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Freeman v. City of Crown Point

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

February 11, 2014

CITY OF CROWN POINT, et al., Defendants.


JON E. DEGUILIO, District Judge.

This is a civil rights action in which the plaintiff, Paul Freeman, seeks redress for being arrested and charged for a crime he did not commit. On February 8, 2013, Mr. Freeman initiated this action by filing a fourteen-count complaint against the City of Crown Point, Captain Sam Trapane, Detective Larry Scott, and "other unidentified officers of the Crown Point Police Department, " alleging, inter alia, that the defendant police officers falsified incriminating evidence and withheld exculpatory evidence. The defendants have moved to dismiss all of the claims except for the claims brought against the officers in their individual capacities under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of Mr. Freeman's Fourth Amendment rights. [DE 18, 19]. The plaintiff has responded to that motion. [DE 26]. The defendants' reply brief was stricken for failure to comply with applicable filing rules, and though they were given leave to properly refile it, they did not do so. [DE 27, 31]. The defendants also moved to strike an exhibit that the plaintiff attached to his response to the motion to dismiss [DE 28], and that motion has been fully briefed. [DE 29, 30, 32]. Finally, after the briefing on these matters had closed, the plaintiff filed a motion for the Court to take notice of supplemental authority [DE 37], to which the defendants have not responded.

For the following reasons, Defendants' partial motion to dismiss [DE 18] is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part; Defendants' motion to strike [DE 28] is DENIED, and; Plaintiff's motion to take notice of supplemental authority [DE 37] is GRANTED.


This action stems from an incident in November 2010, in which a donation canister containing $142.00 was stolen from the front counter of County Seat Liquors[1] in Crown Point, Indiana. [DE 1 ¶ 9]. The theft was captured and recorded from multiple angles by County Seat Liquors' video surveillance system. [ Id. ¶ 11]. After the theft, County Seat Liquors took a screen shot from the video recording and posted the picture of the perpetrator at the front counter. [ Id. ¶ 15]. That picture remained in the store for several months, during which time numerous customers speculated as to who the individual may have been. [ Id. ¶¶ 17, 18]. At some point, a customer noted in passing that the individual in the picture might "look like" Mr. Freeman, or something to that effect. [ Id. ¶ 19]. Mr. Freeman had never even been inside County Seat Liquors, however. [ Id. ¶ 13]. In January 2011, the owner of County Seat Liquors reported the theft to the police, and he provided the police with the video recordings of the theft and the list of names he had been provided of possible suspects, one of which was Mr. Freeman. [ Id. ¶¶ 20, 21].

The Crown Point Police Department assigned Detective Larry Scott and Captain Sam Trapane, both of whom are defendants in this matter, to investigate the theft. [ Id. ¶ 22]. Mr. Freeman alleges that after viewing the video and reviewing the list of names, and without any further investigation, the officers decided that Mr. Freeman must have committed the theft, and became determined to implicate him in the crime. [ Id. ¶¶ 22, 23]. To do so, they allegedly fabricated a story that the teller on duty at the time of the theft had positively identified Mr. Freeman as the perpetrator. [ Id. ¶ 24]. Even though the officers knew that this was false, they included this statement in their police reports and in the probable cause affidavit to secure a warrant for Mr. Freeman's arrest and to charge him with the crime. [ Id. ¶ 27]. On February 9, 2011, based on these fraudulent statements, a warrant was issued for Mr. Freeman's arrest. [ Id. ¶ 28].

