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Arnold v. City of Fort Wayne

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

September 28, 2016

NEWTON ARNOLD, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF FORT WAYNE, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JAMES T. MOODY JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiff Newton Arnold alleges violations of his civil rights arising out of a traffic stop which culminated in the seizure of more than $11, 000 in cash. (DE # 12.) He brings this case against defendant police officers Mark Brown, John Drummer, and Sonia Atienzo as well as the City of Fort Wayne. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all of plaintiff's claims. (DE # 24.) Plaintiff has filed a response (DE # 26), and defendants have filed a reply (DE # 29.) For the following reasons, defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part. Defendants have also filed a related motion to strike pursuant to Rule 56. (DE # 30.) That motion is denied as moot.

         I. FACTS AND BACKGROUND

         In the summary that follows, the court refers only to undisputed facts, or, if there is a dispute, notes that it exists and relies on the version of the fact, or inference therefrom, that is most favorable to plaintiff. This summary provides an overview. Additional undisputed facts will be referred to in the analysis that follows.

         On May 9, 2012, officers of the Fort Wayne Police Department were conducting surveillance of a residence at 1328 Scott Street in Fort Wayne, Indiana (“Scott Street”). (DE # 24-2 at 1; DE 24-1 at 1-2.) The surveillance operation was initiated in response to a tip that officer Darrick Engelman (“Engelman”) had received from a confidential informant (“CI”). (DE # 24 -1 at 1.) According to the CI, a man named Felton Walker (“Walker”) resided at Scott Street and was arranging a large narcotics transaction. (Id.) Specifically, the CI related that Walker was hosting two out-of-town cocaine distributors and he was attempting to raise money from his cocaine distribution network to purchase several kilograms of cocaine. (Id.)

         The CI gave detailed information about the vehicles belonging to Felton and the distributors, noting that Felton drove a black Toyota Camry while the distributors would arrive in a large, silver SUV with Nevada plates. (Id. at 2.) He further indicated that once Felton had raised the money he would follow the distributors to a nearby site where he would pick up the cocaine before returning to Scott Street to divvy it up among his network. (Id.)

         Based on this information, Engelman and other detectives began their surveillance of Scott Street. (Id.) During their surveillance the detectives observed traffic in and out of Scott Street that they believed was consistent with narcotics trafficking. (Id. at 2-3.) Engelman was also able to identify Felton on the premises. (Id. at 3.) Later, Engelman's partner, Detective Strayer reported that a van occupied by three men arrived at Scott Street. (Id.) The three men entered the residence and stayed for a few minutes before leaving. (Id.) Engelman heard over the radio that Strayer followed the van and that it was stopped for a traffic infraction and the occupants were identified. (Id.) Engelman learned that each of the three individuals “had prior involvements with narcotics possession or trafficking” (Id.), but otherwise there was no indication that the three individuals were involved in any illegal activity.

         Shortly thereafter, Engelman observed plaintiff Newton Arnold (“Arnold”), arrive at Scott Street in a black Cadillac with Peronica Hambright (“Hambright”). (Id. at 4.) Engelman watched as Arnold accessed the rear of the vehicle and apparently placed a large object underneath his jacket before he knocked on the door and entered Scott Street. (Id.) About five minutes later, Arnold returned to his car and appeared to be holding something in his groin area, which, in Engelman's training and experience, was suggestive of narcotics activity. (Id.) With Hambright now driving, Arnold left Scott Street, where Engelman remained on surveillance. (Id.)

         Arnold's car was next observed by defendant officer Mark Brown (“Brown”). (DE # 24-2 at 1.) Brown was aware that Scott Street was under narcotics surveillance and was informed by the surveillance detectives that Arnold's car had recently departed the residence. (Id. 1-2.) He further states that he “was informed over the radio that the Cadillac was observed traveling 38 miles per hour in a posted 30 mile per hour zone.” (Id. at 2.) Arnold, for his part, disputes that Hambright was speeding while he was a passenger in the car that day. (DE # 26-1 at 2.) At that point, Brown stopped the vehicle for speeding. (DE # 24-2 at 2.) When he initially approached the vehicle, Brown observed that Arnold appeared to be visibly nervous. (Id.)

         During the stop, defendant officer John Drummer (“Drummer”), a canine handler, arrived on scene with his police dog, Bodo (“K9 Bodo”). (DE # 24-3 at 1.) Drummer, with K9 Bodo, commenced a drug sniff of the exterior of Arnold's car. (Id.) The parties disagree about what happened next.

