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Hood v. Brewer

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

January 10, 2017

TALISA HOOD, Plaintiff,
MELINDA BREWER, et al., Defendants.


          WILLIAM J. HAYNES, JR., Senior United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, Talisa Hood, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Defendants Melinda Brewer, William Taylor, Jr., [1] and Lawrence County, Tennessee ("Lawrence County"). Plaintiffs claims arise from her arrest by Defendant Brewer pursuant to a warrant for aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, and vandalism. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Brewer violated her rights under the Fourth Amendment by maliciously prosecuting Plaintiff despite a lack of probable cause for such criminal prosecution by arresting her without probable cause. Plaintiff also asserts state law claims against Defendant Brewer for outrageous conduct, malicious prosecution, and false imprisonment. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Lawrence County has a custom, policy, or practice of consciously disregarding the need to train and supervise its employees on unreasonable seizures of persons and such failure constitutes deliberate indifference to Plaintiffs constitutional rights.

         Before the Court is Defendants' the motion for summary judgment (Docket Entry No. 20), to which Plaintiff filed a response (Docket Entry No. 32), and the Defendants filed a reply (Docket Entry No. 35).

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that the Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Docket Entry No. 20) should be granted as the undisputed facts show ample proof to justify Plaintiffs arrest and subsequent prosecution. Plaintiff has failed to submit proof for a judgment on her claims.

         A. Findings of Fact[2]

         On September 27, 2014, Defendant Brewer was dispatched to 654 Rabbit Trail Road in Lawrence County, Tennessee based on a report of a female holding a male at gunpoint. (Docket Entry No. 25, Brewer Declaration, at ¶ 3). Defendant Brewer and Deputy Tracy Odom, Investigator Gary Mills, and Investigator John Myers of the Lawrence County Sheriffs Department arrived at the residence. Id. at ¶¶ 3-4. With the officers' arrival, Brewer approached the south side of the residence and saw an unarmed female, Plaintiff, exiting from the back door. Id. at ¶ 4. The officers seized Plaintiff and Plaintiff then allowed the officers to enter her residence where they searched for the male victim, David Johnston. Id. Johnston was not in the residence. Id. Plaintiff stated that Johnston had gotten involved with a woman named Tina Smith and had been at her house earlier that day. Id. at ¶ 5. Brewer observed a holstered revolver lying on top of a chest of drawers that matched the caller's description of the incident. Id. at ¶ 4.

         Brewer and Odom went to Smith's house to investigate further. Id. at ¶ 6. Smith reported the incident to a dispatcher. Id. at ¶ 5. Brewer interviewed Smith who provided a written statement of the events. Id. at ¶ 6. According to Smith, on the evening of September 26, 2014, Johnston arrived at her house in a "frightened state" and told Smith that Plaintiff had held him at gun point for several hours and forced him to make threatening calls to Smith. (Docket Entry No. 25-1, Smith Statement). Smith described Johnston as pale and "almost in [a] panic attack." Id. According to Smith, Johnston stated that Plaintiff held a .22 caliber pistol to his head during his calls to Smith and that, at one point, Plaintiff pulled the hammer. Id. Johnston spent the night at Smith's residence and left the next day around 12:00 p.m. or 1:00 p.m. to pick up his clothes from Plaintiffs house. Id. Smith received another call from Johnston that Plaintiff was "making [Johnston] say bad things to her" and this prompted Smith to call the police about Johnston. Id.

         Tifanie Reaves, who resides with Smith, also gave a written statement that Johnston called Smith on September 26, 2014, and Johnston and Plaintiff were rude and "using foul language." (Docket Entry No. 25-2, Reaves Statement). According to Reaves, about thirty minutes later, Johnston arrived at Smith's house "noticabely shaking and shakin up [sic]." Id. Johnston told Reaves that Plaintiff held a gun to his head to explain why he was speaking rudely to Smith. Id. On September 27, 2014, after Johnston returned to Plaintiffs house to pick up some clothes, Plaintiff later telephoned Reaves "cussing and making demands." Id. Plaintiff then hung up on Reaves and Smith decided to call the police. Id.

         Brewer then interviewed Johnston and asked Johnston to provide a written statement. (Docket Entry No. 25 at ¶ 7). Because Johnston was visible shaken, Brewer wrote the statement on his behalf. (Docket Entry No. 25-3, Statements of David Johnton). Accordingto Johnston, onFriday, September 26, 2014, Plaintiff and Johnston were at Plaintiffs house when Plaintiff began cursing at him and calling him names. Id. Plaintiff then retrieved her father's gun, a .22 caliber with a black and yellow handle, and pointed the gun at Johnston's head. Id. Johnston told Brewer that the gun was a revolver. Id. Plaintiff then told Johnston to call Smith and demand the payment of money that Johnston loaned to Smith by Monday. Id. Plaintiff then took the telephone from Johnston and argued with Smith. Id. Plaintiff returned the telephone to Johnston and told him to tell Smith to get he the money "ASAP" or Plaintiff would have Johnston "beat Tina's butt." Id. When Plaintiff was on the telephone with someone else and walking near the back of the house, Johnston left through the front door and drove his vehicle to Smith's house where he remained for the night. Id.

