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Raspberry v. Thompson

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

February 23, 2015

DAMIEON B. RASPBERRY, Plaintiff,
v.
KENNETH THOMPSON, Defendant.

EDWARD G. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Before the Magistrate Judge for a report and recommendation is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [D.E. 47]. Plaintiff has responded in opposition, and Defendant has replied.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff brought this action alleging that Defendant Kenneth Thompson, who at all times relevant was an investigator with the Henderson County Sheriff's Department, deprived Plaintiff of his Constitutional rights by causing an arrest warrant to be issued without probable cause. ( See generally 2d Am. Compl., D.E. 30). Plaintiff alleges that his arrest violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment. (2d Am. Compl., D.E. 30 ¶ 14). Plaintiff has also brought Tennessee state law tort claims against Defendant for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (2d Am. Compl., D.E. 30 ¶ 17-20).

The facts of this case revolve around a theft of property that occurred on August 20, 2011, at Whitney Overman's residence. At that time, Plaintiff resided with Ms. Overman, who was his girlfriend. (D.E. 30 ¶ 8). The day after the theft, Plaintiff called the Sheriff's Department to report that 40 hydrocodone pills were missing from his and Ms. Overman's residence. (Statement of Undisputed Facts ("SOUF" ¶3). The Sheriff's Department advised Plaintiff that missing medication reports are generally not investigated by the Sheriff's Department. (SOUF ¶ 3). During that phone call, Plaintiff did not report that Ms. Overman's jewelry had been stolen (SOUF ¶ 3), but Plaintiff and Ms. Overton explain that at that time they were not aware that the jewelry was missing. (Plaintiff's Response to SOUF, Whitney Overman's Dec. ¶ 5).

On August 24, 2011, which was three days after Plaintiff initially reported the theft of hydrocodone, Ms. Overman, reported a theft of jewelry and two bottles of gin to the Sheriff's Department. (SOUF ¶ 4). This report was made from Plaintiff's phone, which they shared. (Plaintiff's Additional Undisputed Facts). According to Ms. Overman, neither she nor Plaintiff were aware of jewelry missing until the 24th of August, and a police report was filed later that same day. (Whitney Overman's Dec. ¶ 5). On the other hand, Defendant maintains that Plaintiff knew the jewelry was missing before that time.

In recalling the events leading up to the theft, Ms. Overman indicated that on August 20, 2011, while she and Plaintiff were away from their residence, she received a phone call from two friends, Holly Jo Graves and Danny Kelly. (SOUF ¶ 4). During the telephone conversation, Ms. Graves advised Ms. Overman that she and Mr. Kelly were at Ms. Overman's house. (SOUF ¶ 4). Ms. Overman then told Ms. Graves that she and Plaintiff would return home soon. (SOUF ¶ 4). When Ms. Overman and Plaintiff arrived, Ms. Graves proceeded to tell Ms. Overman that she noticed the back door to the residence was unlocked and had thought about entering the residence to use the restroom before Ms. Overman returned. She, however, decided not to because she did not want to be a suspect if any property ended up missing. (SOUF ¶ 4).

During this initial report of the incident, on August 24, 2011, Ms. Overman believed the property was still missing and Defendant states that she never indicated any knowledge that Plaintiff had gained possession of the stolen items. (SOUF ¶ 4). In contrast, Plaintiff states that shortly after the report was made, Officer Danny Crownover arrived, and Plaintiff and Ms. Overman both told the officer about the theft. Plaintiff and Ms. Overman both state that Ms. Overman directed Plaintiff to retrieve her missing jewelry. (Plaintiff Dec. 6, Overman Dec. 6). Ms. Overman states that Ms. Graves called Plaintiff Wednesday afternoon, after the report was made, trying to return the jewelry, and that Plaintiff met with Ms. Graves and retrieved the jewelry and returned it to Ms. Overman. Ms. Overman stares that she called the Sheriff's Department and told them the stolen property was returned and they informed her that it had to be brought in. (Overman Dec. 6).

On August 30, Ms. Overman took the jewelry in. (Overman Dec. 7). Defendant investigated the allegations made by Ms. Overman by interviewing Ms. Overman, Danny Kelly, and Virginia Kelly (Danny Kelly's mother) on August 30, 2011. (SOUF ¶ 5).

Danny Kelly recalled that on August 20, 2011, he and Ms. Graves went to Plaintiff and Ms. Overman's house. (SOUF ¶ 7). When they arrived, neither Plaintiff nor Ms. Overman were there so Ms. Graves called Plaintiff who indicated to her that he and Ms. Overman would be back soon. (SOUF ¶ 7). Plaintiff disputes this recollection of events and asserts that Defendant is twisting the facts to imply a conspiracy between Plaintiff and Ms. Graves. Plaintiff states that when the call happened, Ms. Overman was sitting right beside him and he immediately advised her that they needed to go home. (Plaintiff's Response to SOUF, Plaintiff's Dec. 3). Before they arrived, Ms. Graves entered Ms. Overman's house through an unlocked back door and then came back outside and waited for Plaintiff and Ms. Overman to return. (SOUF ¶ 7). After Plaintiff and Ms. Overman arrived, Ms. Graves and Mr. Kelly visited with them inside the residence for several hours. (SOUF ¶ 7). After visiting with Plaintiff and Ms. Overman, Ms. Graves and Mr. Kelly went to Mr. Kelly's mother's house. (SOUF ¶ 7). There, Ms. Graves showed Mr. Kelly and his mother, Ms. Virginia Kelly, rings that she had stolen from the residence. She then attempted to sell the items to Ms. Kelly, who refused to buy them. (SOUF ¶ 7-8).