When Mr. Freeman learned that the police were looking for him, he went to the police station in order to clear his name. [ Id. ¶ 29]. Even though the warrant for his arrest had not been supported by probable cause, the officers arrested Mr. Freeman, transferred him to the county jail, and charged him with conversion. [ Id. ¶ 30]. Mr. Freeman alleges that over the course of his criminal prosecution for this crime, the defendant officers repeatedly refused to give either Mr. Freeman's defense counsel or the prosecutor's office the video tapes of the theft, ignored or withheld exculpatory evidence, and took other unspecified efforts to draw out the disposition of the case. [ Id. ¶ 31]. In September 2012, over a year and a half after the warrant was issued for Mr. Freeman's arrest, the officers finally provided Mr. Freeman's counsel and the prosecutor with a working copy of the video tape. [ Id. ¶¶ 32, 33]. The tape clearly showed that the perpetrator had a tattoo on the left side of his neck. [ Id . ¶ 12]. Because Mr. Freeman had no such tattoo, it was immediately apparent that he was not the perpetrator of the theft. [ Id. ¶¶ 13, 34]. On September 25, 2012, the prosecutor moved to dismiss the charges on the grounds of misidentification. [ Id. ¶ 34]. Though the charges were ultimately dropped, Mr. Freeman alleges that he suffered significant damages while the charges were pending, including emotional distress, lost wages, and lost educational opportunities, and that he continues to suffer the effects of the charges, including through diminished job and career prospects, because the theft charge still shows up on background checks. [ Id. ¶¶ 36, 37].

Mr. Freeman therefore filed his fourteen-count complaint in this matter on February 8, 2013. [DE 1]. Counts I though III assert claims under § 1983 for violations of Mr. Freeman's Fourth Amendment rights, alleging unlawful arrest, unlawful seizure, and a failure to intervene to prevent these violations, respectively. Counts IV and V assert conspiracy claims under § 1983 and § 1985, respectively. Count VI asserts a claim for malicious prosecution under § 1983. All of the foregoing counts appear to be directed at the officers in their individual capacities. Count VII is directed at the City of Crown Point, and alleges that the city is liable under § 1983 for the above constitutional violations on account of informal policies or practices of the city that caused the violations. Finally, Counts VIII through XIV assert various state law claims, including malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, conspiracy, indemnification, and respondeat superior. Defendants' motion to dismiss seeks dismissal of all counts except for Counts I through III.


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint when it fails to set forth a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must decide whether the complaint satisfies the "notice-pleading" standard. Indep. Trust Corp. v. Stewart Info. Servs. Corp., 665 F.3d 930, 934 (7th Cir. 2012). The notice-pleading standard requires that a complaint provide a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " sufficient to provide "fair notice" of the claim and its basis. Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 718 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal citations omitted); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). In determining the sufficiency of a claim, the Court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, and draws all inferences in the nonmoving party's favor. Reynolds v. CB Sports Bar, Inc., 623 F.3d 1143, 1146 (7th Cir. 2010) (internal citations omitted).

The Supreme Court has adopted a two-pronged approach when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). First, pleadings consisting of no more than mere conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Id. This includes legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, as well as "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Second, if well-pleaded factual allegations are present in the complaint, courts should "assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 679.

"A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The complaint "must actually suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, by providing allegations that raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Maddox, 655 F.3d at 718 (internal citations omitted). A plaintiff's claim, however, need only be plausible, not probable. Indep. Trust Corp., 665 F.3d at 934 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "[A] well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Id. In order to satisfy the plausibility standard, a plaintiff's complaint must supply "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will yield evidence supporting the plaintiff's allegations." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (internal citations omitted). Factual allegations, however, "that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability... stop[] short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief." Id. at 678.


Defendants have asserted eight separate grounds for dismissing one or more counts, and the plaintiff has in fact conceded several of them. The plaintiff has therefore agreed to voluntarily dismiss the following claims: § 1985 conspiracy (Count V); state law false imprisonment (Count IX); intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress under state law (Counts X and XI); conspiracy under state law (Count XII); and state law indemnification and respondeat superior (Counts XIII and XIV). [DE 26 p. 1 n.1]. In addition, though the plaintiff did not specifically state that it was voluntarily dismissing the state law malicious prosecution claim (Count VIII), it did not respond to any of the defendants' arguments in favor of dismissing that count, so the Court construes the plaintiff's ...

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