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Leflore v. Aurora Police Dept.

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

December 5, 2019

KEITH W. LEFLORE, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
AURORA POLICE DEPT., OFFICER JEREMIAH SHUFELT, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          MARY M. ROWLAND United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, Keith W. Leflore, Sr., brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Officer Jeremiah Shufelt and the Aurora Police Department.[1]Defendant Shufelt has filed a motion to dismiss. For the reasons stated below, Defendant Shufelt's motion [48] is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         At the motion to dismiss stage, the Court accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true and draws all inferences in Plaintiff's favor. Cole v. Milwaukee Area Tech. Coll. Dist., 634 F.3d 901, 903 (7th Cir. 2011). According to Plaintiff's earlier state case, the Aurora Police Department received a tip that Leflore was committing burglaries on the west side of Aurora in April of 2009. People v. Leflore, 2015 IL 116799, 392 Ill.Dec. 467, 469 (2015). In response to the tip, Officer Shufelt placed a GPS tracking devise on Leflore's fiancé's car without a warrant. (Dkt. 12 at 4-5) Tracking from the GPS device showed that Leflore's car was parked near a gas station that was held up. People v. Leflore, 2015 IL 116799, 392 Ill.Dec. 467, 468 (2015). Officer Shufelt then came to Leflore's apartment without a warrant and detained Plaintiff while searching his apartment for evidence of earlier robberies. (Dkt. 12 at 4-5) Officer Shufelt later arrested Plaintiff. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that as a result of the arrest, he suffered bruises and scars. (Id.)

         Plaintiff was eventually charged with aggravated robbery, robbery and burglary in the circuit court of Kane County. People v. Leflore, 2015 IL 116799, 392 Ill.Dec. 467, 468 (2015). Leflore “filed a motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence, arguing that it was solely through information received through the GPS tracking device that [Leflore] became a suspect in the robbery and therefore all the evidence against him should be suppressed.” Id. The trial court denied Leflore's motion, finding that the use of the GPS device did not constitute a search under either the federal or state constitutions. Id. Leflore represented himself at his trial, and the jury found him guilty of all charges. Id. at 470. The trial court sentenced Leflore to 20 years in prison. Id.

         On appeal, Leflore argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence, and that the court erroneously allowed him to waive counsel without properly admonishing him under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 401(a). Id. While the case was pending on appeal, the Supreme Court decided two cases. First, in United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. 400, 132 S.Ct. 945 (2012), the Supreme Court held that attaching a GPS device to a car, and the subsequent use of that device to monitor a vehicle's movements, constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court also decided Davis v. United States, 564 U.S. 229, 131 S.Ct. 2419 (2011), which held that the exclusionary rule does not apply “when the police conduct a search in objectively reasonable reliance on binding judicial precedent.” 564 U.S. at 239.

         Leflore's case eventually made its way to the Illinois Supreme Court. People v. Leflore, 2015 IL 116799, 392 Ill.Dec. 467, 468 (2015). The Illinois Supreme Court held that the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied because “it was objectively reasonable for the police to rely on [prior decisions] for the conclusion that warrantless installation and monitoring of the GPS device was legal.”[2] Id. at 476. The Illinois Supreme Court emphasized that it was “reasonable for Detective Shufelt to rely upon the legal principles set forth by the Supreme Court.” Id. However, the Illinois Supreme Court remanded the case to the Circuit Court of Kane County based on the Rule 401 issue.[3]

         On March 28, 2016, Leflore entered into a plea agreement.[4] He was sentenced to 10 years and 3 months, but with credit for his incarceration he effectively received a time-served deal. (Dkt. 52 at 6) Although Plaintiff's plea agreement stipulates that his plea “was voluntarily arrived at, ” Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that he was “forced to take a plea deal in exchange for his freedom.”[5] (Dkt. 49, Ex. 1; Dkt. 12 at 4)

         On January 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit. Plaintiff brought this action under § 1983 for false arrest, excessive force, and unlawful search and seizure.[6] Defendant Shufelt moves to dismiss.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint, not the merits of the case. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). “To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the complaint must provide enough factual information to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face and raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Haywood v. Massage Envy Franchising, LLC, 887 F.3d 329, 333 (7th Cir. 2018) (quotations and citation omitted); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) (requiring a complaint to contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”). A court deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion accepts plaintiff's well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draws all permissible inferences in plaintiff's favor. Fortres Grand Corp., 763 F.3d at 700.

         A plaintiff need not plead “detailed factual allegations”, but “still must provide more than mere labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action for her complaint to be considered adequate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8.” Bell v. City of Chi., 835 F.3d 736, 738 (7th Cir. 2016) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Dismissal for failure to state a claim is proper “when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1966 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009).

         DISCUSSION

         Officer Shufelt moves to dismiss the excessive force claim under the statute of limitations, asserts a qualified immunity defense for Plaintiff's illegal search and seizure claim, and finally asserts that Plaintiff's illegal search claims are barred by Heck v. Humphrey and the principles of issue preclusion. 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364 (1994). Defendant is not moving to dismiss the false arrest claim at this time, but reserves the right to do so in the future.[7] Plaintiff responds that Defendant conceded that the statute of limitations does not apply, that the defense of qualified immunity is not appropriate at the motion to dismiss stage, and that it would be “unfair” to bar Leflore's claims under He ...


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