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Ladd v. Nocchiero

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

September 2, 2014

ABU BAKR LADD, Plaintiff,
v.
PAUL NOCCHIERO, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

AUDREY G. FLEISSIG, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Abu Bakr Ladd's motion to alter, amend, or vacate judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). Defendants, Lt. Col. David Heath, Lt. Jack Huelsmann, former Chief Daniel Isom, Sgt. Joseph Lehman, former Chief Joseph Mokwa, and Lt. Col. Paul Nocchiero, all former or current employees of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department ("SLMPD") (collectively, the "SLMPD Defendants") oppose the motion. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

This action arises out of Plaintiff's arrest and subsequent pretrial detention following a search of his home. Plaintiff contends that Jeffrey Pickering, a former St. Louis City police officer, illegally obtained a warrant for the search of his home on the basis of false information provided by a fictitious confidential informant (CI). Plaintiff asserts that the officer fabricated a basis for the warrant in order to arrest and charge Plaintiff with a crime and to pressure him to act as an informant in an antiterrorism effort coordinated by the FBI and involving the SLMPD and the Joint Terrorism Task Force ("JTTF"). Plaintiff contends that he was targeted as a possible informant because he is a Muslim.

A gun was recovered during the search of the home and Plaintiff was arrested and charged as a felon in possession of a fireman. He was detained for seventy-seven days until the charge against him was dropped just prior to the initial evidentiary hearing in his case. He alleges that during his detention he was approached by police officers asking him to act as an informant for them regarding activities within the Saint Louis Muslim community, but that he refused to do so.

Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an internal complaint with the SLMPD against the officer who applied for the warrant alleging that the CI did not exist and that the officer had fabricated the information from the nonexistent CI to establish probable cause for the issuance of the search warrant.[1] At the subsequent Internal Affairs Division (IAD) proceeding, five of the six SLMPD Defendants concluded that Plaintiff's complaint should not be sustained.

Plaintiff then filed suit in this District charging constitutional violations arising from the events described here. During that proceeding, (hereinafter referred to as " Ladd I ") Plaintiff sought from the City of Saint Louis and the SLMPD records related to the IAD proceeding, the issuance of the search warrant and the identity of the CI, but was unable to obtain the records. After confirming the unavailability of documentation related to the IAD investigation, the court granted Plaintiff leave to further amend his complaint to allege claims related to possible spoliation. Ladd I, Doc. No. 193. Plaintiff did not do so and instead moved for sanctions in that action and filed this suit.[2] Ladd I proceeded to trial and Plaintiff prevailed on the portion of his claim alleging constitutional violations by the officer who obtained the search warrant.

Following the conclusion of that suit, Plaintiff filed this action on November 29, 2010, against the City of St. Louis, Missouri; the State of Missouri; the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners, and its individual members; Jeffrey Pickering, individually, and in his capacity as a police officer; Scott McKelvey, individually and in his capacity as a police officer; Detective Luke J. Adler, individually; and the SLMPD Defendants, individually and in their official capacities. Plaintiff raised numerous claims related to an alleged conspiracy to deprive him of his constitutional rights related to the alleged unlawful search, discrimination against him on the basis of his Muslim faith and the failure of the SLMPD to properly investigate his IAD complaint and preserve evidence related to the issuance of the warrant and the identity of the CI. However, Plaintiff did not initially allege a claim for denial of access to the courts.

All of the then-defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's first amended complaint. The Court granted that motion in part and denied it in part, dismissing all of the defendants and claims with the exception of three claims arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the SLMPD Defendants in their individual capacities. See Doc. Nos. 84 & 85. In its ruling on the motion to dismiss, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint. (Doc. No. 86.) After Plaintiff filed his second amended complaint, the SLMPD Defendants moved to dismiss certain claims in that complaint on the ground that Plaintiff merely re-alleged claims that the Court had previously dismissed. See Doc. Nos. 89 & 90. The Court granted the SLMPD's motion and ordered Plaintiff to file a third amended complaint. See Doc. No. 97.

In Counts I and II of his third amended complaint ("Third Amended Complaint"), Plaintiff asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the SLMPD Defendants in their individual capacities. Doc. No. 100 (Third Amended Complaint). Plaintiff alleged that all Defendants conspired to deprive him of his constitutional rights under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by failing properly to investigate and preserve evidence related to his IAD complaint that the false statements attributed to the CI rendered the search warrant invalid. See id. at ¶¶ 44, 46-51. Plaintiff further alleged that all Defendants acted pursuant to a longstanding custom, policy and practice of the SLMPD of providing false information in affidavits of probable cause to obtain search and seizure warrants. Id. at ¶¶ 66, 74-77. In Counts III and IV of the Third Amended Complaint, Plaintiff requested damages and a jury trial with respect to the substantive violations alleged in Counts I and II. Id. at ¶¶ 86-93.

The parties engaged in discovery and Defendants then moved for judgment on the pleadings with respect to Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint. See Doc. No. 108. Plaintiff responded to the motion but did not at any time seek leave to further amend the Third Amended Complaint. On January 2, 2014, the Court granted the SLMPD Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings with respect to all claims adduced in the Third Amended Complaint. See Doc. No. 132.

Thereafter, Plaintiff filed this motion pursuant to Rule 59(e). In support of the motion, Plaintiff argues that the Court erred in ruling that "no facts in Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint suggest that the [SLMPD] Defendants discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of his religious beliefs." Id. at 8. Plaintiff asserts that throughout this suit, he consistently alleged in all pleadings that the actions of all Defendants were motivated by religious animus. In support of this assertion, Plaintiff points to earlier allegations that the SLMPD and the JTTF conspired to falsify an affidavit, conduct an unlawful search and arrest, and place him in custody in order to persuade him to act as an informant for the JTTF regarding activities within the St. Louis Muslim community.

Plaintiff also challenges, as legal error, the Court's holding that Plaintiff failed to state a claim for a conspiracy to deprive him of his due process rights with respect to the IAD proceedings. Specifically, Plaintiff contends that language found on the SLMPD website relating to IAD complaints gives rise to an interest protectable under the due process clause. See id. Plaintiff further asserts that the Court failed to consider in its previous ruling certain deposition testimony of Defendants Mokwa and Nocchiero, which he characterizes as "new evidence, " in support of this conspiracy claim. See Doc. No. 137-2, at 1, 6, 13, 17-19, 42-43. Plaintiff also seeks leave to file a fourth amended complaint to assert additional allegations based upon this new evidence. Finally, Plaintiff asserts that he properly alleged a claim for denial of access to the courts.

In response, the SLMPD Defendants assert that Plaintiff fails to present a basis for relief under Rule 59(e) because he seeks to re-litigate issues previously decided by the Court. They also assert that the Court did not err in concluding that the allegations of the Third Amended Complaint do not establish claims based upon religious animus, and conspiracy to ...


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