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Freeman v. Gay

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

October 31, 2016

ANTONIO FREEMAN
v.
DEE DAVID GAY, et al.

          HONORABLE KEVIN H. SHARP, CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMENDATION

          BARBARA D. HOLMES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         By Order entered September 16, 2011 (Docket Entry No. 5), this action was referred to the Magistrate Judge to manage pretrial activity in the action under 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(A) and (B), Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Local Rules of Court. By Order entered February 2, 2012, the Court consolidated the instant action (“Freeman I”) with another action filed by Plaintiff, Antonio L. Freeman v. Dee David Gay, et al., 3:11-1094 (“Freeman II”). See Docket Entry No. 11 in Freeman II.[1]

         Pending before the Court are the motion for summary judgment of Defendant Jack Babbitt (Docket Entry No. 255) and the motion for summary judgment of Defendants James Stinson and Gregory Washburn (Docket Entry No. 258). For the reasons set out below, the Court recommends that the motions be granted and the consolidated actions be dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Antonio Freeman (“Plaintiff”) is currently an inmate confined within the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”). In 2011, he filed the two now consolidated actions pro se and in forma pauperis seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based upon events that occurred when he was both a non-incarcerated citizen in Sumner County, Tennessee, and a pretrial detainee at the Sumner County Jail (“Jail”), where he was confined prior to becoming a TDOC inmate. In lengthy pleadings, Plaintiff brought claims against numerous individuals based upon multiple events that occurred during the time span of 2008 to 2011. As noted by the Court in a prior Order,

In this consolidated civil rights action, which arose after Plaintiff was arrested for driving under the influence in Gallatin, Tennessee on September 14, 2008, Plaintiff, pro se, has sued virtually everyone he had contact with since, including police officers, sheriff deputies, jailers, judges, a city mayor, bail bondsmen, defense lawyers, disciplinary counsel, prosecutors, court employees, and even a grand jury foreperson. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and millions of dollars in damages for a host of alleged constitutional and state law violations.

See Order entered September 28, 2012 (Docket Entry No. 157) (“”September 28 2012 Order”) at 1.[2] The full procedural and factual history of the consolidated action need not be recounted herein because all but two of Plaintiff's claims have been dismissed as a result of previous pretrial proceedings. See Report and Recommendation entered June 7, 2012 (Docket Entry No. 120), adopted by September 28, 2012 Order, for a complete summary of Plaintiff's allegations and claims.

         The surviving claims were raised in Freeman I. Plaintiff's first claim is against James Stinson (“Stinson”) and Gregory Washburn (“Washburn”). Defendants Stinson and Washburn were police officers with the Gallatin Police Department who made a traffic stop of Plaintiff on June 26, 2011, and arrested him on charges of possession of a Schedule II Drug, evading arrest, driving on a suspended license, and reckless endangerment. Plaintiff alleges that he was wrongfully arrested and that Defendants used excessive force against him during the course of the arrest. See Complaint (Docket Entry No. 1), at 9, 12 and 29.[3] Claims against Defendant Stinson and Washburn in their official capacities and claims against them under state law were dismissed. See September 28, 2012 Order at 5.

         Plaintiff's second claim is against Jack Babbitt (“Babbitt”), who worked as an officer at the Jail during Plaintiff's confinement there in 2011. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Babbit wrongfully placed Plaintiff in segregation at the Jail and discriminated against him because Plaintiff is an African-American and also used excessive force against him on August 20, 2011. See Complaint at 33.

         Because it was not apparent that the criminal charges brought against Plaintiff as a result of the June 26, 2011, arrest had been resolved, the Court stayed the action on September 28, 2012, until the conclusion of the relevant state criminal proceedings, in accordance with Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971) and Michel v. City of Akron, 272 Fed.Appx. 477, 2008 WL 2077868 (6th Cir. May 15, 2008). See September 28, 2012 Order at 5. Upon receiving information from Defendants that the charges had been resolved, the stay was lifted on June 17, 2015, see Order (Docket Entry No. 225), and a scheduling order was entered providing for a period of discovery and other pretrial activity. See Docket Entry No. 229.[4]

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTIONS

         Defendant Babbitt asserts that there are no facts supporting a claim that he violated Plaintiff's First Amendment rights or his Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights. See Memorandum in Support (Docket Entry No. 256). Defendant Babbitt further argues that Plaintiff's excessive force claim warrants dismissal because it was brought under the wrong constitutional provision. Id. In support of his motion, Defendant Babbitt relies upon the declaration of Sonya Troutt, the Jail Administrator in 2011 (Docket Entry No. 255-1), excerpts from Plaintiff's deposition transcript (Docket Entry No. 255-2), and a statement of undisputed material facts (Docket Entry No. 257).

         In their motion for summary judgment, Defendants Stinson and Washburn raise the defense of qualified immunity and argue that the undisputed facts show that Plaintiff was arrested on June 28, 2011, after he attempted to flee from a traffic stop and that he was subsequently handcuffed and taken into custody without incident. See Memorandum in Support (Docket Entry No. 263). They argue that there are no facts supporting either Plaintiff's claim that he was unlawfully arrested or his claim that unreasonable force was used against him during his arrest. Id. In support of their motion, Defendants rely upon excerpts from Plaintiff's deposition transcript (Docket Entry No. 259-1), the affidavit of ...


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