         The next morning, Johnston spoke to Virginia "Ginny" Foust, a friend of Plaintiff s, on Facebook. Id. Johnston told Foust to tell Smith that he had stayed the night at her cabin on the creek because Plaintiff would be upset if she knew he had stayed the night at Smith's house. Id. Later, Johnston returned to Plaintiff s house to talk to the Plaintiff and to retrieve some of his clothes. Id. Johnston and Plaintiff walked outside where Plaintiff showed him where she had "beat" the windows out of his truck. Id. Plaintiff then told Johnston he could not leave and pointed her .22 caliber gun at Johnston. Id. Plaintiff began tearing things off Johnston's vehicle and called someone to "come and beat [Johnston] up." Id. Johnston was then able to enter his vehicle and drive to Smith's house. Id. Brewer had Johnston read and review his statement for verification of the facts. (Docket Entry No. 25 at ¶ 7). Johnston told Brewer that the written statement was accurate and signed the statement. Id. Brewer then returned to Plaintiff s house and had Plaintiff provide a written statement of the events. (Docket Entry No. 25 at ¶ 10; Docket Entry No. 25-4, Hood Statement). Foust, who was at Plaintiffs residence, also gave a written statement. (Docket Entry No. 25 at ¶ 10; Docket Entry No. 25-5, Foust Statement).

         Brewer contacted Chief Crouch to inform him about the events and completed an incident report when she returned to the Sheriffs department. (Docket Entry No. 25 at ¶ 11; Docket Entry No. 25-6, Incident Report). Based upon her investigation, Brewer believed that probable cause existed to charge Plaintiff with two counts of aggravated assault under Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-102; two counts of aggravated kidnapping under Tenn. Code An.. § 39-13-304; and one count of vandalism over $500.00 under Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-14-406. (Docket Entry No. 25 at ¶ 12). Brewer prepared an affidavit stating that she had probable cause to believe these offenses had been committed by Plaintiff and presented her other affidavit to the magistrate in Lawrence County General Sessions Court. (Docket Entry No. 25-7). Based on the affidavits, the magistrate determined that probable cause existed and issued warrants for Plaintiffs arrest on September 27, 2014. Id. Brewer contacted Plaintiff and advised her to report to the Sheriffs department to be served with the warrants. Id. Plaintiff was arrested that day.

         At a preliminary hearing on December 12, 2014, Johnston testified, consistent with his written statement prepared by Brewer, that he read and signed the statement as an accurate statement of the events that day. (Docket Entry No. 25 at ¶¶ 13 -14). At the conclusion of Johnston's testimony, the judge found that probable cause existed for both counts of aggravated assault, both counts of aggravated kidnapping, and vandalism. Id. at ¶ 15. On January 30, 2015, a grand jury returned indictments on all charges against Plaintiff. (Docket Entry No. 25 at ¶ 16; Docket Entry No. 25-8, Indictments Grand Jury).

         Brewer was later informed that she would not be called to testify at Plaintiffs trial because the charges against Plaintiff were being dismissed due to Johnston's refusal to testify at trial. (Docket Entry No. 25 at ¶ 17). On August 18, 2015, the charges against Plaintiff were dismissed, and later expunged. Id. at ¶¶ 17-18.

         B. Conclusions of Law

         "The very mission of the summary judgment procedure is to pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial." Advisory Committee Notes on Rule 56, Federal Civil Judicial Procedure and Rules (West Ed. 1989). Moreover, "district courts are widely acknowledged to possess the power to enter summary judgment sua sponte, so long as the opposing party was on notice that she had to come forward with all of her evidence." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett. 477 U.S. 317, 326 (1986). Accord. Routman v. Automatic Data Processing. Inc.. 873 F.2d 970, 971 (6th Cir. 1989).

         In Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc.. 477 U.S. 242 (1986), the United States Supreme Court explained the nature of a motion for summary judgment:

Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.
As to materiality, the substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.

477 U.S. at 247-48 (emphasis in original and added in part). Earlier the Supreme Court defined a material fact for Rule 56 purposes as "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citations omitted).

         A motion for summary judgment is to be considered after adequate time for discovery. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 326. Where there has been a reasonable opportunity for discovery, the party opposing the motion must make an affirmative showing of the need for additional discovery after the filing of a motion for summary judgment. Emmon ...

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