United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
For Michael Holmes, Plaintiff: Richard K. Dowd, DOWD AND DOWD, P.C., St. Louis, MO.
For Mayor Francis G. Slay, In his official capacity as a member of the Board of Police Commissioners of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department., Bettye Battle-Turner, In her official capacity as a member of the Board of Police Commissioners of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, Chief Jerome D. Lee, In his official capacity as a member of the Board of Police Commissioners of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department., Col. Thomas Irwin, In his official capacity as a member of the Board of Police Commissioners of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department., Defendants: Christopher R. Hoell, LEAD ATTORNEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MISSOURI, St. Louis, MO.
For Bobby Lee Garrett, In his official capacity as a member of the Board of Police Commissioners of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and individually, Shell Sharp, In his official capacity as a member of the Board of Police Commissioners of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, and individually., Defendants: Philip Sholtz, LEAD ATTORNEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MISSOURI, St. Louis, MO.
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
HENRY EDWARD AUTREY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 matter is before the Court on a motion for summary judgment, [Doc. No. 114], filed by defendants Francis G. Slay, Bettye Battle-Turner, Richard Gray, Jerome D. Lee and Thomas Irwin, sued in their official capacities as members of the Board of Police Commissioners of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (collectively the " Board" ). Plaintiff opposes the motion. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.
Facts and Background
This action was filed on December 17, 2012 by Plaintiff Michael Holmes against the members of the Board and former St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (" SLMPD" ) police officers, Defendants Bobby Lee Garrett and Shell Sharp. Plaintiff alleges that his federal civil rights were violated when he was arrested, convicted and imprisoned for a period of over five years based on false evidence manufactured by defendants Garrett and Sharp.
Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Plaintiff was falsely accused by Sharp of being in possession of approximately 200 grams of cocaine base. Sharp claimed that a confidential source advised him that " Big Mike," a 270 pound black male wearing a yellow jumpsuit, was selling cocaine from the residence at 5894 Cates, St. Louis, Missouri. Sharp claimed that he established surveillance of the premises in an unmarked vehicle across the street from the residence, during which he observed three " hand-to-hand" transactions between Plaintiff and two unidentified black males. The police report did not identify the vehicles, the license plates or any further description of these two black males. Sharp
did not radio any of the other nine officers on standby at a nearby location to advise them about the vehicles suspected to be departing with narcotics. The police report described a transaction between Mr. Holmes and a third black male which Sharp later admitted never happened and/or was a typographical error.
Plaintiff further alleges that Sharp's false claims in the police report and to federal prosecutors regarding these transactions, in order to obtain the wrongful prosecution and conviction of Plaintiff, is part of a pattern whereby Sharp, Garrett and others routinely falsified information in order to obtain warrants, including falsifying information purportedly given by confidential informants and falsifying observations of " transactions" purportedly made during surveillance.
Sharp further claimed in the police report and to federal prosecutors that he radioed the standby officers to come to the scene, and approached the residence at 5984 Cates to do a knock and talk. The door was opened by 85 year old Maetta Griffin, Plaintiff's grandmother, to whom Sharp claimed he told about the information from the alleged confidential informant and the transactions he witnessed during surveillance, and who then gave consent to search the residence.
In the police report, Sharp claimed that when the officers entered the house they saw Plaintiff coming down the stairs. At trial, Sharp testified that he did not see Plaintiff until they reached the second floor landing, where they saw Plaintiff coming down the stairs carrying a brown paper bag. Sharp claimed falsely that Plaintiff dropped this bag in plain sight of the officers and then ran back upstairs. Sharp claimed that Officer Ray detained Plaintiff while Sharp looked into the bag to determine whether it contained controlled substances, and found cocaine.
Sharp claimed falsely that Plaintiff told him he lived on the third floor, and even identified his " bedroom" to the officers. Sharp claimed in the police report and to federal prosecutors that after searching the room identified by Plaintiff, the officers recovered a roasting pan, glass beakers, a scale, some heroin, $4000 from an open safe, baggies, a shotgun and two bags of rubber bands. The officers did not search the rest of the house. Sharp admitted that there were two other black males present in the house that day, but could not recall what they looked like or how they were dressed. The police report indicated that both of these men were in the house. Sharp did not ask those people which bedrooms they lived in or otherwise interview them.
