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Nevarez v. Sweeney

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

September 25, 2019

Valente Nevarez (#2018-0827266), Plaintiff,
v.
Sweeney, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Honorable Marvin E. Aspen, United States District Court Judge.

         In this pro se civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Valente Nevarez (“Plaintiff”), currently a Cook County Jail detainee, challenges the constitutionality of his arrest and detention following a traffic stop on April 14, 2014, and claims that he was subjected to excessive force, falsely arrested, and denied medical attention. Defendants, Chicago Police Officers Alexander Franco, Robert Perales, Adam Sweeney, and Migdaliz Vazquez (collectively “Defendants”), moved for summary judgment based principally on Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Because the Court agrees that Plaintiff’s excessive force and false arrest claims are Heck-barred, and for the other reasons stated below, Defendants’ motion is granted in its entirety.

         I. Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, Defendants served him with a “Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment” as required by Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.2. (Dkt. 71.) The notice explained how to respond to Defendants’ summary judgment motion and Rule 56.1 Statement and cautioned Plaintiff that the Court would deem Defendants’ factual contentions admitted if he failed to follow the procedures delineated in Local Rule 56.1.

         As contemplated by the Local Rule, Defendants filed a Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) Statement of Material Facts (“Def. SOF”) with their summary judgment motion. Plaintiff did not respond to Defendants’ statement of facts or submit an additional statement of undisputed facts; he did, however, submit a response to the motion (Dkt. 100), which consists of 23 pages that list and summarize in bullet-point fashion the contents of various documents produced in discovery. None of those documents are exhibited to the response for the Court’s review.

         Although courts construe pro se pleadings liberally, see Thomas v. Williams, 822 F.3d 378, 385 (7th Cir. 2016), a plaintiff’s pro se status does not excuse him from complying with federal and local procedural rules. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (“[W]e have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.”); Collins v. Illinois, 554 F.3d 693, 697 (7th Cir. 2009) (“[E]ven pro se litigants must follow procedural rules.”). Because Plaintiff has failed to properly respond to Defendants' Rule 56.1 Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, the Court accepts Defendants’ “uncontroverted version of the facts to the extent that it is supported by evidence in the record.” Keeton v. Morningstar, Inc., 667 F.3d 877, 880 (7th Cir. 2012). Within the boundaries of Plaintiff’s admissions, however, he Court will, consistent with Plaintiff’s pro se status, construe his submission in the light most favorable to him, to the extent that he has pointed to evidence in the record or could properly testify himself about the matters asserted. Sistrunk v. Khan, 931 F.Supp.2d 849, 854 (N.D. Ill. 2013); Fed.R.Evid. 602.

         II. Factual Background

         On April 14, 2014, Plaintiff encountered Officers Franco and Sweeney near Cermak and California Avenue. (Def. SOF Fact ¶¶ 2, 5, 48-49.) Plaintiff was arrested and transported to the 10th District police station. (Id. at ¶¶ 15 and 55.) At the police station Plaintiff underwent standard field sobriety testing and registered a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit. (Id. at ¶¶ 16, 31.) Plaintiff was placed in a holding cell in the bullpen area of the station. (Id. at ¶¶ 33 and 55.) Defendants entered the holding cell and a physical altercation with Plaintiff ensued. (Id. at ¶¶ 33-42 and 56-65.) Criminal proceedings followed, and Plaintiff was convicted via a bench trial of aggravated driving under the influence with a blood alcohol concentration over 0.16, driving on a revoked or suspended license, aggravated battery to a peace officer, and resisting arrest. (Id. at ¶¶ 79-80.) These convictions were affirmed on appeal and remain valid. (Id. at ¶¶ 79-80.)

