Rodney Harris, Plaintiff,
City of Chicago, John Collins, Elbin Reyes, and Brian Sexton, Defendants.



         Rodney Harris alleges that two City of Chicago police officers and an Assistant State's Attorney engaged in unconstitutional investigation tactics, causing Harris to confess to a crime he did not commit. Defendants move for summary judgment. There are factual disputes that preclude a judgment on the merits as a matter of law, but Harris's suit was filed too late and Sexton is immune from liability. For these reasons, the motions for summary judgment are granted.

         I. Legal Standards

         Summary judgment is appropriate 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). A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must construe all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See King v. Ford Motor Co., 872 F.3d 833, 837 (7th Cir. 2017).

         II. Background

         In 2001, defendants John Collins and Elbin Reyes worked for the City of Chicago Police Department. [99] ¶¶ 2-3.[1] Collins worked as a youth officer and investigator and Reyes was a youth investigator and detective. Id. Defendant Brian Sexton was an Assistant State's Attorney with the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. Id. ¶ 5.

         Plaintiff Rodney Harris, who was 15 years old at the time, was staying with Tamika King, a family friend and girlfriend of his cousin, Roy Harris. Id. ¶ 12; [108] ¶¶ 1-2. Tamika and Roy's three children-two girls, 3 and 5 years old, and one boy-were also living in the house. [99] ¶ 12. On June 14, 2001, at 11:45 p.m., two Chicago patrol officers encountered Rodney Harris while responding to a nearby domestic disturbance. Id. ¶ 13. Harris told them that his cousin, Roy, had chased him from the house and threatened to kill him. Id. The officers then took Harris to the house, where Roy approached the squad car and told them he wanted Harris arrested because he had discovered him lying naked on top of Roy's three-year-old daughter, who was wearing only underwear. Id. ¶ 14. Harris was then taken to the station and placed under arrest. Id. ¶ 16. Harris gave the arresting officers the name and phone number for his adoptive mother, and later, after the officers were unable to find his mother, he gave them his grandmother's contact information. Id. ¶ 17.

         Reyes and Collins' interaction with Harris began a little after 8:00 a.m. the next morning. Id. ¶ 6. Collins was primarily responsible for the investigation, and Reyes assisted him. [108] ¶ 5. Reyes and Collins were together with Harris at all times except for brief instances when one of them would step out for a few minutes. Id.[2] Neither Reyes nor Collins knew if Harris had eaten, slept, or been Mirandized prior to their contact with him. Id. ¶ 10. Otherwise, the parties dispute much of what happened during this time. Reyes and Collins claim that they read Harris his Miranda rights, id. ¶ 9, but Harris says they did not. [108] ¶ 32; [101-2] at 44:11- 13, 49:20-22. Harris claims that Reyes yelled at him, promised that he could go home if he admitted that he abused the victims, and gave him details of what to say to go home-details that Harris spent several hours memorizing. [87-5] at 123:1-13, 134:5-16; [99] ¶¶ 18-19; [108] ¶¶ 7-8. Harris further alleges that after ten hours of maintaining his innocence, a Hispanic, plainclothes officer (presumably Reyes, though Harris was unsure of the officer's name), came into the room telling Harris, “that's not what happened” and “that's not what the doctors are saying, ” threw a notebook off the table and said, “that ain't what the f'ing doctors are saying, you better tell me.” [108] ¶ 7; [101-1] at 122:11-123:16. At that point, Harris started crying. [108] ¶ 7. The defendants dispute Harris's account, and the defendant officers deny having told Harris that things would be easier if he cooperated. Id. The defendant officers also maintain that Harris confessed to them, though he “sugar-coated” what he had done. [108] ¶¶ 9, 13.

         Collins and Reyes next spoke with Harris and his grandmother, before calling the State's Attorney's Felony Review Unit. [99] ¶ 23. Sexton was filling in for a team supervisor in the Felony Review Unit. [99] ¶ 21. Attorneys assigned to the Felony Review Unit “evaluate whatever evidence the police ha[ve] gathered and decide whether to file felony charges or not” and “assist the police in their investigations.”[3] [87-10] at 9:12-16; [101-2] at 94:19-24. Collins told Sexton that Harris had admitted to being caught by Roy sexually abusing his two daughters. [99] ¶ 27.[4] Before speaking with Harris, Sexton reviewed the General Offense Case Report, which was complete aside from Sexton's approval of the charges. Id. ¶ 28. The Case Report stated that a medical examination demonstrated that the victim's injuries were consistent with the allegations. Id. ¶ 59; [87-8]. When Sexton arrived at the police station around 3:00 p.m. on June 15, he, Collins, Reyes, Harris, and Harris's grandmother were all in the youth office, which was an open area with three desks. [99] ¶ 21, 26. Sexton sat next to Harris at one of the desks. Id. ¶ 29. The parties dispute whether Sexton made clear that he was not Harris's attorney, [99] ¶ 30, and whether Sexton read Harris his Miranda rights. Id. ¶¶ 30-31. Harris maintains that either Collins or Reyes had previously told him that “[his] lawyer, the lawyer for the people was on his way.” [108] ¶ 16. The officers deny saying this. Id. The parties also dispute whether Reyes was present when Sexton spoke with Harris. [99] ¶ 49. Harris says he was, id., Reyes admits he was at the station at the time, but he is unsure whether he was there for the interview, and Sexton says that Reyes was not there. [87-10] at 39:1-9; [101-4] at 22:11-22, 30:6-17. At one point, Sexton asked the defendant officers to leave so he could ensure they had not mistreated Harris. [108] ¶ 18. If he had determined Harris had been mistreated, Sexton would have stopped speaking with him and notified his supervisors. Id.

