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Socha v. City of Joliet

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

June 24, 2019

CASSANDRA SOCHA, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF JOLIET, EDWARD GRIZZLE, and JOHN DOES 1-20, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          HON. JORGE ALONSO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Cassandra Socha says this case is about revenge porn. She and her fiancé, Nicholas Crowley, both served as patrol officers for the City of Joliet. Following a somewhat bizarre series of events, a detective for the City of Joliet, defendant Edward Grizzle, obtained a search warrant for Socha's cell phone and discovered private images and videos of Socha and Crowley posing in the nude and engaging in sex acts. Socha alleges, among other things, that Detective Grizzle showed these private images to her fellow police officers, causing her extreme embarrassment, humiliation, anguish, and emotional suffering. Socha has filed a fifteen-count complaint against defendants City of Joliet (the “City”), Edward Grizzle, and certain John Does, alleging various constitutional and state law violations.

         Before the Court is the City's amended motion to dismiss Counts III, VI, IX and XV of plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and to strike plaintiff's request for punitive damages. For the reasons set forth below, the motion [30] is granted. Socha is given leave to file a first amended complaint consistent with this Order by July 19, 2019.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Cassandra Socha brings this suit against the City of Joliet and certain Joliet police officers. She alleges the following facts, which the Court accepts as true for purposes of this motion. During the relevant time period, Socha and her fiancé, Nicholas Crowley, worked as patrol officers for the City. Crowley was named as a defendant in a criminal case: People v. Nicholas M. Crowley, No. 17 CF 1422, Circuit Court of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois (the “Criminal Case”). Defendant Grizzle worked as a detective/sergeant for the City and was assigned to investigate all matters related to the Criminal Case.

         The prosecution in the Criminal Case issued a subpoena for Socha to testify in the prosecution's case-in-chief. On May 14, 2018, Socha testified pursuant the subpoena. She testified favorably for Crowley, which, according to Socha, angered the prosecution and Detective Grizzle. On May 16, 2018, Socha inadvertently sent a text message to another prosecution witness, Maria Gatlin. Gatlin showed the text message to the prosecution team, Detective Grizzle, and the City Department of Police.

         Detective Grizzle, who allegedly became upset with Socha after she testified, prepared a search warrant as well as an affidavit and presented it Judge Sarah Jones. On May 18, 2018, Judge Jones issued the search warrant, which authorized City police department personnel to search Socha's cell phone for “evidence of the offense of Harassment via electronic communications, Intimidation.” (Dkt. 1-1, pg. 2) (emphasis in original). Socha alleges that, in addition to searching her phone in furtherance of its investigation, Detective Grizzle and the City searched her cell phone for any and all private data or images. While Detective Grizzle and the City did not find evidence of any criminal offense on Socha's cell phone, they discovered “numerous private, still and/or video-graphic images that clearly depict plaintiff while nude and/or while engaged in sex acts with Crowley.” (Dkt 1, ¶ 27.) Grizzle and the City then showed these private images to other City employees and allowed those employees to re-record the private images. Socha says that senior leaders of the City's Department of Police have been aware of and allowed the employees to view, disseminate, and re-record the private images but have not disciplined any of the individuals involved. Socha says that she has suffered extreme embarrassment, humiliation, anguish, and emotional suffering as a result.

         Defendant City of Joliet moves to dismiss Counts III, VI, IX and XV of plaintiff's complaint and strike plaintiff's request for punitive damages.

         STANDARD

         “A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) tests whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted.” Richards v. Mitcheff, 696 F.3d 635, 637 (7th Cir. 2012). Under Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The short and plain statement under Rule 8(a)(2) must “give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (ellipsis omitted). Under federal notice-pleading standards, a plaintiff's “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. Stated differently, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “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.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S.at 556). “In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint under the plausibility standard, [courts must] accept the well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true, but [they] ‘need[ ] not accept as true legal conclusions, or threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.'” Alam v. Miller Brewing Co., 709 F.3d 662, 665-66 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009)). When ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court considers “the complaint itself, documents attached to the complaint, documents that are critical to the complaint and referred to in it, and information that is subject to proper judicial notice.” Cohen v. Am. Sec. Ins. Co., 735 F.3d 601, 604 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Geinosky v. City of Chicago, 675 F.3d 743, 745-46 n. 1 (7th Cir. 2012)).

         DISCUSSION

         Counts III and VI - Violation of Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights

         Socha claims that the City deprived her of her constitutional rights when Detective Grizzle and/or certain officers exceeded the scope of the search warrant and improperly disclosed and disseminated private images from her cell phone. In particular, Socha alleges,

Upon information and belief, senior leaders and/or supervisors of the City's Department of Police have been aware of and acquiesced and participated in the viewing, dissemination and re-recording of the Private Images on plaintiff's iPhone but have ...

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