United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Z. LEE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Stephen Milhouse has sued the Northeast Illinois Regional
Commuter Railroad Corporation (“Metra”) and Metra
Police Officers Isaac Ash and Lyndell Luster pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Milhouse alleges that they violated his
right to be free from unreasonable seizure under the Fourth
Amendment and his right to equal protection under the
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States
Constitution. Additionally, Millhouse claims malicious
prosecution and indemnification under Illinois law.
Defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the following
reasons, the motion is granted as to Milhouse’s equal
protection claim (Count IV) and denied in all other respects.
waiting for a train, Milhouse, who is African-American, was
seated at a table in a food court at Ogilvie Transportation
Center on Sunday, April 24, 2016, at approximately 7:00 a.m.
Defs.’ LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 13, ECF No. 129;
Pl.’s Ex. 1, Pl.’s Dep. (“Pl.’s
Dep.”) at 27, ECF No. 135-1. Milhouse plugged his
laptop and cell phone into an electrical outlet located near
the table. Defs.’ LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 14;
Pl.’s Dep. at 50.
point, two building security guards, Ward and Cook, who are
both African-American, approached Milhouse and told him to
unplug his devices from the outlet. Defs.’ LR
56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 15; Pl.’s Ex. 3, Cook Dep. at
81, ECF No. 135-3. The guards informed Milhouse of a building
policy that prohibited the use of electrical outlets by
anyone other than maintenance personnel. Defs.’ LR
56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 16. Milhouse refused to unplug his
devices, stating that there were no signs indicating the
building’s policy. Id. ¶ 17. According to
Milhouse, he also informed Ward that other people in the food
court had their devices plugged into outlets. Pl.’s LR
56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 17, ECF No. 134.
parties offer drastically different accounts as to what
transpired next. According to Milhouse, neither guard ever
asked him to leave the building. See Cook Dep. at
82–83; Pl.’s Dep. at 96. He remained seated at
the table and never raised his voice, elevated his arms, or
gestured with his hands. See Pl.’s Dep. at 85.
Rather, it was Ward who raised his voice, threatening to
unplug Milhouse’s devices himself. Id. at
92–93; Defs.’ LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 20;
Pl.’s Ex. 2, Ward Dep. at 31–32, ECF No. 135-3.
After Milhouse responded that he didn’t “think it
would be a good idea, ” the guards hastily left the
area. See Pl.’s Dep. at 83–84.
five to ten minutes later, two Metra police officers, Ash and
Luster, who also are African-American, appeared in the food
court. See Ward Dep. at 33. According to Ward and
Cook, neither had spoken to the officers to request their
assistance. See Cook Dep. at 21, 31, 34, 37, 52;
Ward Dep. at 55–56, 66. Nor did they communicate with
Ash and Luster after the officers encountered Milhouse.
See Cook Dep. at 12, 40, 63; Ward Dep. at 66.
Luster approached Milhouse, who was speaking to a Caucasian
woman, see Defs.’ Ex. I, Luster Dep. at 34,
ECF No. 129-9, and informed him that building policies
prohibited the use of electrical outlets and directed him to
unplug his laptop and cell phone. See Defs.’
LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 25; Pl.’s Dep. at
99–100. According to Milhouse, he responded to the
officer’s directive in a calm and collected manner by
stating that he was waiting for his train. Pl.’s Dep.
at 109. As Milhouse was showing the officers his train
ticket, Ash handcuffed him and threatened to tase him if he
did not comply with the handcuffing. Id. at
99–100, 108–11. According to Milhouse, these
events took place only seconds after the officer approached
him, and he was never given an opportunity to gather his
belongings. Id.; Pl.’s Dep. at 102.
and Ash’s account of the events differs substantially
from Milhouse’s. As they recall, Ward approached Luster
and Ash and informed them that Milhouse was causing a
commotion by refusing to leave when requested, hurling
profanities at Ward, and threatening him. Luster Dep. at 33,
36. In fact, Luster recounts, Ash asked Ward whether Milhouse
had left the building, and Ward replied that Milhouse was
still there. Id. at 33. Luster believed that he
could have placed Milhouse in custody on that information
alone. Luster Dep. at 35. (Interestingly, Ward denies that he
spoke to the officers at all. Ward Dep. at 18–19, 38,
officers tell it, after speaking with Ward, they walked over
to the food court. Id. at 33. Ash and Luster
approached Milhouse and asked him to unplug his devices, but
he refused. Id. at 35; Defs.’ LR 56.1(a)(3)
Stmt. ¶ 25. Luster told Milhouse he could plug his
devices into the charging stations in the waiting area near
the train platform; Milhouse retorted that he could plug them
in anywhere he wanted. Luster Dep. at 39.
to the officers, because Milhouse was acting in an irate and
belligerent manner, Luster asked Milhouse to calm down.
Id. at 35. And Ash began packing up Milhouse’s
belongings. When Milhouse protested, Ash said that they were
just trying to get him moving because he was not moving.
Id. at 39–40. Ash then told Milhouse to leave
or else he would go to jail, but Milhouse did not budge and
refused to leave. Id. at 40–41.
point, Officer Luster took control of one of Milhouse’s
arms and placed a handcuff on his right wrist. Id.
at 42. Luster states that, because Milhouse started to tense
up before his other wrist could be handcuffed, Ash instructed
Luster to tase Milhouse. Id. at 43. When Luster
brought out his taser, Milhouse hurriedly placed his hands
behind his back for handcuffing. Id.
parties agree that Milhouse was placed in a squad car, taken
to the Metra Police Facility, and transferred to the Chicago
Police Department for bonding procedures. Defs.’ LR
56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 32. It is also undisputed that
Milhouse was charged with misdemeanor Disorderly Conduct and
Criminal Trespass to Property and was released from custody
within a few hours. Id. ¶¶ 30, 33.
According to Defendants, Ward had agreed to be the
complainant in the criminal proceedings. Luster Dep. at 75,
79. But, again, Ward denies doing so. Ward Dep. at 18–
19, 38, 44, 67–68; Pl.’s Ex. 7, Misdemeanor
Complaints, ECF No. 135-7.
was released from police custody within a few hours.
Defs.’ LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 33. When his criminal
case was called for trial on October 3, 2016, the judge
dismissed the case. Id. ¶¶ 34, 35.
claims that Luster and Ash targeted him because of his race
in violation of his equal protection rights under the
Fourteenth Amendment. He also claims that the officers lacked
reasonable suspicion to stop him and lacked probable cause to
arrest him as the Fourth Amendment requires. Lastly, he
claims that Luster and Ash maliciously prosecuted him in
violation of Illinois law and that Metra must indemnify them,
if they are held liable based upon their actions.