         Sometime thereafter, Collins returned. See id. ¶ 26. Harris says that he lied to Sexton and Collins, telling them that he had abused his cousins. [87-5] at 138:21- 139:20. Sexton asserts that after an initial conversation with Harris, lasting 20 minutes, Sexton asked Harris if he would be willing to give a handwritten statement, whereby Sexton would write the statement and Harris would have an opportunity to review it. [108] ¶ 19. Defendants say that Sexton read the statement aloud. Id. ¶ 26. Harris states that Sexton began writing out the statement without discussing it with him, never read the statement to him, and that he was just told to initial and sign the statement at specific locations. Id. ¶¶ 20, 24. Harris signed the statement, though the parties dispute whether he signed the line immediately below the pre-printed Miranda warning. [99] ¶¶ 40, 44.[5] Sexton added, and Harris initialed and signed, a paragraph stating that Harris's grandmother had advised him, that Harris acknowledged her statement, and that she would use an X for her signature because she had a pinched nerve in her hand. Id. ¶ 41. Harris maintains, however, that though he signed this statement, in reality his grandmother was illiterate and not his legal guardian. [108] ¶ 8; [101-6] at 18:17-24. The signed statement was the same format as a statement Harris had previously signed in connection with an unrelated offense.[6] [99] ¶ 44. After being at the station for approximately two hours, Sexton filled out his felony review folder, notified the detective he approved the charges, and left the station. Id. ¶ 47. At no point while he was with Sexton was Harris handcuffed, chained, or shackled. Id. ¶ 29.

         The parties dispute when Harris ate during the course of these events. Collins testified that Harris received pizza and a soda before they “did anything.” [108-4] at 67:2-15. And Sexton said Harris told him he had been given a slice of pizza and a sandwich prior to meeting with Sexton. [108-3] at 14:11-15:24. Harris, however, asserted that he went ten hours without eating and received food only after he signed the written statement. [101-5] at 86:11-13.

         Roy Harris's signature, dated June 15, 2001, appears on a criminal complaint against Harris, on behalf of his daughters, for aggravated criminal sexual assault. [87-14]. However, Collins does not recall having Roy sign the form, and Roy does not recall signing it or whether the complaint was blank at the time that he signed it. [108] ¶ 30, 33; [101-13] at 138:21-139:6. Collins's name was written as the “clerking” officer on the criminal complaints, though he did not sign one of the complaints. [108] ¶ 30. Collins first stated that he had prepared those criminal complaints, but then later testified he was unsure if that was accurate. Id. Reyes has no recollection of any conversation he may have had with Roy, nor does he recall hearing Roy recount any details of the incident. Id. ¶ 31. Reyes did not prepare the criminal complaints and does not know who did. Id. ¶ 32. Due to memory issues caused by strokes and dementia, Roy has no memory of these events. Id. ¶ 33; [99] ¶ 70-71.

         A University of Chicago Children's Hospital medical record dated June 15, 2001, at 6:00 a.m., (about two hours before Collins and Reyes interacted with Harris) states, “Father (Roy Harris) came home tonight and found his cousin (15yo Rodney Harris) on top of [redacted] 3yo [female] in the two girls' bedroom. Father states Rodney had no clothes on and [redacted] was wearing only her underpants.” [99] ¶ 56. While Roy does not recall communicating with University of Chicago hospital staff about Harris's interactions with his daughters, he stated he would have had no reason to lie. Id. ¶¶ 53-54. Another University of Chicago medical record states, “6/15/01 S.W. follow-up note. Area 1 youth, Jack Collins, investigating.” [87-17] at 2. Harris's arrest report states, “Dr. Ramaiah of Wyler Children's Hospital reported that victim had small pinpoint hemorrhage to the opening of the vagina, which she stated is consistent with the arrestee's charge.” [99] ¶ 60. The General Offense Case Report for Harris's offense, which was drafted and signed by one of the arresting officers, similarly states, “Dr. Ramaiah's examination [of the victim] revealed evidence of a small hemorrhage to the opening of the vagina and that the injury was consistent with the allegations.” Id. ¶¶ 58-59; [87-8] at 3. Dr. Ramaiah testified that this case would have been reported to the police due to the concern for sexual abuse or assault. [99] ¶ 63.

         Neither Reyes nor Collins spoke to, or attempted to speak to, the victims or their mother and do not know if any other member of the police department did either. [108] ¶ 11. Collins never spoke with any doctor that had treated the victims and does not know whether any other officers spoke with any doctors. Id. ΒΆ 12. The parties dispute if and when the officers reviewed and ...

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