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Mead v. Joseph

August 3, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Phillips)


Plaintiff Charles Mead has sued defendant Jason Joseph*fn1 alleging violations of his Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that defendant violated his right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and right to freedom from excessive force during a traffic stop and investigation. This matter is before the court on defendant Joseph's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons which follow, defendant's motion will be granted and this matter dismissed against Jason Joseph.

The parties have filed extensive briefs pertaining to the motions for summary judgment in which they have fully briefed all of the issues and submitted record evidence in support of the parties' positions. The court has reviewed the briefs and evidence submitted, and does not feel that oral argument is necessary. Therefore, plaintiff's motion for oral argument [Doc. 27] is DENIED.

Summary of the Facts

The facts, except where indicated, are undisputed. Mead alleges in his complaint that on November 12, 2005, he was traveling west on I-40, west of the Kingston exit, when he was pulled over by Officer Joseph and other defendants. Mead alleges that he was pulled over at approximately 6:45 p.m. and it was dark at the time. When Mead stopped his vehicle, he was instructed by Officer Joseph to put both his arms out the window and he did so. Mead claims he was then "grabbed by the collar, dragged out of the vehicle, and told to lay on the ground." Mead alleges that he told Officer Joseph that he was "crippled" and was "unable to get on the ground," and that Officer Joseph then "threw him across the back of his truck bed, grabbed his hands, and forcefully placed his wrists in handcuffs. Mead claims that Officer Joseph attached the handcuffs so tightly that it caused Mead's wrists to bleed. Mead claims that he was then frisked and his wallet was removed from his left front pocket.

Mead alleges that shortly after his wallet was removed from his pocket, "another officer from the Kingston Police Department showed up, and commented, 'Are you not the fellow that works with wood?'" When Mead responded that he was, indeed, the "fellow that works with wood," the officers "began to ease up on him, and very shortly thereafter, released him by unhooking the handcuffs and letting him depart the premises."

Mead further alleges that at the time he was stopped by Kingston officers, he had approximately Two Thousand Dollars ($2,000) in his wallet and that after the officers returned his wallet, he discovered that the money was gone. Mead alleges that the defendant officers stole the money from his wallet. Mead claims that he later contacted the Kingston Police Department to lodge a complaint and spoke to Officer Joseph, who told him that the traffic stop was justified. Mead then requested and received an audience with James Washam, Chief of Police for the City of Kingston, Officer Joseph, and other officers.

Mead testified at his deposition that on November 12, 2005, he was selling his wood crafts at a crafts fair at the Jacobs Building at Chilhowee Park. He left the fair at approximately 5:45 p.m. He did not keep track of how much money he had made at the crafts fair; instead he simply put the money he made into a bag/wallet that he kept in his pocket. He typically counted his money at the end of each craft show, and as this particular craft show had not ended, he had not yet counted his money.

Mead stated that when the left the craft fair at 5:45 p.m. on November 12, he headed straight home without making any stops. He took the interstate to get to his home in Rockwood. He became aware that there was a police cruiser behind him with emergency equipment activated at approximately 6:45 p.m. as he was traveling in Roane County before the Kingston bridge near exit 350, but he did not immediately pull over.

Mead testified that at the time he was pulled over, he had an approximately thirteen-inch knife in the truck with him. He claims Officer Joseph opened the door of his pickup truck and pulled him out. Officer Joseph placed him in handcuffs. Mead counted nine officers at the scene, but did not know how many police cruisers were there. No other officers were involved in placing the handcuffs on him. He asked Officer Joseph at the scene who he was, and Officer Joseph identified himself. At some point during the traffic stop, one of the officers present recognized him and asked if he was Charlie Mead, to which plaintiff replied that he was.

Mead further testified that while he was handcuffed, he was asked for his wallet, but did not know which officer asked him for it. He told the officers where his wallet was located and one of the officers retrieved it from his pocket, but he did not know which officer retrieved it. He did not see anything happening with his wallet at the scene. He did not know how much money was in his wallet at the time. His wallet was placed back in his pocket while he was still handcuffed. He did not remember which officer replaced his wallet, nor did he know which officer removed the handcuffs. He testified that nothing was taken from his truck that night. He alleged that he did not notice any difference in the size of his wallet between the time that it was removed from his pocket and when it was replaced, and he did not notice that anything was missing from his wallet until the following Sunday, November 13, 2005.

Mead further testified that soon after the officer asked him if he was Charlie Mead, the handcuffs were removed. After the handcuffs were removed, one of the officers asked him if he had been drinking, and he answered that he had not. He did, however, tell the officers that he was tired. He had worked a twelve-hour day at the time of the traffic stop. He testified that there was never any physical altercation with any of the officers during the stop, and that none of the officers used any profanity during the stop. He was not issued any citation or ticket that night. Mead estimated that from the time he pulled over until he left the scene for home, only five or ten minutes elapsed.

Later that evening at home, Mead contacted Roane County dispatch to attempt to find out who had stopped him that evening. He did not tell anyone he spoke to that evening that any money was missing. When he spoke to Officer Joseph on the telephone, Officer Joseph mentioned the thirteen-inch knife Mead had in his truck with him at the time of the traffic stop. Officer Joseph also told Mead that he pulled him over because he believed Mead was driving under the influence and trying to evade pursuit, as he was "swerving all over the road." Mead denied knowing that he had been swerving to Officer Joseph.

Later that same evening, Chief Washam called Mead. Mead did not tell Chief Washam that any money was missing. Chief Washam offered to send an officer out to Mead's house to take a statement, but Mead declined the offer and said to send someone later. Chief Washam sent an officer a few weeks later, but Mead had already ...

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