         Arnold states that he watched as Drummer guided the dog around the car two times and that the dog did not alert at any point. (DE # 26-1 at 2.) After the search he says that Drummer put K9 Bodo back in the squad car. (Id.) A short time later, Arnold states that Drummer came back to the vehicle to return the occupants' identification and insurance information. (Id.) Drummer then said “slow down and have a nice day. Ya'll are free to go, ” but then quickly asked Hambright if he could search the vehicle. (Id.) Hambright demurred that the car belonged to Arnold, and when Drummer asked Arnold, he responded “No - your dog didn't alert!” (Id.) Drummer responded by saying “you don't tell me how my dog alerts” and then continued to ask permission to search the vehicle. (Id.) Arnold repeatedly refused these requests until Drummer put his hands on his service weapon and ordered Arnold out of the car. (Id.)

         The officers' version of the search varies slightly. Drummer states that he guided K9 Bodo around the car one time before he turned to do another pass. (DE # 24-3 at 1-2.) Near the passenger door (where Arnold was seated) Drummer states that K9 Bodo's head “snapped back, ” giving “several long sniffs” while his “tail went up” (Id.) K9 Bodo then continued on to sniff the rest of the exterior of the car. (Id.)

         Drummer states that at this point he states that he informed Brown of the “finding.” (Id.) Here Brown states that he returned to the vehicle and returned the identification to Hambright and told her to watch her speed. (DE # 24-2 at 2.) He then states that he stepped back towards his vehicle before pausing to ask Hambright if there was anything illegal in the car. (Id.) He then asked permission to search the car and Hambright replied that the car belonged to Arnold. (Id.)

         According to Brown, Drummer was standing at the passenger door and asked Arnold for consent which he declined (Id. at 2; DE # 24-3 at 2.) At this point Drummer told Arnold that K9 Bodo had alerted and again asked for permission to search the car. (DE # 24-2 at 2; DE # 24-3 at 2.) After Arnold refused multiple requests, Drummer ordered Arnold out of the car. (DE # 24-2 at 2; DE # 24-3 at 2.) As Arnold exited the car, Drummer states that he could see what appeared to be marijuana “shake” (tiny bits of plant residue) on the floor of the car. (DE # 24-3 at 2.)

         At this point, Drummer performed a weapons pat down of Arnold and felt a large, hard object in his groin area which made the sound of plastic crinkling. (Id.) Arnold was handcuffed and Brown searched in his pants and retrieved roughly $11, 000 from his pants. (DE # 24-2 at 3; DE # 26-1 at 3.) Drummer then searched the vehicle but did not find any narcotics. (DE # 24-3 at 2.)

         The money was seized and placed into evidence while Arnold and Hambright were released without charging. (DE # 24-3.) Arnold also alleges that he was publicly humiliated during the search by having his pants (but not underwear) pulled down, exposing his backside to traffic on a busy street. (Id.) And furthermore, he asserts that one of the officers groped his penis and testicles during the search. (Id.) Officer Brown specifically contests Arnold's version of the search and states that it took place near his squad car with the door opened so as to shield him from the view of passing traffic. (DE # 24-2 at 2.)

         Arnold filed this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his constitutional rights. He brings claims against the defendant officers and the City of Fort Wayne for false arrest and unreasonable search and seizure. In the alternative he brings claims for the same violations based on the bystander liability of the defendant officers as well as claims for punitive damages.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 requires the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery, against a party “who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In responding to a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must identify specific facts establishing that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986); Palmer v. Marion County, 327 F.3d 588, 595 (7th Cir. 2003). In doing so, the non-moving party cannot rest on the pleadings alone, but must present fresh proof in support of its position. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Donovan v. City of Milwaukee, 17 F.3d 944, 947 (7th Cir. 1994). A dispute about a material fact is genuine only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. If no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, then there is no “genuine” dispute. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

         The court's role in deciding a summary judgment motion is not to evaluate the truth of the matter, but instead to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50; Doe v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 42 F.3d 439, 443 (7th Cir. 1994). In viewing the facts presented on a motion for summary judgment, a court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all legitimate inferences and resolve all doubts in favor of that party. NLFC, Inc. v. Devcom Mid-Am., Inc., 45 F.3d 231, 234 (7th Cir. 1995). Importantly, the court is “not required to draw every conceivable inference from the record [in favor of the non-movant]-only those inferences that are reasonable.” Bank Leumi Le-Israel, B.M., v. Lee, 928 F.2d 232, 236 (7th Cir. 1991) (emphasis added).

         III. ...


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