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Butts v. Smiles

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

March 27, 2018

JOHNNY D. BUTTS, Plaintiff,
JOSEPH SMILES III, Individually, Defendant.


          James E. Shadid Chief United States District Judge

         Now before the Court is Defendant Smiles' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 39). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion (Doc. 39) is DENIED.


         On December 4, 2015, Johnny Butts broke a glass windowpane in the course of burgling his friend's residence and stealing a firearm. In doing so, Butts sustained large lacerations to both forearms. He sought treatment at Methodist Hospital in Peoria. While he was being treated at the hospital, Butts told nursing staff conflicting stories as to how he sustained the injuries, leading the staff to notify the Peoria Police Department of their concerns. Officer Joseph Smiles arrived to investigate while Butts was being treated, and took photographs of Butts' wounds before they were sutured. After Butts' initial story did not check out, Officer Smiles returned to the hospital and spoke with the nursing staff about Butts' conflicting stories. He was then dispatched to a residence at 400 W. Armstrong to investigate a report of residential burglary. At the residence Smiles observed a broken window and blood, and the complainant informed Smiles that Butts had been living with him occasionally and a gun was missing from the residence.

         While Smiles was investigating, Butts received morphine and over 80 sutures. When his treatment was completed, hospital staff discharged him into the custody of Smiles, who placed him under arrest for filing a false police report and residential burglary. Butts said as he was exiting his hospital room, Smiles grabbed him, pushed him up against a wall, and handcuffed Butts with his arms behind his back. Officer Smiles then walked Butts to a police vehicle so that he could be transported to the Peoria Police Department for booking. According to Butts, Smiles held onto the handcuffs while he escorted Butts out of the Hospital and pushed his arms upward despite Butts' protestations of pain. Smiles provided an affidavit in support of his motion for summary judgment, but his affidavit does not address the details of the arrest. Doc. 39-3.

         Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where the movant shows, through “materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations … admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” 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. In resolving a motion for summary judgment, “[t]he court has one task and one task only: to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial.” Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994).

         In order to withstand a motion for summary judgment, the nonmovant must “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). When presented with a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the record “in the light most favorable to the nonmovant and avoid[] the temptation to decide which party's version of the facts is more likely true.” Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003). If the evidence, however, is “merely colorable, or is not significantly probative or merely raises ‘some metaphysical doubt as the material facts, ' summary judgment may be granted.” Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249-50. Thus, in order to overcome the undisputed facts set forth in a defendant's motion for summary judgment, a plaintiff cannot rest on the allegations in his complaint but must point to affidavits, depositions or other evidence of an admissible sort that a genuine dispute of material fact exists between the parties. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2); Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 309 (1996).


         As an initial matter, Defendant's reply brief points out that Plaintiff's response to the motion for summary judgment failed to comply with the federal and local rules regarding responses to motions for summary judgment because Butts did not respond to each numbered factual statement in Defendant's motion. Doc. 48. Indeed, Butts' response fails to state whether any of Defendant's numbered factual statements are in dispute and whether those statements are material. See Local Rule 7.1 (D)(2)(b). Therefore, the statements of fact in Defendant's motion are deemed admitted. Id. at 7.1 (D)(2)(b)(6). However, as discussed below, even if all of Defendant's statements of fact are admitted, a dispute of fact remains as to whether Officer Smiles used excessive force in arresting Butts. Accordingly, summary judgment on the present record is inappropriate.

         (1) Whether Officer Smiles Used Excessive Force

         Claims that law enforcement officials used excessive force in the course of making an arrest “are properly analyzed under the Fourth Amendment's ‘objective reasonableness' standard[.]” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 388 (1989). The reasonableness of an officer's actions is evaluated under the totality of the circumstances. Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 778 (7th Cir. 2003). Accordingly, “[t] he nature and extent of the force that may be used depends upon the circumstances surrounding an arrest, including ‘the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.' ” Howell v. Smith, 853 F.3d 892, 898 (7th Cir. 2017) (quoting Stainback v. Dixon, 569 F.3d 767, 772 (7th Cir. 2009)). In evaluating these circumstances, courts must view the officer's conduct through “the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” Id. (quoting Graham, 490 U.S. at 396-97).

         At the time Officer Smiles arrested Butts, he had probable cause to believe that he committed the offense of residential burglary, and may have also absconded with a firearm. Thus, the Court agrees with Defendant that the severity of Butts' crime was one factor weighing in favor of the use of force. See People v. Bales, 108 Ill.2d 182, 196, 483 N.E.2d 517, 523 (1985) (finding residential burglary to be as serious of an offense as aggravated kidnapping or indecent liberties with a child).

         Butts certainly committed a serious crime, but that consideration must be viewed in the together with the remaining circumstances surrounding his arrest. Butts' version of the facts are fairly ...

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