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Graham v. Korte

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

November 1, 2019

JAMES GRAHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
SHERIFF STEPHEN KORTE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          E. RICHARD WEBBER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the Joint Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendants Sheriff Stephen Korte, Major Josh Baker, Deputy Justin Sheppard, Deputy Brenden McPike, and Detective Joseph Minor (ECF No. 46) and Plaintiff James Graham's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No. 49).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff James Graham (“Plaintiff”) initiated this lawsuit by filing a Complaint in this Court on September 28, 2016, against Defendants Sheriff Stephen Korte, Major Josh Baker, Deputy Justin Sheppard, Deputy Brenden McPike, and Detective Joseph Minor (collectively “Defendants”). Plaintiff alleged Defendants conducted an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Compl. ¶¶ 38-49, ECF No. 1) On July 31, 2019, Defendants filed their Joint Motion for Summary Judgment, and Plaintiff filed his Motion for Summary Judgment on that same date. The Court held a hearing on the cross-motions for summary judgment on October 3, 2019.

         A. Uncontroverted Facts[1]

         The Court's recitation of the facts pertaining to Plaintiff's sole claim of unconstitutional search and seizure is taken from Plaintiff's Complaint, the parties' statements of Uncontroverted Material Facts and responses thereto, and the evidence presented in the record. Plaintiff resides in Pike County, Missouri. (Defs.' Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts [“SUMF”] ¶ 1, ECF No. 48) Defendant Stephen Korte (“Korte”) is the Sheriff of Pike County, Missouri. (Id. at ¶ 2) The other named Defendants are employed as Deputy Sheriffs of the Pike County Sheriff's Department (“PCSD”). (Id. at ¶¶ 3-6) On January 14, 2016, PCSD Officers, including Defendants Josh Baker (“Baker”) and Brenden McPike (“McPike”), executed a search warrant at Plaintiff's residence but did not arrest Plaintiff. (Pl.'s SUMF ¶¶ 8-9, ECF No. 51)

         Prior to this date, Defendant Joseph Minor (“Minor”) received information from individuals that Plaintiff used crack cocaine in his home. (Defs.' SUMF ¶ 7; Minor Dep. 6:24-9:14, 10:11-11:19, 11:20-14:9, 15:6-17:3, 27:1-29:17, ECF No. 48-3) On January 12, 2016, Defendant Minor shared the information regarding Plaintiff's alleged use of crack cocaine with Defendant Baker.[2] (Defs.' SUMF ¶ 8; Baker Dep. 7:21-8:9, ECF No. 48-2; Minor Dep. 6:1-8) However, Defendants have no written or recorded statements relating to Plaintiff's alleged use of crack cocaine prior to the execution of the search warrant. (Pl.'s SUMF ¶ 22(a))

         On January 13, 2016, Defendants Baker, Minor, and McPike traveled to Plaintiff's residence and conducted a trash pull of an outside trash container.[3] (Defs.' SUMF ¶ 10) Defendant McPike opened a bag and began looking through it. (McPike Dep. 15:1-8, ECF No. 51-8) He did not dump out the contents as he had done in his five previous trash pulls. (Id. at 15:9-16:25) Defendant McPike located a quart size glass jar with a white residue in the trash collected from the container at the curb of Plaintiff's residence.[4] (Defs.' SUMF ¶ 12) Defendants Baker and Minor conducted three field tests with NARTEC field test kits, and all three tests yielded positive results for the presence of cocaine.[5] (Minor Aff. ¶ 7, ECF No. 53-1) Defendant McPike did not see any pictures or video of the glass jar taken in the sally port where the trash pull was conducted. (McPike Dep. 24:8-25:15) However, PCSD maintained a chain of custody and photographs for the glass gar and residue recovered from the trash pull. (Minor Aff. ¶ 5, 12) The three residents of Plaintiff Graham's residence deny putting the items in the trash container. (Pl.'s Suppl. SUMF ¶ 4)

         On January 13, 2016, Defendant Baker prepared an affidavit for Search Warrant for Plaintiff's residence and submitted the affidavit to the Pike County Prosecuting Attorney, who then presented a Search Warrant Application, including Defendant Baker's affidavit, to the Pike County Circuit Court. (Defs.' SUMF ¶¶ 14-15) On that same date, Judge David H. Ash, Associate Circuit Judge of the Circuit Court of Pike County, Missouri issued a search warrant for Plaintiff's residence. (Defs.' SUMF ¶ 15; Warrant, Defs.' Ex. G, ECF No. 48-7) Defendant Baker later submitted a revised affidavit after realizing he inadvertently wrote Defendant Sheppard, instead of McPike, accompanied Defendants Baker and Minor to conduct the trash pull. (Defs.' SUMF ¶¶ 16-18) The affidavit states in pertinent part:

On January 12, 2016 I received information that Jim Graham regularly uses crack cocaine at his residence in Clarksville, MO. The information is that the cocaine is obtained from Louisiana, MO.
At 5:24 P.M. on January 12, 2016 Detective Minor, Deputy Sheppard, and I traveled to 707 South Second Street, Clarksville, MO to observe where the trash was located at the home. The trash was sitting at the left side of the front porch.
At 01:00 A.M. on January 13, 2016 Detective Minor, Sgt. McPike, and I traveled to 707 South Second Street, Clarksville, MO. The trash and trashcan had been moved from beside the porch to the front of the home and was abandoned by the curb. I served as lookout as Detective Minor approached the home. I took a photograph of Detective Minor as he removed three white trash bags as they had been abandoned by the curb within a place accessible to anyone.
At the Pike County Sheriff's Office the following items were found within the trash pulled from 707 South Second Street, Clarksville, MO:
1. One quart-sized glass container with a large amount of white residue. The residue was field tested three times and displayed a positive presence of cocaine three times. It is believed that the glass container was used to produce crack cocaine from powder cocaine. The glass container also has two visible fingerprints. The glass container will be sent to the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Lab to verify the presence of cocaine as well as identifying the visible fingerprints.
2. U.S. Mail addressed to [REDACTED] 707 SOUTH2ND, CLARKSVILLE, MO, 63336

(Defs.' Ex. G p. 6, ECF No. 48-7)

         On January 14, 2016, the Pike County Prosecuting Attorney presented a Search Warrant Application which included Defendant Baker's revised affidavit to the Pike County Circuit Court. (Defs.' SUMF ¶ 19) Judge Ash issued a search warrant for Plaintiff's residence. (Id.) The search warrant stated, “[u]pon the sworn complaint made before me there is probable cause to believe that the crimes of possession of controlled substances, including but not limited to cocaine, have been committed and that evidence of that crime . . . .” (Warrant, Defs.' Ex. G p. 1) That night at approximately 8:30 p.m., PCSD Officers, including Defendants Baker and McPike executed the search warrant at Plaintiff's residence. (Defs.' SUMF ¶ 20; Pl.'s SUMF ¶ 8) The Officers seized six items including a W-2 form belonging to Plaintiff, a pill bottle belonging to a co-inhabitant, a white pill labeled ...


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