Plaintiff alleges that Sharp's claims were false. As in other, similar cases, Sharp manufactured evidence in order to frame Plaintiff for possession of the crack cocaine. Plaintiff did not have or " throw down" a brown bag on the stairs in front of the officers. He was never in possession of the weapons, drugs or other paraphernalia admitted into evidence at his trial.
While still at the home after he was arrested, Defendant Garrett told Plaintiff that he was going to take him downtown and would release him without charging him " as long as he agreed not to go back to that house anymore." Detective Garrett indicated to Plaintiff that he was well aware that Plaintiff had lived in Ferguson for approximately two years and did not reside at his Grandmother's residence where he was arrested.
In addition, in an effort to further carry out Defendants' corrupt conspiracy, Officer Garrett performed surveillance at the scene of the arrest and performed an interview of Plaintiff at the station after his arrest. At this time he encouraged Plaintiff to sign a consent form to search the
premises where Plaintiff had been arrested at his Grandmother's residence, which Plaintiff refused to do. Garrett did this in an attempt to validate the search and falsely establish that Plaintiff lived at or was in control of the premises and therefore had authority to consent to the search.
During the interview Defendant Garrett also had Plaintiff sign a " money disclaimer" attesting that Plaintiff had no knowledge of any monies in the house. Garrett did this in furtherance of the officers' corrupt conspiracy, to ensure that Garrett, Sharp and other officers could steal and keep any money found inside the house.
While in the Federal Court house waiting for his trial to begin, Plaintiff also observed Defendants Garrett and Sharp go into a conference room where Garrett and Sharp remained for at least an hour. On information and belief, the purpose of this meeting was to go over the details of Defendants' conspiracy and ensure that it was completed successfully.
Defendant Garrett's false assertion to federal prosecutors that Plaintiff was an 'admitted drug dealer' was crucial in their decision to pursue the prosecution of Plaintiff arising from the incident on December 9, 2003, and thus instrumental and material in carrying out the malicious prosecution of Plaintiff, ultimately resulting in his illegal and unconstitutional imprisonment. Furthermore, Garrett at all times acted with and coordinated the conspiracy with Defendant Sharp and other officers of the Department to obtain Plaintiff's wrongful conviction.
Plaintiff also alleges that the Board had a policy, or pervasive custom and practice, of reliance on manufactured evidence, and that it failed to train, supervise, control, instruct, or discipline the officers under its control in various respects. Plaintiff alleges that as a result of Garrett and Sharp's conduct, he was found guilty by a jury of possession of more than 50 grams of a substance containing cocaine base with intent to distribute and possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Plaintiff was sentenced to 300 months in prison.
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Garrett was indicted on federal corruption charges related to his official duties and later pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges of theft, conspiracy and making false statements and admitted planting evidence, arresting an innocent man to cover up the theft of money and involvement in falsifying court documents, lab forms and police reports. See United States v. Garrett, No. 4:08CR703 ERW (E.D. Mo.). Plaintiff alleges that the investigation also led to defendant Sharp leaving the police department " under charges" of fraudulently concocting affidavits in support of search warrants.
Plaintiff asserts federal civil rights claims against Garrett, Sharp and the Board pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and supplemental state law claims against Garrett and Sharp for malicious prosecution, wrongful imprisonment and abuse of process. Plaintiff asserts federal civil rights claims against the Board pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
In Count III of the Amended Complaint, plaintiff alleges the existence within the SLMPD of a policy or custom and practice of officers using false testimony, planting evidence, suppressing exculpatory evidence, stealing property from alleged crime scenes, and otherwise manufacturing evidence to convict persons regardless of their guilt or innocence. In Count IV, plaintiff alleges that the Board failed to train, supervise, control, instruct or discipline the officers under its control in various respects, despite indications of ongoing corrupt and illegal activities by SLMPD officers.
Summary Judgment Standard