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Watkins v. Village of Maywood

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

April 20, 2018



          M. David Weisman United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff sues defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for conspiring to, violating, and failing to intervene to prevent the violation of his Fourth Amendment rights and for state-law conspiracy, malicious prosecution, respondeat superior, and indemnification. Defendants have filed a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6) to dismiss plaintiffs complaint. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the motion.


         On May 8, 2016, plaintiffs daughter called the May wood Police Department because her brother, Xavier, was brandishing a weapon. (Compl. ¶ 10.) Defendant Pope Patterson (hereinafter "Pope") and defendant Patterson (hereinafter "Patterson") responded to the call and went to the second floor of plaintiffs home, where Xavier was located. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12.) When Patterson reached the top of the stairs, he grabbed Xavier, and a struggle ensued. (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.) Plaintiff and his wife, who were on the second floor landing, saw the struggle and told Xavier to stop arguing with the police. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.) Defendant Pope then told plaintiff and his wife to go downstairs, which they did. (Id. ¶¶ 18-19.)

         Once plaintiff and his wife were downstairs, defendant Smith arrived and went to the second floor. (Id. ¶ 20.) Shortly thereafter, plaintiff and his wife heard loud noises from upstairs and Xavier shouting '"they choking me'" and '"I can't breathe.'" (Id. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff and his wife ran back to the top of the stairs where they could see Xavier lying on the floor of his bedroom with defendant Pope's knee on his chest, defendant Patterson's hands on his throat, and defendant Smith standing over them. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23.) When plaintiff protested, defendant Smith obstructed plaintiffs view of the bedroom. (Id. ¶ 26.)

         A few moments later, defendant Patterson dragged Xavier from the bedroom in a headlock, and with defendants Pope and Smith, took Xavier downstairs. (Id. ¶ 30.) As he left the house, defendant Smith "placed his arm against the front door preventing Plaintiff and his wife from leaving their home and recording the event." (Id. ¶ 32.) Defendant Patterson told plaintiff he could retrieve Xavier from the Maywood Police Department, after Xavier had been processed. (Id. ¶ 36.)

         Thereafter, plaintiff went to the Maywood Police Department to get his son. (Id. ¶ 38.) He saw defendant Pope there and told her he wanted to file a complaint against defendants. (Id. ¶ 41.) Defendant Pope refused to give plaintiff a complaint form, and subsequently told defendants Smith and Daniels to arrest plaintiff, which Pope later told plaintiff she did "simply because she could." (Id. ¶¶ 42-49.)

         Later that day, defendant Smith drafted a police report stating that plaintiff was arrested for obstructing an officer in violation of 515 Ill.Comp.Stat. 5/1-200. (Id. ¶¶ 48, 52.) The report states that "Plaintiff attempted to prevent Officer A. Pope from assisting in the arrest of Xavier by standing in front of her." (Id. ¶ 53.)[1] Defendant Pope signed a criminal complaint alleging that plaintiff "violated 515 ILCS 5/1-200 by failing to obey a lawful order of a peace officer through refusing to allow the arrest of his son." (Id. ¶ 54.) Plaintiff was in custody for seven hours before he was released on bond. (Id. ¶51.)

         On June 1, 2016, a court found there was probable cause for plaintiffs arrest. (Id. ¶ 55.) At a bench trial on December 14, 2016, defendant Pope falsely testified that plaintiff prevented her from going upstairs to assist defendant Patterson. (Id. ¶ 56.) Plaintiff was acquitted of the charge (id. ¶ 58), and this suit followed.


         On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court '"constru[es] the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting as true all well-pleaded facts alleged, and drawing all possible inferences in [plaintiffs] favor.'" Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008)). "[A] complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations" but must contain "enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         In Count I, plaintiff asserts a § 1983 false arrest claim, i.e., that he was arrested without probable cause. See Neita v. City of Chi., 830 F.3d 494, 497 (7th Cir. 2016) ("To prevail on a false-arrest claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must show that there was no probable cause for his arrest."); Stokes v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chi., 599 F.3d 617, 622 (7th Cir. 2010) (stating that the existence of "[p]robable cause is an absolute bar to a claim of false arrest asserted under the Fourth Amendment and section 1983"). "Probable cause exists if, at the time of the arrest, the facts and circumstances within the defendant's knowledge are sufficient" to make a prudent person believe that the suspect has committed an offense. Stokes, 599 F.3d at 622 (quotation omitted). Defendants contend that plaintiff was charged with obstructing a police officer and that the complaint essentially admits the facts supporting the charge. (See Defs.' Mot. Dismiss, ECF 14 at 4.)

         Defendants are mistaken. The statute plaintiff says he was charged with violating, 515 Ill. Comp Stat. 5/1-200 (see Compl. ¶ 54; Defs.' Mot. Dismiss, ECF 14 at 4), does not prohibit obstruction of the duties of police officers. Rather, the statute makes it "unlawful for any person to resist or obstruct any officer or employee of the Department [of Natural Resources] in the discharge of his or her duties under th[e] [Fish and Aquatic Life] Code." 515 Ill.Comp.Stat. 5/1-200; see 515 Ill.Comp.Stat. 5/1-1; 515 Ill.Comp.Stat. 5/1-35.[2] If that is true, and for the purposes of this motion the Court must assume that it is, then there is nothing in the complaint that suggests there was probable cause to arrest plaintiff for this offense. For example, nowhere in the complaint is there a suggestion that Pope was employed by the Department of Natural Resources at the time of the alleged incident. Accordingly, the Court denies defendants' motion to dismiss Count I.[3]

         In Count III, plaintiff asserts a Fourth Amendment claim for malicious prosecution. The Seventh Circuit has yet to decide what elements are required to state such a claim following the Supreme Court's recognition of it in Manuel v. City of Joliet, III,137 S.Ct. 911, 919 (2017). See Id. ("If the complaint is that a form of legal process resulted in pretrial detention unsupported by probable cause, then the right allegedly infringed lies in the Fourth Amendment."). However, other circuits and lower courts in this district have held that such a claim requires allegations that defendants initiated a criminal proceeding against the plaintiff, without probable cause, which caused plaintiff to suffer a deprivation of liberty, and the proceeding ended in plaintiffs ...

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