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Wright v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

May 18, 2017

STUART WRIGHT, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendants.

          ORDER

          SARAH W. HAYS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pending before the Court is the Motion of the United States to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment on the Remaining Common Law Tort Claims (doc. #115). Plaintiffs First Amended Complaint contained the following counts against a number of defendants: Count I, a claim under 42 U.S.C §1983 for Violations of the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Missouri, and Federal and State Laws; Count II, a claim under 42 U.S.C. §1985 (Conspiracy) for Violations of the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Missouri and Federal and State Laws; Count III a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act; and Count IV, a claim pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics. 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971). (Doc. #1, at 16-26)

         On May 9, 2012, this Court granted defendants' motions to dismiss Counts I and II of the complaint. (Docs. #67, 68) On September 6, 2012, this Court granted in part and denied in part the Motion of the Individual Capacity Defendants to Dismiss Count IV of Plaintiffs First Amended Complaint or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, and dismissed claims against two individual defendants but left intact claims against defendants Sean Franklin and Christopher Wallace (Wright I).[1] (Doc. #76) Franklin and Wallace brought an interlocutory appeal and on appeal, the Eighth Circuit remanded the matter for this Court to properly address defendants' qualified immunity defense and make findings of fact and conclusions of law sufficient to permit appellate review (Wright II). (Doc. #82-1, at 4-5)

         On remand, this Court granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion for summary judgment (Wright III). (Doc. #104, at 20) The Court granted the portion of the motion seeking summary judgment as to plaintiffs claim against Franklin and Wallace for false arrest, finding that both marshals were entitled to qualified immunity. (Doc. #104, at 8-11) The Court denied the portion of the motion seeking summary judgment as to plaintiffs claims against Franklin and Wallace for excessive force and improper search and seizure, finding that neither marshal was entitled to qualified immunity. (Doc. #104, at 11-19)

         Franklin and Wallace appealed the Court's decision with regard to their claim for qualified immunity on plaintiffs claims of excessive force and improper search and seizure. (Doc. #108-1) On appeal the Eighth Circuit found that the marshals were entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiffs excessive force claim and improper search and seizure claim and remanded the matter for this Court to enter judgment consistent with the Eighth Circuit's determination (Wright IV). (Doc. #108-1, at 10-15) On March 15, 2016, this Court entered the order granting the remaining marshals' motion for summary judgment with respect to Count IV of Plaintiff s First Amended Complaint. (Doc. #111) Plaintiffs only remaining claim is a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (Count III) against the United States, which is the subject of the pending motion.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         A moving party is entitled to summary judgment "if 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). A party who moves for summary judgment bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact for trial. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.. 477 U.S. 242, 256, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2514, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). However, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Id. at 247-48. "Material facts" are those "that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, " and a "genuine" material fact involves evidence "such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248.

         The initial burden of proof in a motion for summary judgment is placed upon the moving party to establish the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. See Olson v. Pennzoil Co., 943 F.2d 881, 883 (8th Cir. 1991). If the moving party meets its initial burden, the nonmoving party must then produce specific evidence to demonstrate genuine issues for trial. Id. When the burden shifts, the nonmoving party may not rest on the allegations in its pleadings, but must set forth, via citation to material in the record, specific facts showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1); Stone Motor Co. v. General Motors Corp., 293 F.3d 456, 465 (8th Cir. 2002). When considering a motion for summary judgment, a court must scrutinize the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and the nonmoving party "must be given the benefit of all reasonable inferences." Mira Chem. Prods. Corp. v. First Interstate Commercial Corp., 950 F.2d 566, 569 (8th Cir. 1991). The Court may not weigh the evidence in the record, decide credibility questions or determine the truth of factual issues, but merely decides if there is evidence creating a genuine issue for trial. See Bell v. Conopco, Inc., 186 F.3d 1099, 1101 (8th Cir. 1999).

         III. UNDISPUTED FACTS

         In a separate filing before this Court, defendant filed a Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts and Settled Legal Conclusions. (Doc. #116) Plaintiff has raised a number of general objections to the form and content of the filing, including objections as to whether Wright IV controls some of the factual findings. (Doc. #120) Nevertheless, plaintiff has not provided any argument or evidence which disputes any of the facts listed below. Additionally, the majority of defendant's undisputed facts appear to be taken almost directly from the Eighth Circuit's decision in Wright IV. Therefore, this Court will not address any of the general objections as stated by plaintiff. (Doc. #120, at 1-7) The Court finds the following facts:

1. In 2008, Vinol Wilson ("Wilson") was indicted by a Grand Jury in United States District Court for the District of Kansas for "conspiracy to manufacture, to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine base 'crack, ' and to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine" in the case styled United States v. Vinol Wilson, 07-20168-07-JWL/DJW (D. Kan.).
2. Following the issuance of the indictment, an arrest warrant was issued for Wilson; however, Wilson was not immediately located or apprehended.
3. Sean Franklin ("Franklin"), a Deputy U.S. Marshal with the U.S. Marshals Service in the District of Kansas began an investigation to locate and arrest Wilson.
4. Based upon his investigation, Franklin learned that Wilson had a history of drug, weapons, and aggravated assault offenses. Wilson had previously spent 78 months in prison for distributing crack cocaine and for using a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. Wilson was considered armed and dangerous.
5. Based upon his investigation, Franklin also learned that Wilson was a black male, born in 1974, was into steroids, body building and dog fighting, and was known to play basketball with a group of acquaintances in leagues and tournaments in and around the Greater Kansas City area.
6. For example, Franklin learned that Wilson played on a basketball team that participated in the 2008 Sunflower State games.
7. After obtaining a copy of that particular team roster, Franklin undertook to talk with other team members in an effort to locate Wilson pursuant to the outstanding arrest warrant.
8. Eventually, on Wednesday, April 15, 2009, at approximately 9:30 a.m., Franklin made contact with Walt Bethea ("Bethea"), who had played on Wilson's basketball team.
9. Franklin showed Bethea a 2005 Kansas driver's license photo of Wilson that Bethea identified as "V" and Bethea stated that he knew Wilson was wanted by law enforcement for some drug charges.
10. Bethea also informed Franklin that Wilson played in an adult basketball league in Grandview, Missouri, on Wednesday evenings at the Grandview Community Center. Bethea said that Wilson had played in the prior week's game and was scheduled to play again that evening at 7:30 p.m.
11. Bethea stated that Wilson's team was comprised of all black males who wore orange-colored jerseys.
12. At approximately 11:30 a.m., on April 15, 2009, Franklin met with a confidential source ("CS") at the Grandview Community Center.
13. Franklin showed CS the 2005 Kansas driver's license photo of Wilson and CS stated that he had seen the person pictured, but did not know his name. CS stated that he had seen Wilson wearing an orange-colored jersey with the number "23" on the back. CS also said that Wilson had been seen with his hair in braids (or "corn-rows"), sporting a goatee, and with gold-colored teeth.
14. CS obtained access to the roster for the team that he identified as the one Wilson played for. CS explained that individuals playing in the league do not have to produce any identification and rosters are not checked by the Grandview Community Center for any accuracy. The roster included many of the names that had been on the team roster for the 2008 Sunflower State games, including Walt Bethea. Wilson's name was not listed, but ...

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