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Williams v. Bachler

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

June 18, 2018

DAVID BACHLER, et al., Defendants.


          John Robert Blakey Judge

         Plaintiff Keylon Williams sued the City of Chicago and two Chicago police officers under 28 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges that Defendant Officers David Bachler and Arturo Villanueva conspired to violate, and did violate, his due process rights by fabricating evidence against him during an August 2011 arrest. Defendants moved for summary judgment on all claims. Plaintiff moved for sanctions against Defendants under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11, arguing that they frivolously sought summary judgment when genuine issues of material fact remain that require a trial. For the reasons explained below, this Court partially grants and partially denies Defendants' motion, and denies Plaintiff's motion.

         I. Background

         The facts come from Defendants' Local Rule 56.1 statement of facts [54] and Plaintiff's statement of additional facts [58].

         In August 2011, Bachler and Villanueva pulled over William Coleman's car at an intersection in a police-designated “gang conflict area” in Chicago. [54] ¶¶ 10- 12; [58] ¶ 9. Plaintiff sat in the front passenger seat while Coleman drove; both men are African-American. [54] ¶¶ 12-13; [58] ¶¶ 4, 6. Defendant Officers say they stopped the car because neither occupant had a seat belt on, but Plaintiff and Coleman swear they were wearing seatbelts. [58] ¶¶ 5-8.

         Villanueva approached the driver's side of the car as Bachler approached the passenger side. [54] ¶¶ 15-16. Bachler testified-both at Plaintiff's subsequent criminal trial and in a deposition for this case-that he saw several small bags of what appeared to be crack cocaine sitting in Plaintiff's open hand, that Plaintiff made no effort to hide the bags, and that Bachler simply reached into the car and took the bags from Plaintiff's hand. [58] ¶¶ 2, 14. Bachler says he then ordered Plaintiff to exit the car, arrested him, searched his pockets, and found a handgun. Id. ¶ 14; [54-4] at 21. Villanueva ordered Coleman to exit the car at some point during Bachler's interaction with Plaintiff. [54] ¶ 18.

         Plaintiff and Coleman tell a vastly different story. Coleman testified that Plaintiff did not have “any white rocks in a plastic baggie on him in his hand” when Defendant Officers approached the car, and Plaintiff says he did not have any drugs on his body. [58] ¶ 12. Plaintiff also testified that he did not have a gun on his person, which Coleman corroborated. Id. ¶ 15. Finally, Coleman said there was no gun in his car. [54-6] at 54.

         After finding the drugs and gun (or not), Bachler put Plaintiff in the patrol car. [58] ¶ 18. While Plaintiff sat in the car, the door remained partially open, and he heard someone say either “We got it”[1] or a similar phrase. Id. ¶ 19. Plaintiff's testimony, although somewhat muddled, indicates that Plaintiff did not see Defendant Officers recover a gun from the car, and reveals Plaintiff's suspicion that Defendant Officers planted a gun in the car or pretended to recover a gun during this time. See, e.g., [54-3] at 34, 39 (“I don't know where they found the gun or the drugs.”) (identifying the type of gun that Bachler purportedly recovered only because Plaintiff later saw the gun at his criminal trial). Defendants “admit that no gun was recovered from Mr. Coleman's vehicle on August 5, 2011.” [64] at 6.

         Plaintiff was charged with possession of a controlled substance and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon. [54] ¶ 27. At a preliminary hearing about three weeks after Plaintiff's arrest, a judge found probable cause for the charge of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, but found no probable cause to charge Plaintiff with possessing a controlled substance. Id. ¶¶ 32-35. After a criminal bench trial where Bachler and Plaintiff testified, a different judge found Plaintiff guilty of violating Illinois' Armed Habitual Criminal statute, 720 ILCS 5/24-1.7(a). Id. ¶¶ 39-42.

         On direct appeal, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed Plaintiff's conviction. [58] ¶ 1. Despite the trial court's verdict and despite not hearing any of the trial testimony live itself, the Appellate Court found Bachler's trial testimony about recovering drugs from Plaintiff's open hand “too implausible to believe, ” which cast “grave doubt over the reliability of his testimony regarding the subsequent search and recovery of the weapon.” Id. ¶¶ 2-3. Per the Appellate Court, that finding necessitated reversal because “no rational trier of fact could find Bachler's testimony plausible or reliable, thereby creating a reasonable doubt regarding Williams' guilt.” Id. ¶ 2.

         II. Legal Standard

         Courts should grant summary judgment when the moving party shows that no genuine dispute exists as to any material fact and the evidence weighs so heavily in the moving party's favor that the moving party “must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. A genuine dispute as to a material fact exists when, based upon the evidence, a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. To show a genuine dispute as to a material fact, the non-moving party must point to “particular materials in the record, ” and cannot rely upon the pleadings or speculation. Olendzki v. Rossi, 765 F.3d 742, 746 (7th Cir. 2014).

         At summary judgment, courts must evaluate evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and refrain from making credibility determinations or weighing evidence. Rasho v. Elyea, 856 F.3d 469, 477 (7th Cir. 2017) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255). The moving party bears the burden of establishing the lack of genuine disputes as to any material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         III. ...

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