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Brown v. Trump

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

March 12, 2019

RODNEY BROWN, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Rodney Brown (“Brown”) filed this action claiming that Defendants violated his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C §1983 in addition to Missouri state law violations. The matter is before the Court on Motions to Dismiss made by three Defendants: the City of St. Louis [Doc. No. 27], Defendants Matthew Boettigheimer, Joseph Steiger, Steven Korte, and Phil Harden (collectively referred herein as “Defendant Officers”), collectively [Doc. No. 29], and Donald J. Trump [Doc. No. 40]. Defendant City of St. Louis moves to dismiss Count V of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). Defendants Boettigheimer, Steiger, Korte, and Harden all move to dismiss Count III of the FAC. Defendant Trump moves for a full dismissal of all counts against him. Plaintiff opposes the Motions. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Dismiss by the Defendant Officers is granted, the Motion to Dismiss by the City of St. Louis is granted in part and denied in part, and the Motion to Dismiss by Defendant Trump is granted.

         Facts and Background

         For the purpose of the motions to dismiss, Plaintiff's allegations are taken as true. The essential facts alleged in the FAC are as follows:

         On March 11, 2016 Plaintiff attended a campaign rally for then-presidential candidate Donald J. Trump, held at the Peabody Opera House. Brown was not a supporter of Trump. During the course of the rally, Brown was removed by the Defendant police officers and arrested for general peace disturbance. On April 6, 2016, the City of St. Louis filed formal charges against Brown for peace disturbance under Section 15.46.030 of the St. Louis City Municipal Ordinance Code. Brown was acquitted of all charges on September 18, 2017.

         Count I of the FAC alleges Unlawful Seizure/False Arrest pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 against all individual Defendants. Count II alleges Malicious Prosecution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 against all individual Defendants. Count III alleges Conspiracy to Violate Plaintiff's Civil Rights under §1983. Count IV alleges Retaliation for Exercise of First Amendment Rights in Violation of First and Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to the U.S. Constitution and §1983. Count V alleges a Monell claim for Violations of First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution and §1983. Count VI alleges False Arrest under Missouri law. Count VII alleges Malicious Prosecution under Missouri law. Count VIII alleges Retaliation for Exercise of Freedom of Speech and Right to Peaceable Assembly in Violation of Article I, Section 8 and 9 of the Missouri Constitution.

         Standard of Review

         The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is to test the legal sufficiency of a complaint so as to eliminate those actions “which are fatally flawed in their legal premises and deigned to fail, thereby sparing the litigants the burden of unnecessary pretrial and trial activity.” Young v. City of St. Charles, 244 F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing Neitzke v. Willaims, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989)). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain “enough facts 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 Court must “accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Id. However, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” will not be enough. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.


         Count III-Conspiracy to Violate Civil Rights

         Plaintiff claims that the Defendant Officers and Trump are liable under 42 U.S.C §1983 for conspiracy. Plaintiff alleges that they conspired in his arrest, charge, and prosecution. To prove a conspiracy claim, a plaintiff must show: (1) that the defendant conspired with others to deprive him of his constitutional rights; (2) that at least one of the alleged co-conspirators engaged in an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy; and (3) that the overt act injured the plaintiff. White v. McKinley, 519 F.3d 806, 814 (8th Cir. 2008) citing Askew v. Millerd, F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1999).

         Plaintiff argues that he has alleged sufficient facts to satisfy each of the elements of a §1983 conspiracy claim against all individual defendants. The existence of a civil conspiracy requires plaintiff to proffer “evidence of specific facts that show a ‘meeting of minds' among conspirators.” Barstad v. Murray, 420 F.3d 880, 887 (8th Cir. 2005). There must be enough facts “to suggest the defendants reached some understanding to violate constitutional rights.” City of Omaha Emps. Bettermen Ass'n v. City of Omaha, 883 F.2d 650, 652 (8th Cir. 1989). The FAC fails to allege how Defendant Officers and Defendant Trump reached a “meeting of the minds” in order to violate the constitutional rights of Plaintiff. In reference to Plaintiff, Defendant Trump uttered the phrase “Get him out of here!” and motioned for Plaintiff to be removed from the premises. Plaintiff was removed from the premises. The pleading fails to set out how then-candidate Trump, a non-state actor, would have control over municipal violations. The FAC fails to show how Defendant Trump, with his request for removal of Plaintiff, and accomplished by Defendant Officers Boettigheimer and Korte, was in conspiracy with the other named Defendants to ultimately lead to an arrest and prosecution with the goal of depriving Plaintiff of his constitutional rights.

         The allegations alleged in Count III of the First Amended Complaint are insufficient to support a claim of civil conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. §1983. Count III will be dismissed.

         Count V-Monell Claim for First, Fourth, Fourteenth ...

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