United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT
WILLIAM C. GRIESBACH, CHIEF JUDGE. [*]
Nicholas Schlueter, an inmate currently incarcerated at the
Bartholomew County Jail and representing himself, filed this
action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants
Tyson Matney, Chad Moore, and Toby Combest violated his civil
rights when they arrested him after purchasing
methamphetamine from him during two controlled buys involving
a confidential informant. This matter comes before the court
on two motions for summary judgment: a joint motion by
Defendants Moore and Combest (ECF No. 36) and an individual
motion by Defendant Matney (ECF No. 40). During a telephone
hearing on February 6, 2018, the court granted Schlueter an
additional thirty days to respond to the defendants'
motions for summary judgment and explained that, in the
absence of a response, the court would decide the motions on
the record as it now stands. ECF No. 49. Since that hearing,
the court has received no response from Schlueter and will
therefore proceed to decide these summary judgment motions.
Also before the court is a joint motion by all defendants
seeking an extension of time to conduct additional discovery
in the event the court denies the motions for summary
judgment. ECF No. 50. For the reasons set forth below, the
defendants' motions for summary judgment will both be
granted, and their joint motion for an extension of time will
be denied as moot.
claim arises out of a January 2016 investigation of his
suspected methamphetamine dealing by a joint narcotics task
force consisting of personnel from the Bartholomew County
Sheriff's Department and the Columbus Police Department.
Matney Br., ECF No. 43 at 2 (citing ECF No. 41-1 ¶
Matney, a detective with the Bartholomew County Sheriff's
Department, used an undercover identity during purchases from
Schlueter that occurred on January 6, 2016, and January 11,
2016. Id. (citing ECF No. 41-1 ¶ 2). Moore, a
detective with the Columbus Police Department, provided
logistical and operational support for the task force during
the purchases. Moore & Combest Br., ECF No. 37 at 2
(“M&C Br.”) (citing ECF No. 36-1 ¶ 4).
Combest, also a Columbus detective, worked with Matney and
others, including a confidential informant, to set up the
purchases. Id. at 2-3 (citing ECF No. 36-1 ¶
5); see also ECF No. 41-2 ¶ 4. In addition to
the confidential informant, the task force employed
investigative measures including an audio recording device,
electronic monitoring equipment, pre-marked cash, and
undercover identities. Matney Br. at 2 (citing ECF No. 41-2
at 1; ECF No. 41-3 ¶¶ 15-20; ECF No. 41-4
January 6, 2011, methamphetamine purchase occurred in the
parking lot of a McDonald's in Edinburgh, Indiana. ECF
No. 36-1 ¶ 7. Matney met with the confidential informant
and performed a strip search to confirm that the informant
did not possess any methamphetamine, and they then drove
together in an undercover vehicle to the location set for the
purchase. ECF No. 36-2 ¶¶ 2-5. After they arrived
at the purchase location, where the task force was in place,
Schlueter entered the rear of the undercover vehicle and gave
the informant a bag containing a clear, crystal-like
substance in exchange for $675 in pre-marked cash. ECF No.
36-1 ¶ 7. A field test indicated that the crystal-like
substance was methamphetamine, and a subsequent test by the
Indiana State Police Laboratory confirmed that result.
C&M Br at 3 (citing ECF No. 36-1 ¶¶ 10, 12). At
10:41 p.m. on January 6, the methamphetamine was placed into
a drop box locker at the Columbus Police Department.
Id. (citing ECF No. 36-1 ¶¶ 11).
January 11, 2016, purchase, Matney and the informant again
drove together to the designated location. Matney Br. at 3
(citing ECF No. 41-1 ¶ 3). After they arrived, Matney
performed a search to confirm that the informant did not
possess any methamphetamine. Matney Br. at 3 (citing ECF No.
41-1 ¶ 4). The informant then got out of their vehicle,
entered Schlueter's vehicle, and returned with two small
bags containing a substance suspected to be methamphetamine.
Id. (citing ECF No. 41-1 ¶ 4); C&M Br. at 3
(citing ECF No. 36-1 ¶ 19). Schlueter had sold the bags
of the crystal-like substance to the informant for $1, 140 in
pre-marked cash at approximately 10:45 p.m. C&M Br. at 3
(citing ECF No. 36-1 ¶¶ 15-18). Matney took
possession of the suspected methamphetamine from the
informant and performed a field test, which confirmed that
the substance was likely methamphetamine. Matney Br. at 3
(citing ECF No. 41-1 ¶ 5).
performing the field test, Matney gave the two bags to Moore.