Virginia Kelly also provided Defendant her recollection of what happened. She indicated that on August 20, 2011, her son and Ms. Graves came to her house and Ms. Graves tried to sell her some jewelry which she had taken from "somebody's" house. (SOUF ¶ 8). Mrs. Kelly refused to buy the jewelry and asked Ms. Graves to leave. (SOUF ¶ 8). Ms. Graves got upset and left, leaving two stolen rings behind. (SOUF ¶ 8). Danny Kelly planned to take the rings to the police station the next day. (SOUF ¶ 8). According to Defendant, Ms. Graves stated that the next day, on August 21, Plaintiff and Ms. Graves came together to the Kelly residence and collected the two rings. (SOUF ¶ 8). Plaintiff told the Kellys that he was going to give the jewelry back to Ms. Overman. (SOUF ¶ 8). Mrs. Kelly asked Plaintiff to sign a document stating that he had taken possession of the property, but Plaintiff did not. (SOUF ¶ 8). Plaintiff disputes this recollection, maintaining that neither he nor Ms. Overman knew about the missing jewelry until Ms. Graves told them on August 24, 2011, and that same day officer Crownover came out, and Ms. Overman and Plaintiff reported the missing items together. (Plaintiff's Response to SOUF ¶ 8).

During Defendant's interview with Ms. Overman, Ms. Overman confirmed that after Mr. Kelly and Ms. Graves left her residence on August 20, 2011, several pieces of jewelry, two bottles of gin and some hydrocodone pills were missing. (SOUF ¶ 6). She also indicated to Defendant that sometime after she initially filed the report on August 24, 2011, Plaintiff had gained possession of the jewelry and returned the stolen items to her. (SOUF ¶ 6). While Defendant contends that Ms. Overman did not indicate that she had any knowledge that Plaintiff had obtained possession just one day after the items ended up missing and three days prior to her making her initial report, (SOUF ¶ 6), Plaintiff maintains that Ms. Overman and himself found out about the theft at the same time, and Ms. Overman directed Plaintiff to go retrieve the stolen jewelry (Plaintiff's Response to SOUF).

According to Defendant, he attempted to interview Plaintiff about the situation, but Plaintiff refused to cooperate. (SOUF ¶ 9). Plaintiff disputes this and says that when Defendant called him and asked him to come to the station and give a statement, he advised Defendant that he was on crutches and that Defendant could come to him, which angered Defendant. (Plaintiff Dec. ¶9). Plaintiff said he had to wait to get a ride from his mother and so on September 1 or 2 she took him down to the station, but Defendant was on sick leave. (Plaintiff ¶¶. 9-10). He was arrested on September 14, 2011. ( Id. ¶10).

Defendant states that he believed based on his interviews with the Kellys and based on Plaintiff's behavior that Plaintiff had conspired with Ms. Graves for the property to be stolen. (SOUF ¶ 10). Defendant says he based this belief on the fact that Plaintiff had made a call on August 21, 2011, to report a theft but he did not mention the theft of the jewelry or gin. (SOUF ¶ 3, 10). According to the Kellys, they gave the rings left by Ms. Graves to Plaintiff and Ms. Graves on August 21, 2011. (SOUF ¶ 8). While at the Kellys, Plaintiff refused to sign a document stating he had gained possession of the stolen property. (SOUF ¶ 8). When Ms. Overman reported the property stolen on August 24, 2011, Defendant believed she had no knowledge that Plaintiff had possession of the property and believed that the property remained missing. (SOUF ¶ 4). Defendant believed that it was only after Plaintiff learned that Ms. Overman contacted the Sheriff's Department that he gave the property back to Ms. Overman and that he did so in an effort to conceal the theft, hamper the investigation and avoid prosecution. (SOUF ¶ 10). According to Plaintiff, there were many questions that Defendant did not ask Ms. Overman, and many assumptions made.

Defendant states that based on the facts as he understood them at the time, he requested an arrest warrant be issued for Plaintiff charging him with theft over $500 in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated § 39-14-103. (SOUF ¶ 11). The arrest warrant was issued on September 6, 2011 and Plaintiff was thereafter arrested on September 14, 2011. (SOUF ¶ 11).

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 governs motions for summary judgments. Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Material facts are facts which are defined by substantive law and are necessary to apply the law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 ...


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