United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division
FR. RYAN GAVELINGER-SCOTT, et. al., Plaintiffs,
RUSSELL HARRISON, et al., Defendants.
NANETTE K. LAUGHREY United States District Judge
the Court are Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Defendant
Howard County Sheriff's Department, [Doc. 13], and
Partial Motion to Dismiss, [Doc. 15]. For the following
reasons, both Motions are granted.
bring this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging
Defendant Howard County employees violated their civil rights
by, inter alia, maliciously prosecuting, falsely
arresting, and falsely imprisoning Plaintiff Ryan Gevelinger.
is a Traditionalist Catholic priest belonging to an
independent Benedictine Sect. In 2014, Gevelinger relocated
to Armstrong, Missouri, where he purchased an abandoned
church, made repairs to the building, and began holding
church services there, naming the church and adjoining Abbey
“Congregario Ordinis Sancti Benedicti.” Plaintiff
Patricia Baldrige, known as Sister Monica, was a member of
Gevelinger's church in Iowa and joined Gevelinger in
Armstrong. Gevelinger and the Abbey struggled financially.
Russell Harrison, a Deputy with the Howard County
Sheriff's Department, was a frequent guest of
Gevelinger's church, although he was not a member.
Plaintiffs became socially acquainted with Harrison and
Baldridge made Harrison and Gevelinger co-trustees of her
estate and trust.
point thereafter the relationship soured. Harrison reported
to the Howard County law enforcement that Baldridge asked him
for “help to leave” Gevelinger because Gevelinger
was attempting to exploit her. On or about March 31, 2015
Defendants entered Plaintiffs property and the Abbey, seized
property belonging to the Plaintiffs and the Abbey, and began
an investigation. Harrison drafted, signed and presented a
probable cause statement and Gevelinger was charged with
three felony counts of financial exploitation of the elderly.
Gevelinger was held in prison for over nine months during the
preliminary hearing for Gevelinger's criminal case,
Baldridge “testified that Defendant Harrison's
account of events was inaccurate, wrong, and that in fact Fr.
Ryan had done nothing wrong.” [Doc. 4, p. 13]. The
financial exploitation charges were dismissed against
Gevelinger, but he plead guilty to unlawful possession of a
firearm, which was seized in one of the searches conducted
during the investigation.
Amended Complaint, [Doc. 4], alleges eight counts: (I)
Malicious Prosecution, False Arrest, Use of Unreliable and
Fraudulent Investigatory Techniques, Procurement of
Unreliable and Fabricated Evidence, Violation of Free
Exercise of Religion, Infringing Freedom of Speech,
Infringing Freedom of Assembly, Taking without Just
Compensation of Property, Wrongful Conviction and
Imprisonment; (II) Conspiracy; (III) Suppression of
Exculpatory Evidence; (IV) Violative Policies, Practices and
Procedures; (V) Common Law Negligence Resulting in Wrongful
Incarceration and Continued Detention; (VI) False Arrest;
(VII) Malicious Prosecution; and (VIII) Defamation and Fraud.
survive a motion to dismiss, 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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007)). A claim has facial plausibility when its
allegations rise above the “speculative” or
“conceivable, ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
547, and where “the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, ”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Such a complaint will be
liberally construed in the light most favorable to the
Plaintiffs. Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d
801, 806 (8th Cir. 2008).
Motion to Dismiss Defendant
Defendant Howard County moves to dismiss Defendant designated
as “Howard County Sherriff's Department”
because, as a matter of law, the Howard County Sheriff's
Department is not a separate legal entity amenable to suit.
[Doc. 14]. Plaintiffs stipulate to the dismissal, without
prejudice. [Doc. 20].
Missouri law, the Howard County Sheriff's Department is
not a suable entity. See Catlett v. Jefferson
County, 299 F.Supp.2d 967, 968-69 (E.D. Mo. 2004)
(“A local entity, such as a county sheriff's
department, which lacks the capacity to be sued under the
applicable state law may not be sued in federal court under
the provisions of ...