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Brock v. City of Chicago

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

July 25, 2018

LESTER BROCK, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO and ANTHONY BRUNO, individually and as an agent of the City of Chicago, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GARY FEINERMAN JUDGE

         Lester Brock sued four Chicago police officers and the City of Chicago, alleging that his rights under federal and state law were violated when he was arrested and then prosecuted for marijuana and weapons possession. Doc. 1. After Brock twice amended his complaint, Docs. 16, 24, the court granted the City's motion to dismiss his Monell claim, Doc. 38. Brock then voluntarily dismissed his claims against three of the four officers. Docs. 63, 64; Doc. 75 at ¶ 2. The remaining defendants-Officer Anthony Bruno and the City-move for summary judgment. Doc. 65. The motion is granted.

         Background

         The following facts are stated as favorably to Brock as permitted by the record and Local Rule 56.1. See Woods v. City of Berwyn, 803 F.3d 865, 867 (7th Cir. 2015). In considering Defendants' motion, the court must assume the truth of those facts, but does not vouch for them. See Arroyo v. Volvo Grp. N. Am., LLC, 805 F.3d 278, 281 (7th Cir. 2015). Brock's Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) response, Doc. 75, offers no response to several paragraphs of Defendants' Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) statement, Doc. 66, so the factual assertions in those paragraphs are deemed admitted. See L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(C) (“All material facts set forth in the statement required of the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement of the opposing party.”).

         From 2007 to 2010, Brock lived at 8759 South Loomis Street in Chicago. Doc. 75 at ¶ 5; Doc. 79 at ¶ 3. In January 2010, Brock provided that address when applying for an Illinois state ID card; the voter registration card he used to apply for the state ID also listed 8759 South Loomis as his address. Doc. 75 at ¶¶ 6-9; Doc. 79 at ¶¶ 9-10. Brock did not change the address on his state ID card until 2016-after the events at issue in this case. Doc. 75 at ¶ 12.

         On December 28, 2015, a confidential informant told Officer Bruno that he purchased approximately 3.5 grams of marijuana from “Lester” that day and on several previous occasions. Id. at ¶¶ 13-14. The informant told Bruno that the December 28 buy took place at 8759 South Loomis and that “Lester” had gone into a bedroom and returned with a duffle bag containing a large quantity of the drug. Id. at ¶ 14. Using several different databases, Bruno attempted to identify the seller. Id. at ¶¶ 19-22.

         Although Brock no longer lived at 8759 South Loomis at the time, Doc. 79 at ¶ 1, Bruno's searches revealed several connections between Brock and that address. The address was listed as Brock's residence in a database maintained by the Illinois Secretary of State. Id. at ¶¶ 26-27. It was listed in a criminal history database as Brock's residence after an October 2012 arrest. Doc. 66-7 at 3; Doc. 75 at ¶ 25. And a separate database listed Brock as having been the victim of a crime at that address. Doc. 66-6 at 4; Doc. 75 at ¶ 22. After a search of the Chicago police department's CLEAR database for “8759 S. Loomis” yielded a photograph of Brock, Bruno showed it to the informant, who confirmed it was the same “Lester” from whom he bought marijuana. Doc. 75 at ¶¶ 29-30. Bruno drove the informant to the South Loomis address, where he confirmed that that was where he bought marijuana from “Lester.” Id. at ¶ 30.

         Bruno then prepared a Complaint for Search Warrant, identifying both Brock and the first-floor unit of the 8759 South Loomis address as targets. Id. at ¶¶ 34-35, 39. To support the application, Bruno averred that he “had a conversation” with the informant-referred to as “J. Doe”-who “stated that on 28 Dec 2015 [he] met with an individual known as Lester in the first floor unit of a brown brick two story, two unit building at 8759 S. Loomis.” Doc. 66-9 at 3. Bruno noted that the informant purchased 3.5 grams of marijuana from “Lester” during the encounter. Id. at 4. Bruno further averred that when he and the informant drove by the South Loomis address, the informant “positively identified the first floor of this building as the residence where [he] purchased the Cannabis from Lester.” Ibid. Bruno added that, “using the information given by J. Doe and the Chicago Police Department Database[, he] was able to find a mug shot of Lester Brock, ” and that the informant “identified the Lester Brock in the mug shot as the individual J. Doe purchased the cannabis from while inside the first floor unit of 8759 S. Loomis.” Ibid. The informant testified before a Circuit Court of Cook County judge, who issued the warrant. Doc. 75 at ¶¶ 36, 38.

         On December 29, 2015, a team of Chicago police officers executed the search warrant. Id. at ¶¶ 40-41. One officer observed an individual matching Brock's physical description fleeing the area. Id. at ¶ 42. The search of the first-floor unit yielded approximately half a kilogram of marijuana, two firearms (a Rohm .22 caliber revolver and a Glock .40 semiautomatic handgun), ammunition for both weapons, and cash. Id. at ¶ 46. Bruno issued an “investigative alert” for Brock, who was ultimately arrested on March 13, 2016. Id. at ¶¶ 51-52. At the time of the arrest, Brock had been convicted of at least one felony and did not have a Firearm Owners Identification (“FOID”) card. Id. at ¶¶ 58-59.

         On March 13, 2016, Brock was charged by criminal complaint with one count of possession of cannabis with intent to deliver under 720 ILCS 550/5(e) and two counts of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon under 720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a). Doc. 66-15 at 2-4; Doc. 75 at ¶ 54. A superseding indictment, filed on April 7, 2016, charged Brock with four counts of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon under 720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a) (one count for each gun, and two counts for the corresponding ammunition), two counts of possession of a firearm without a valid FOID card under 430 ILCS 65/2(a)(1), and two counts of possession of cannabis with intent to deliver under 720 ILCS 550/5(d). Doc. 66-15 at 5-14; Doc. 75 at ¶ 55. The FOID-related charges were dropped, and Brock later was found not guilty of the remaining charges after a jury trial. Doc. 75 at ¶ 56.

         Discussion

         Brock's complaint has three counts. Count I and II allege false arrest under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Illinois law, while Count III alleges malicious prosecution under Illinois law.

         I. Section 1983 False Arrest Claim Against Bruno

         “A claim of false arrest is an allegation that a plaintiff was arrested without probable cause, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Probable cause is an absolute defense to such a claim.” Hurt v. Wise, 880 F.3d 831, 841 (7th Cir. 2018) (citation omitted). “Probable cause exists at the time of an arrest if the facts and circumstances within the officer's knowledge are sufficient to warrant a prudent person, or one of reasonable caution, in believing that the suspect has committed, is committing, or is about to commit an offense.” Ewell v. Toney, 853 F.3d 911, 919 (7th Cir. 2017) (alterations and internal quotation marks omitted); see also D.Z. v. Buell, 796 F.3d 749, 755 (7th Cir. 2015) (same). Probable cause “is a fluid concept that relies on the common-sense judgment of the officers based on the totality of the circumstances.” Williams v. City of Chicago, 733 F.3d 749, 756 (7th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Probable cause is gauged from the vantage point of a reasonable officer facing the same situation.” Ewell, 853 F.3d at 919. ‚ÄúProbable cause does not require an actual showing of ...


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