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Gray v. City of Chicago

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

August 1, 2019

ADAM GRAY, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, Elizabeth K. Barton, Special Representative of the Estates of NICHOLAS C. CRESCENZO, JR., GEORGE JENKINS, MICHAEL A. POCHORDO, CRAIG CEGIELSKI, ERNEST W. ROKOSIK, and JOSEPH GRUSZKA, deceased, DANIEL McINERNEY, PERCY DAVIS, ROBERT FITZPATRICK, L. MARTINEZ, JAMES R. BROWN, COOK COUNTY, and AS-YET UNKNOWN CHICAGO POLICE DETECTIVES, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John Z. Lee United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Adam Gray has sued the City of Chicago (“the City”); Elizabeth K. Barton, Special Representative of the Estates of Nicholas C. Crescenzo, Jr., George Jenkins, Michael A. Pochordo, Craig Cegielski, Ernest W. Rokosik, and Joseph Gruszka; Daniel McInerny; Percy Davis; Robert Fitzpatrick; L. Martinez;[1] James R. Brown; Cook County, Illinois; and as-yet unknown Chicago police detectives, all pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In short, Gray alleges that Defendants violated his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments; failed to intervene to prevent the violation of his constitutional rights; and conspired to deprive him of his constitutional rights. Furthermore, he alleges that the violation of his rights was the result of the City's policies and practices. Finally, he asserts state-law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious prosecution, civil conspiracy, and indemnification, and seeks to hold the City liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior.

         McInerny, Davis, Fitzpatrick, and Barton (“the Individual City Defendants”) have moved to dismiss Gray's second amended complaint in its entirety.[2] For the reasons stated herein, the motion [is denied.

         Background[3]

         This case arises from Gray's 1996 criminal conviction for arson and murder. 2d. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2, ECF No. 82. Gray served over 24 years in prison before the conviction was vacated in 2017. Id. ¶¶ 1, 8.

         I. The Fire and Subsequent Investigation

         A fire broke out in a two-flat building at 4139 S. Albany Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, at approximately 3:00 a.m. on March 25, 1993. Id. ¶ 26. Although the first-floor occupants escaped, two second-floor residents perished in the fire. Id.

         Gray, then 14 years old, lived with his family one block south of 4139 S. Albany. Id. ¶ 28. On the evening of March 24, 1993, he was sleeping over at the home of his friend, Mel Gonzalez, and Gonzalez and his family were home throughout the night. Id. ¶ 27.

         Shortly after the fire was extinguished, Gruszka, a Chicago Fire Department fire marshal, began investigating the cause and point of origin. Id. ¶ 29. He conferred with Rokosik, a detective with the Chicago Police Department (“CPD”) Bomb and Arson Unit. Id. ¶¶ 19, 30. Rokosik also spoke to other detectives on the scene, including Jenkins, McInerny, and Crescenzo. Id. ¶ 31.

         In investigating the scene, Gruszka used a hydrocarbon detector and claimed to receive a “strong response” on the porch, indicating the presence of liquid accelerant. Id. ¶ 32. Gruszka knew, however, that an alert from a hydrocarbon detector does not conclusively establish that liquid accelerant was used, but must be confirmed by laboratory testing. Id. ¶¶ 33-34.

         Rokosik and Gruszka also told other law enforcement officers, fire department personnel, and prosecutors that an accelerant had caused the fire, “based on the presence of heavy charring, shiny blistering, and ‘alligatoring' on the wooden porch and stairs.” Id. ¶ 35. They knew, however, that there is “no correlation between heavy charring, shiny blistering, or alligatoring of wood and the use of an accelerant.” Id. ¶¶ 36-37. Furthermore, they knew that, according to fire-investigation standards, fire investigators should not claim the presence of accelerant based solely on the appearance of charring. Id. ¶ 38.

         Rokosik took two samples for testing; both were negative for gasoline, and one was negative for hydrocarbon residue. Id. ¶¶ 39-41. The other contained petroleum distillates “often associated with wooden structures due to their use as preservatives for wood.” Id. ¶ 42. According to Plaintiff, there was simply no evidence to support the conclusion that an accelerant was used to start the fire. Id. ¶¶ 43-44. Although Rokosik and Gruszka knew that determining the cause of a fire requires identifying the ignition source, first fuel ignited, and ignition sequence, they did not identify or collect evidence of any of these elements. Id. ¶ 45. Additionally, although they knew that a fire investigator must eliminate “all reasonably possible natural and accidental causes” before declaring a fire to be arson, they declared the fire at 4139 S. Albany an arson before eliminating such possible causes. Id. ¶¶ 46-49.

         After examining the scene, Rokosik and CPD detective Crescenzo spoke to Kasey Paris, a 14-year-old girl whose family lived in the first-floor apartment at 4139 S. Albany. Id. ¶ 50. Paris, who was angry at Gray, told the detectives that she and Gray had not been getting along. Id. ¶ 51.

         Rokosik and Crescenzo also spoke to a witness, Karrie Kelly, who told the officers that she had seen someone carrying something and wearing a black knit hat, black shirt, black pants, and black shoes in the alley behind 4139 S. Albany. Id. ¶ 52. Although Rokosik and Crescenzo “had every reason to know” that Kelly--who was “on muscle relaxants, exhausted, and feeling ill”-- was not credible, Rokosik and CPD detective McInerny “went looking” for Gray. Id. ¶¶ 53-55.

         II. Arrest and Interrogation

         When Rokosik and McInerny arrived at Gray's house, his mother told them that Gray had slept over at Gonzalez's house, but was then at his brother's house. Id. ¶ 56. Although Rokosik and McInerny did not tell Gray's mother that they intended to arrest him, they proceeded to Gray's brother's home and arrested Gray. Id. ¶¶ 57-58. They did not tell Gray that he was under arrest, and they did not read him Miranda warnings. Id. ¶¶ 59-61.

         Gray was taken to the Area One police station at 51st Street and Wentworth Avenue, where he arrived at approximately 5:00 or 5:15 a.m. on March 25, 1993. Id. ¶¶ 62-63. Rokosik and McInerny left Gray alone in a room at the station. Id. ¶ 64. After some time, Crescenzo entered the room and searched Gray's school bag. Id. ¶ 65. At various points, other Police Officer Defendants[4] entered the room and searched Gray's bag, smelled his shoes, and told him to empty his pockets. Id. ¶ 66.

         Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Brown was also at the police station, “actively working on [the] investigation” with the Police Officer Defendants. Id. ¶ 67. Eventually, Brown took Gray into another room with a two-way mirror. Id. ¶ 68. He “sat very close” to Gray and told him he was there to ask him questions. Id. The Police Officer Defendants were also present for this interview, and they joined Brown in questioning Gray. Id. ¶¶ 69-70.

         Brown and the Police Officer Defendants initially asked benign questions, and Gray did not realize he was a suspect. Id. ¶¶ 70-71. At some point, however, Brown and the Police Officer Defendants began “harshly interrogat[ing]” Gray, “isolating him, denying him the right to counsel, denying him access to family members who had asked to talk to him, and fe[eding] him information about the ...


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