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Anderson v. Rodriguez

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

June 3, 2016

Michael Joseph Anderson, Plaintiff,
Deputy Tonmy M. Rodriguez, Defendant.


         Michael Joseph Anderson filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. Defendant Rodriguez has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, as well as a memorandum of law and supporting exhibits. Dkt. Nos. 26, 27. Plaintiff was given the Notice required by Local Rule 7(K) and the opportunity to file responsive materials pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975). Plaintiff has filed a response, and the matter is now ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment must be granted.

         I. Undisputed Factual Background

         At all times relevant to this lawsuit, defendant Tonmy M. Rodriguez held the rank of Detective within the Loudoun County Sheriffs Office. Dkt. No. 27, Rodriguez Aff. ("Rod. Aff.") ¶ 1. On September 8, 2013, Rodriguez arrested plaintiff for public intoxication at or near a gas station parking lot located at 22605 Glenn Drive in Loudoun County, Virginia. Id ¶¶ 2-3. At that time, plaintiff was 5' 11" in height and weighed 195 pounds. Id. ¶ 5. Deputy Rodriguez was 5'5" in height and weighed 170 pounds. Id. Also at that time, while both men were visible from the public streets, Rodriguez observed that plaintiff smelled like alcohol, was slurring his speech, had glassy eyes, and was unsteady on his feet. Id. ¶ 3. Additionally, plaintiff yelled his answers to Rodriguez and at one point, punched a wooden rail on a bridge near the gas station. Id. Upon these observations, Deputy Rodriguez arrested plaintiff for public intoxication, placed plaintiff in his police cruiser, and took plaintiff to the sally port, the controlled entryway, at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center. Id ¶¶ 3-4. While he was driving, Rodriguez's pistol, baton, and other defensive gear were located in the trunk of his cruiser. Id ¶ 9.

         After Rodriguez had placed plaintiff in the cruiser, radio dispatch informed Rodriguez that plaintiff had a history of aggression and that he had been hostile toward law enforcement in the past. Id ¶ 5. When they arrived at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center, plaintiff stepped out of the cruiser, and said to Rodriguez, "Don't fucking touch me." Id ¶ 6. Rodriguez then seized plaintiffs left arm above the elbow and began to lead plaintiff to the door of the booking area. Id. ¶ 7. Plaintiff pulled away from Rodriguez's hand and elbowed Rodriguez in the chest with his left arm. Id Rodriguez then hooked plaintiffs arm with his right hand in order to detain plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff began walking forward, dragging Rodriguez along with him. Id Plaintiff, using his left leg, then kicked Rodriguez's right leg, causing Rodriguez to stumble. Id Rodriguez then pushed plaintiff to ward the hood of the police cruiser. Id In order to maintain control over the situation, Rodriguez swept plaintiffs leg, causing plaintiff to fall onto the passenger side of the cruiser's hood. Id. While plaintiff was on the hood of the cruise, Rodriguez radioed for backup. Id Plaintiff then attempted to get free of his handcuffs and pushed back against Rodriguez. Id. In response, Rodriguez guided plaintiff to the ground and placed his knee on plaintiffs back to keep him still. Id While placed on the ground, plaintiff continued to resist and threatened to get an Uzi and start shooting cops once he got out of jail. Id. At this point, other deputies arrived and helped Rodriguez safely secure plaintiff. Id ¶ 8.

         At all times, Rodriguez used the minimum amount of force necessary to maintain control of plaintiff and to protect himself from bodily harm. Id. ¶ 9. As stated above, Rodriguez's pistol, baton, and other defensive gear were in the trunk of his cruiser at the time of the struggle and were not used at any time. Id.

         Subsequent to the incident, Magistrate Judge Franchok issued a warrant for assault on a law enforcement officer, and a summons for public intoxication, to plaintiff. Id. ¶ 10. Subsequent to a jury trial on February 11, 2014, in the Circuit Court of Loudoun County, plaintiff was found not guilty of assault and battery and of intoxication in public. Dkt. No. 32, Ex. 2 (Crim. No. 25986-00, -01). The charges against plaintiff were dismissed by order dated July 25, 2014, but plaintiff continued to be held without bond on a parole violation. Id.

         Plaintiff filed the instant action on August 27, 2014, alleging that Deputy Rodriguez violated his constitutional rights by: (1) falsely arresting him, and (2) using excessive during the course of the arrest.

         II. Standard of Review

         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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The moving party bears the burden of proving that judgment on the pleadings is appropriate. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). To meet that burden, the moving party must demonstrate that no genuine issues of material fact are present for resolution. Id. at 322. Once a moving party has met its burden to show that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to point out the specific facts that create disputed factual issues. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, a district court should consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of that party. United States v. Diebold. Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). Those facts which the moving party bears the burden of proving are facts which are material. " [T]he substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts which might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson. 477 U.S. at 248. An issue of material fact is genuine when, "the evidence... create[s] [a] fair doubt; wholly speculative assertions will not suffice." Ross v. Commc'ns Satellite Corp., 759 F.2d 355, 364 (4th Cir. 1985), abrogated on other grounds by Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228 (1989). Thus, summary judgment is appropriate only where no material facts are genuinely disputed and the evidence as a whole could not lead a rational fact finder to rule for the nonmoving party. Matsushita. 475 U.S. at 587.

         III. Analysis

         A. Plaintiff was not falsely arrested because Rodriguez had probable cause to believe that plaintiff was publically intoxicated prior to conducting the arrest

         The courts of appeals hold divergent views regarding whether and under what circumstances § 1983 provides a malicious prosecution or false arrest cause of action. See Lambert v. Williams, 223 F.3d 257.261 (4th Cir. 2000). cert, denied. 531 U.S. 1130(2001). In this circuit, a § 1983 claim for malicious prosecution and/or false arrest is properly understood "as a Fourth Amendment claim for unreasonable seizure which incorporates some of the elements of the common law tort."[1] Id; see also, Brown v. Gilmore, 278 F.3d 362, 367 (4th Cir. 2002) (recognizing that a plaintiff alleging a § 1983 false arrest claim needs to show that the officer decided to arrest him without probable cause to establish an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment); Rogers v. Pendleton, 249 F.3d 279, 294 (4th Cir. 2001) (§ 1983 claims of false arrest and false imprisonment "are essentially claims alleging a seizure of the person in violation of the Fourth Amendment."). To prevail on a claim of false arrest, a plaintiff must show that the defendant lacked probable cause. Brown. 278 F.3d at 367; see also, Gatter v. Zappile, 67 F.Supp.2d 515, 519 (E.D. Pa. 1999).

         The elements of the crime at issue - public intoxication - are: 1) being intoxicated; 2) in public. Va. Code § 18.2-388 ("any person [who]... is intoxicated in public ... shall be deemed guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor"). "Intoxicated" is defined as having drunk enough alcohol "to observably affect[J ... speech[, ]... or behavior." Id. § 4.1 -100. "In public" is "a place in open view, visible to the community." Crislip v. Virginia, 554 S.E.2d 96, 98 (Va. 2001) (holding that arrestee was intoxicated "in public" while he was ...

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