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Nash v. State

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 26, 2018

KENNETH NASH and TAMMY WILLIAMS, Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE OF INDIANA, INDIANA STATE POLICE, RYAN WINTERS, individually and in his capacity as an Indiana State Trooper; PETER STEPHAN, [1] individually and in his capacity as an Indiana State Trooper; and TWO UNKNOWN INDIANA STATE TROOPERS, Defendants.

          ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          RICHARDX. YOUNG, JUDGE

         In the early morning hours of January 6, 2016, Plaintiffs, Kenneth Nash and his fiancée, Tammy Williams, were traveling southbound on Interstate 65 near Lafayette, Indiana. Nash was driving a rented U-Haul with an auto transport trailer-in-tow that carried a 2004 Mercedes Benz owned by Williams. They were pulled over by Senior Trooper Ryan Winters of the Indiana State Police and his trainee, Trooper Colton Maynor. Two and a half hours later, Nash was issued a Traffic Warning Ticket. Between the initial stop and the issuance of the warning, the U-Haul and vehicle were searched, and Nash and Williams were interrogated in police squad cars at length.

         Nash and Williams sued the state of Indiana, the ISP, ISP Trooper Winters, and ISP Trooper Peter Stephan under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging Fourth Amendment claims of unreasonable seizure, false arrest, and unreasonable search of the U-Haul and vehicle. They also bring an unreasonable search and seizure claim under Article I, § 11 of the Indiana Constitution, and a false arrest and false imprisonment claim under Indiana law. Defendants now move for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, the court DENIES the motion.

         I. Background

         Nash and Williams, who are both African American, were traveling southbound on Interstate 65 on their way to Atlanta, Georgia, on January 6, 2016. (Filing No. 32-1, Deposition of Ryan Winters (“Winters Dep.”) at 34; Filing No. 47-2, Affidavit of Kenneth Nash (“Nash Aff.”) ¶ 5; Filing No. 47-1, Affidavit of Tammy Williams (“Williams Aff.”) ¶ 3). Nash was driving a rented U-Haul with an auto transport trailer-in-tow that carried Williams' vehicle. (Nash Aff. ¶ 3; Williams Aff. ¶ 6). At approximately 6:30 a.m., ISP Trooper Maynor was on a field training operation with Senior Trooper Winters in an unmarked vehicle. (Nash Aff. ¶ 6; Williams Aff. ¶ 4).

         Winters testified he stopped Nash and Williams because the trailer towing the vehicle crossed the fog line “almost five times.” (Winters Dep. at 59). Nash and Williams both testified they did not violate any traffic laws prior to the stop. (Nash Aff. ¶¶ 8, 13; Williams Aff. ¶¶ 6, 10)

         As Winters approached the U-Haul, he noticed the vehicle in tow was not weighted down with personal belongings and found that suspicious. (Winters Dep. at 80). Winters asked Nash if he was on his cell phone or had been drinking; he replied “no.” (Nash Aff. ¶ 11; Williams Aff. ¶ 14). Winters asked for Nash's driver's license and registration and proceeded to his squad car for a few minutes. When he returned, he ordered Nash into his squad car for additional questioning. (Winters Dep. at 76; Nash Aff. ¶¶ 14-15). Winters asked Nash about his relationship with Williams and where they were going, what hotel they stayed in, whether they had a fight, and other personal information. (Nash Aff. ¶ 19).

         After about twenty minutes of questioning in the squad car, Winters asked if he and Maynor could search the U-Haul and vehicle in tow because the area of Interstate 65 they were in was known as a high drug trafficking area. (Nash Aff. ¶ 20). Nash responded in the negative, and said he did not have drugs and did not use drugs. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21). Following additional questioning, during which Nash continued to deny using or possessing drugs, Winters gave Nash a consent to search form and told him to sign it. (Id.). He reluctantly agreed to sign the form because he did not feel he had a choice. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22; Filing No. 32-4, Consent Form).

         Winters ordered Nash to stay in the squad car while he went to the U-Haul and asked Williams to sign a consent to search form. (Nash Aff. ¶ 24; Williams Aff. ¶ 16). She, like Nash, reluctantly agreed to sign the form because she did not know what would happen if she did not. (Williams Aff. ¶ 17).

         Troopers Peter Stephan and Ben Rector arrived on the scene. (Id. ¶ 18; Nash Aff. ¶ 26). They questioned Nash outside, asking him many of the same questions as Winters. (Nash Aff. ¶ 26). Williams was then told to get in Stephan's and Rector's squad car. (Williams Aff. ¶ 19). At this juncture, a video of the encounter began. (See Filing No. 34, DVD[2] of the Jan. 6 stop).

         After quickly reading Williams her Miranda rights, Winters began questioning her about her relationship with Nash, what hotel they stayed in on their way from Atlanta to Chicago and what form of payment they used, why she was returning to Georgia, and whether he abused her. (Williams Aff. ¶ 20). Winters asked her about the clothes found in the U-Haul; they were in bags and many had tags on them. He asked her repeatedly how she paid for them. When he discovered she used credit cards, he asked her the last time she used them and what exactly she purchased. Williams informed Winters she could show him proof of her purchases on her iPhone, but he dismissed her suggestion. She also offered to show him her driver's license to verify her identity. (Id. ¶ 21). Instead, he asked her to write down her name (including middle name), birthdate, social security number, and her last three addresses. (Id.). Winters asked her what she did for a living, and after learning she worked in home health care, he informed her that in his experience, people who work in home health care tend to: (1) steal pills; (2) steal credit card information; and/or (3) steal other's identification. He informed her their conversation was on video, and that it said a lot about her demeanor and whether she was telling the truth. Being truthful is important, he continued, because a judge takes that into account during sentencing. Williams was in the squad car for over forty minutes. When he was through, he told her to get in his squad car, where she was questioned by Rector and Maynard. (Id. ¶ 22).

         Winters then questioned Nash again in Stephan's and Rector's squad car. Stephan was in the squad car also. (Id. ¶ 31). Winters again questioned Nash about his relationship with Williams and her decision to move back to Atlanta. (Id.). Winters accused Nash (and Williams) of stealing clothes, running a credit card scam, and of identity theft. (Id.). Winters asked Nash if he was just a witness, a co-conspirator, or the mastermind of the criminal enterprise. (Id. ¶ 32).

         In total, Nash and Williams were detained for approximately two and a half hours. (Nash Aff. ¶ 35; Williams Aff. ¶ 24). Nash was given a Traffic Warning Ticket for violating Ind. Code § 9-21-8-11(c). (Filing No. 32-5, Warning Ticket).

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003). Disputes concerning material facts are genuine where the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In deciding whether genuine issues of material fact exist, the court construes all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Payne, 337 F.3d at 771.

         III. Discussion

         As an initial matter, Plaintiffs agree that the state of Indiana and Troopers Winters and Stephan in their official capacities are not “persons” who can be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Therefore, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiffs' § 1983 claims against the state of Indiana, and Winters and Stephan in their official capacity, is GRANTED. Plaintiffs also agree to dismiss the two unknown ...


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