         Defendants’ Version of the Arrest and Altercation

         On April 14, 2014, Officer Franco observed a Toyota Sienna speeding down California Avenue left of the center lane. (Id. at ¶¶ 5-6.) He saw the vehicle attempt but fail to stop for a red light at the intersection with Cermak Avenue and ultimately stop in the middle of the intersection instead. (Id.) The vehicle then turned onto Cermak Avenue where Officer Franco, along with his partner, Officer Sweeney, curbed the vehicle. (Id. at ¶¶ 7-8.) Officer Franco approached the vehicle and found that Plaintiff was the driver; there were no passengers in the vehicle. (Id. at ¶ 9.) Officer Franco smelled alcohol and saw open beer bottles in the car. (Id.) Officers Perales and Officer Vasquez were called to assist Officers Franco and Sweeney. (Id. at ¶ 12.) They detained Plaintiff and brought him to the 10th District police station on suspicion of driving under the influence. (Id. at ¶ 15.) At the station Plaintiff was given a horizontal gaze nystagmus test (“HGN”), a one leg stand test, a walk and turn test, and a breath analysis test. (Id. at ¶ 16.) Plaintiff failed the first three tests, and the last revealed a blood alcohol concentration of 0.181. (Id. at ¶¶ 18, 22, 24, and 31.)

         Plaintiff was placed in a holding cell within the bullpen area. SF at ¶33. Plaintiff then began causing a disturbance, including kicking and hitting the cell door, as well as hitting his head on the door. (Id. at ¶ 33.) Officers Franco and Perales opened the door to speak with Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 34.) Plaintiff attacked Officer Franco, lunging and trying to punch Officer Franco. (Id. at ¶ 35.) Officers Franco, Perales, and Sweeney attempted to restrain Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶¶ 36-37.) Plaintiff continued to try and punch the officers and also spit in Officer Franco’s face and mouth. (Id. at ¶¶ 38, and 40-41.) Plaintiff caused lacerations to Officer Franco and Officer Sweeney, who were both taken to a hospital for treatment after the incident. (Id. at ¶¶ 40, 43.)

         Plaintiff’s Version of the Arrest and Altercation

         Plaintiff’s version of what occurred on April 14, 2014, differs greatly from Defendants. According to Plaintiff, he was merely walking near his car with an open beer bottle when he saw police officers. (Id. at ¶¶ 48-50.) The officers stopped Plaintiff before he could enter his vehicle to leave the area and obtain cocaine. (Id. at ¶¶ 52-53.) The officers placed Plaintiff in handcuffs and transported him to the police station. (Id. at ¶¶ 55.) When Plaintiff asked what he was being charged with, Officer Franco replied, “shut the fuck up.” (Id. at ¶¶ 55-56.) Plaintiff in turn told Officer Franco to “shut the fuck up”, which caused Officer Franco to come into Plaintiff’s holding cell. (Id. at ¶ 56.) Officer Vasquez grabbed Plaintiff’s arm or hand. (Id. at ¶¶ 57-58.) Officer Franco began to choke Plaintiff, causing Plaintiff to grab Officer Franco's hands to try and remove them. (Id.) Officer Franco then kneed Plaintiff in the groin, causing Plaintiff to “splur” on Officer Franco. (Id. at ¶ 59.) Officer Franco then started hitting Plaintiff in the head with handcuffs. (Id. at ¶ 60.) Plaintiff never hit or punched the Defendants. (Id. at ¶ 61.)

         The Events After the Altercation

         The parties agree about what happened following the altercation. Defendants ultimately handcuffed Plaintiff in the holding cell. (Id. at ¶¶ 42 and 65.) Plaintiff testified at his deposition that his injuries at that point consisted of bruises on his head and soreness on his butt cheeks and back. (Id. at ¶¶ 66-67.) He testified that he was not bleeding and that he had no other injuries from the altercation. (Id.) Plaintiff testified that he then never saw Defendants again on April 14, 2014; the Defendants attested to the same. (Id. at ¶ 70.) Plaintiff asked an unknown, non-party lieutenant and an unknown, non-party lock up keeper, for medical attention. (Id. at ¶ 68.) Plaintiff expressly testified that he never asked any one of the Defendants for any type of medical attention; the Defendants again attested to the same. (Id. at ¶ 69. Plaintiff was in pain for two days, followed by “a few more” days of “soreness”, but functioned ...


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