M&C Br. at 4 (citing ECF No. 36-1 ¶ 20). At 12:30
a.m. on January 12, 2015, Moore placed the two bags of
suspected methamphetamine into a sealed evidence bag, which
he in turn placed in a locked drop box at the Columbus Police
Department evidence room. Id. (citing ECF No. 36-1
¶ 20). On the evidence bag, Moore wrote his officer
number, the case number, the date, the time, the phrase
“Drop Box” in the “Chain of Custody”
section to indicate where he put the bag, and a note
describing the bag's contents as “[p]lastic bags
containing a white crystal substance.” Id.
(citing ECF No. 36-1 ¶¶ 21-22); ECF No. 36-7.
Moore helped to complete a “Columbus Police Property
Record and Receipt” form, which included a
“Record of Custody” section. Id. at 4-5
(citing ECF No. 36-1 ¶ 23). When completing the form,
however, Moore made a mistake-what he calls a
“scrivener's error”-and inadvertently omitted
a “1” when writing the “12” in the
date portion of the Record of Custody section; as a result,
the date reads “1-2-16, ” rather than
“1-12-16, ” as he intended. Id. at 5
(citing ECF No. 36-1 ¶¶ 23-25); ECF No. 36-8.
Instead of referring to both bags, the “Details”
section of the form also lists only one item, a
“plastic bag” (singular) “containing a
white crystal substance.” ECF No. 36-8. The Columbus
Police Department's property officer signed the Record
and Receipt form at 3:45 p.m. on January 13, 2018. ECF No.
36-8. The Indiana State Police laboratory later confirmed
that the substance in both bags was methamphetamine. M&C
Br. at 5 (citing ECF No. 36-11).
signed a probable cause affidavit in support of an arrest
warrant for Schlueter on September 22, 2016. Matney Br. at 4
(citing ECF No. 41-1 ¶ 8; ECF No. 41-2). The affidavit
recounted both the January 6, 2016 and the January 11, 2016
purchases from Schlueter. Id. (citing ECF No. 41-2).
An arrest warrant issued, resulting in Schlueter's arrest
on October 6, 2016, by a Bartholomew County Sheriff's
deputy, who transported Schlueter to the county jail. ECF No.
41-3 ¶¶ 30-31. Schlueter was charged with two
counts of dealing methamphetamine, one count each for the
January 6 and January 11 sales. Id. ¶¶
32-33. In early March 2017, he filed a motion to suppress the
evidence from the January 11, 2016 sale based on the
discrepancies in the Record and Receipt form. Matney Br. at 4
(citing ECF No. 41-7). Shortly thereafter, the court
dismissed without prejudice the charge related to the January
11 sale. ECF No. 41-6. Matney filed this action soon after.
At the time the defendants filed their summary judgment
motions, the charge against Schlueter for the January 6 sale
remained pending and was set for trial in March 2018. Matney
Br. at 4 (citing ECF No. 41-6).
judgment is appropriate when the moving party shows that
there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that
the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). All reasonable inferences are construed
in favor of the nonmoving party. Foley v. City of
Lafayette, 359 F.3d 925, 928 (7th Cir. 2004). Summary
judgment is properly entered against a party “who fails
to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an
element essential to the party's case, and on which that
party will bear the burden of proof at trial.”
Parent v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 694 F.3d 919, 922
(7th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation mark omitted) (quoting
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)).
When evaluating whether claims brought under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 survive summary judgment, the court must determine
“(1) whether the conduct complained of was committed by
a person acting under color of state law; and (2) whether
this conduct deprived a person of rights, privileges, or
immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United
States.” Colbert v. City of Chicago, 851 F.3d
649, 656 (7th Cir. 2017) (quoting Armato v. Grounds,
766 F.3d 713, 719-20 (7th Cir. 2014)).
complaint asserts claims for illegal search and seizure,
false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and
violations of his due process rights. Matney contends that
the defendants are all entitled to summary judgment on these
claims. All three defendants also argue that they are
entitled to qualified immunity, and Moore and Combest raise
additional miscellaneous arguments. The court will therefore
begin its analysis by addressing whether the defendants are
entitled to summary judgment on Schlueter's claims before
proceeding to the other arguments if necessary.