United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
W. SIPPEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
move for judgment on the pleadings on Plaintiff Kristy
Cunningham's due process claims under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). Defendants argue
Cunningham's claims are barred because she seeks to
recover damages for an allegedly unconstitutional conviction
or sentence but has not pleaded that her conviction or
sentence has been reversed, expunged, declared invalid, or
called into question by a writ of habeas corpus, as required
by the United States Supreme Court's decision in Heck
v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Because Cunningham has
failed to satisfy Heck's “favorable
termination” requirement, I will grant the motions for
judgment on the pleadings.
ruling on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, I must
accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and
view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Wishnatsky v. Rovner, 433 F.3d 608, 610 (8th Cir.
2006). “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “The
purpose of this threshold pleading requirement is to allow a
defendant to test the legal sufficiency of a complaint so as
to eliminate those actions which are fatally flawed in their
legal premises and designed to fail, thereby sparing
litigants the burden of unnecessary pretrial and trial
activity.” Am. Traffic Solutions, Inc. v. B & W
Sensors, LLC, 2014 WL 1272509, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 27,
2014) (quotation marks omitted).
brings due process claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
alleged actions taken against her in and around the city of
Farmington in St. Francois County, Missouri. She claims, in
short, that defendants conspired to manufacture false charges
against her, deny her bail, and hold her in jail indefinitely
to coerce her to plead guilty to false charges. As a result,
she claims she was deprived of her liberty for more than 200
days while incarcerated and suffered a variety of damages,
including loss of her childcare business. She sues eight
defendants in their individual capacities: (1) Leona Bates, a
St. Francois County resident; (2) Dennis Smith, the jail
administrator for St. Francois County; (3) David Kennedy, a
St. Francois County bailiff; (4) Daniel Bullock, the Sheriff
of St. Francois County; (5) Spring Henson Gray, a clerk or
secretary for the St. Francois County Prosecutor; (6) Donald
Duncan, a Farmington police officer; (7) Rick Baker,
Farmington Police Chief; and (8) John Doe, a Farmington
police officer. She also sues the City of Farmington and St.
Francois County. Cunningham alleges the following facts.
2013, Cunningham alleges she discovered her husband was
having an affair with Defendant Leona Bates and with another
woman, Kelly Vaugh, a friend of Bates. Cunningham complained
publicly about Bates. Cunningham also sent an email to
several people stating that Vaugh was having an affair with
her husband. Vaugh filed a petition for a temporary
restraining order against Cunningham. The request for a
temporary restraining order was denied.
alleges that Bates began appearing at functions she knew
Cunningham would be attending in an attempt to provoke
Cunningham into a confrontation. After these functions, Bates
would secretly file false police reports claiming Cunningham
had stalked and assaulted Bates. Duncan, Baker, and Doe kept
these reports secret because Bates claimed Cunningham would
attack her if she knew about the reports. Cunningham alleges
that this occurred at least three times between November 2013
and January 2014.
alleges that on or about January 11, 2014, Duncan and Doe,
who are Farmington police officers, were waiting for
Cunningham when she left a restaurant after a confrontation
with Bates. Cunningham alleges she was pulled over by the
police officers. Cunningham passed a field sobriety test but
refused to take a breathalyzer test. Cunningham alleges she
refused a breathalyzer test because she had had gastric
bypass surgery and had been told this would cause a high
reading on a breathalyzer. Cunningham was arrested and
charged with driving while intoxicated. She posted bond for
that charge and for a pending aggravated stalking charge that
had been previously filed in January 2014.
bond on the stalking charge was revoked in May 2014. A
hearing was held on June 11, 2014, on Cunningham's motion
to reinstate her bond. Bates did not testify at that hearing.
Cunningham was denied bond on the grounds that Bates was
afraid Cunningham would stalk and assault her. Cunningham
pleaded guilty to aggravated stalking on August 16, 2014
because she believed that was the only way to be released
from jail to see her children. Cunningham claims she was kept
in jail for an indefinite period to pressure and coerce her
into pleading guilty. Cunningham also pleaded guilty to
driving while intoxicated. Cunningham was sentenced to five
years of probation and was released on August 16, 2014.
Cunningham alleges she was never interviewed by the police
department or the Sheriff's office with respect to the
police reports Bates filed or the stalking charge that
August 28, 2014, Cunningham went to the Elks Club near
Farmington with friends. When Cunningham left the Elks Club,
Duncan and Doe were waiting for her to exit the building.
Cunningham's friend had been drinking and attempted to
drive. Cunningham alleges she gently pushed her friend to
prevent him from driving. The officers arrested Cunningham,
and she was charged with misdemeanor assault and incarcerated
from August 28, 2014 to September 25, 2014, when she obtained
probation was revoked on November 7, 2014, and the court
sentenced her to 120 days in prison. Cunningham was
incarcerated from November 7, 2014 to March 24, 2015. Before
her probation revocation hearing, Cunningham spoke with
Sheriff Bullock and told him that the charges against her had
been manufactured by Bates, with the assistance of her
friends in public office. Cunningham alleges Sheriff Bullock
did not investigate these claims. Cunningham alleges Bates
sought revenge against her for revealing Bates's affair
with Cunningham's husband. She also alleges some of the
other defendants had their own personal reasons for wanting
revenge against her. Cunningham claims the defendants worked
together to “falsely charge [her] with stalking Leona
Bates, ” “falsely charge her with assaulting [her
friend], ” and “falsely charge [her] with driving
while intoxicated.” Compl. 3‒4, ECF No. 4.
brings four due process claims. She brings Counts I and II
against the individual defendants, arguing they denied her
due process of law by acting in concert, under color of state
law, to recklessly present false evidence to the prosecutor,
fail to investigate the facts, persuade the prosecutor to
deny her bond, hold her in jail indefinitely until she pled
guilty, revoke her probation, and selectively prosecute her
on false charges. She brings Count III against the City of
Farmington and Count IV against St. Francois County, arguing
they had a custom, policy, or practice of permitting the
denial of due process to individuals when the alleged victim
of a crime had friendly connections to Farmington and St.
Francois County public officials. She also alleges inadequate
hiring and training practices. Cunningham claims her damages
include deprivation of her liberty for more than 200 days
when she was falsely incarcerated, the loss of her business,