United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. Tharp, Jr., United States District Judge.
Nehemiah Mayo and Dakota Burt allege that officers working
for an investigative unit formed by former LaSalle County
State's Attorney Brian Towne violated their
constitutional rights and various state laws by stopping and
searching their car without probable cause and using that
unlawful stop as a basis to detain them pending trial. The
defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that the complaint is
barred by the statute of limitations and that, in any case,
Mayo and Burt failed to state a claim entitling them to
relief. Because the complaint establishes that the claims
asserted are untimely and because the plaintiffs have failed
to adequately establish their entitlement to relief, the
complaint is dismissed. And as repleading cannot solve these
problems, the dismissal is with prejudice.
December 2014, Nehemiah Mayo and Dakota Burt (two New
Hampshire residents) were driving on Interstate 80 in LaSalle
County, Illinois, when they were pulled over by officers
working for the State's Attorney Felony Enforcement Unit
(SAFE Unit). Am. Compl. ¶¶ 18, 20, 22. The SAFE
Unit was created in 2011 by the County's former
State's Attorney, Brian Towne, pursuant to 55 ILCS
5/3-9005(b). That statute authorizes “[t]he State's
Attorney of each county . . . to appoint . . . special
investigators to . . . conduct investigations which assist
the State's Attorney in the performance of his
duties.” Id. ¶¶ 2, 3. The Unit's
purported goal was to intervene in drug trafficking along
Interstate 80 within LaSalle County, but, according to the
plaintiffs, the Unit's only real assignment was to
“pull over cars with out-of-state plates, make an
arrest, and confiscate the vehicle and any money.”
Id. ¶¶ 4, 6.
time of the stop, the officers told Mayo (the driver) that
they pulled him over for failing to use his headlights in bad
weather. Id. ¶ 22. Under the Illinois vehicle
code, however, the weather conditions did not require the use
of headlights and, in any case, Mayo's vehicle was
equipped with automatic headlights that were always on.
Id. ¶¶ 23, 24. The officers knew
headlights were not necessary at the time of the stop but
nevertheless “stopped Mr. Mayo's vehicle because it
had New Hampshire license plates.” Id.
¶¶ 25, 27. The officers then asked Mayo to get out
of the car, at which point they handcuffed him and placed him
under arrest. Id. ¶ 29. Next, the officers had
a dog search the outside of the vehicle. When the dog did not
alert to anything, an officer threw a tennis ball at the car.
Id. ¶¶ 30, 31, 32. This got the dog's
attention, which the officers deemed an “alert, ”
and on that basis they proceeded to search the trunk of the
vehicle. Id. ¶¶ 32, 33. In the trunk, the
officers found “what they believed to be
marijuana” and arrested both Mayo and Burt for unlawful
possession of cannabis with intent to deliver. Id.
¶¶ 33, 36.
plaintiffs' pretrial detention hearing, defendant Towne
allegedly “misled” the judge with respect to the
existence of probable cause for the search and seizure, but
the complaint does not describe how he did so. Id.
¶ 59. At the defendants behest, the judge set bond at
$2, 000, 000.00. Unable to pay, Mayo and Burt were detained
in the LaSalle County jail for the next six months.
Id. ¶ 45.
2015, while Mayo and Burt were still in confinement, the
Illinois Appellate Court handed down its decision in
People v. Ringland, 2015 IL App (3d) 130523, which
held that the SAFE Unit exceeded the scope of the State's
Attorney's investigative power under 55 ILCS 5/2-9005(b)
and affirmed the trial court's suppression of evidence in
a felony drug case on the grounds that the SAFE officer who
seized the evidence lacked the authority to conduct the stop.
Following Ringland, Mayo and Burt were released from
custody on their own recognizance on June 11, 2015. Am.
Compl. ¶ 43. Two years later in June 2017, the Illinois
Supreme Court upheld the Ringland decision.
People v. Ringland, 2017 IL 119484 (Ill. 2017). The
charges against Mayo and Burt were formally dismissed on
September 14, 2017. Id. ¶¶ 13, 44.
months before Ringland was affirmed, a class action
was filed against Towne and LaSalle County on behalf of all
persons detained by the SAFE Unit; the suit was later
dismissed as untimely in March 2018. One month before the
dismissal of that suit, on February 22, 2018, Mayo and Burt
filed this complaint against Towne, LaSalle County, and
unknown SAFE officers, asserting various constitutional and
state violations. Id. ¶¶ 48-98. Towne and
LaSalle County separately moved to dismiss the complaint for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), “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
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). A claim is facially plausible when the
complaint's factual content “allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The Court
assumes the truth of all factual allegations and
“constru[es] all inferences in favor of the
plaintiff” when evaluating a motion to dismiss.
Zemeckis v. Global Credit & Collection Corp.,
679 F.3d 632, 634 (7th Cir. 2012). In contrast, when the
complaint alleges legal conclusions or “[t]hreadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, ” those
allegations do not benefit from an assumption of truth.
Iqbal at 678. It is also worth noting that Rule
12(b)(6) permits the dismissal of claims, not legal theories.
And it is well established that a complaint need not identify
the specific legal theory on which the plaintiff intends to
proceed. See Alioto v. Town of Lisbon, 651 F.3d 715,
721 (7th Cir. 2011) (“[A] complaint need not plead
legal theories.”). Instead, a complaint need only set
forth a “short and plaint statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)). A claim should be dismissed pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6), then, only if it could not succeed under any
plaintiffs' complaint sets forth 47 paragraphs of factual
allegations spanning three major “claims” or sets
of facts: the plaintiffs' initial seizure and search,
their subsequent arrest and pretrial detention, and their
eventual release on bond. It then sets forth various legal
theories about those events in eight overlapping counts. The
first four counts deal with alleged constitutional
violations: Counts I and II allege that the stop, search,
arrest, and detention violated the Fourth Amendment. Count
III alleges that the plaintiffs' pretrial detention and
subsequent release on bond violated their constitutional
right to travel freely. Count IV seeks to hold LaSalle County
responsible for these alleged constitutional violations under
a Monell theory of liability. As for state law
causes of action, Count V alleges that defendant Towne abused
the legal process by effectuating a baseless arrest and
pressuring the plaintiffs to agree to forfeiture in order to
fund the department and pay for personal expenses, and Count
VI alleges that Towne maliciously prosecuted the plaintiffs.
The remaining counts do not assert additional causes of
action but seek restitution for unjust enrichment (Count VII)
and indemnification on the part of LaSalle County for
violations committed by Towne and the unnamed SAFE Unit
officers (Count VIII).
plaintiffs acknowledge in their response brief that their
claim arising from the initial search and seizure accrued at
the time of the search and therefore expired before they
filed this suit. See Pls.' Resp. Mot. Dismiss 4,
ECF No. 24; see also Neita v. City of Chicago, 830
F.3d 494, 498 (7th Cir. 2016) (claim for unlawful vehicle
search accrued at the time of the search). Because they do
not argue that the statute of limitations for that claim
should be tolled, the Court dismisses it as time barred.
Accordingly, the Court turns first to the plaintiffs'
false arrest/pretrial detention claim.
Pretrial Detention: Fourth Amendment (Count II)
and Burt argue that they were arrested and detained pending
trial in violation of their Fourth Amendment right to remain
free of unreasonable governmental seizures because the SAFE
Unit officers lacked probable cause to arrest them and the
judge was misled as to probable cause at their pretrial
detention hearing. The defendants argue that the claim is
time barred and, in any case, fails to adequately allege
facts demonstrating that the plaintiffs are entitled to
relief. The Court agrees with the defendants in both