Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Eley v. Allen

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

February 7, 2017

RICKEY S. ELEY and TAWANNE S. ELEY, Plaintiffs,
v.
BRYAN J. ALLEN, Defendant.

          OPINION

          John A. Gibney, Jr. United States District Judge

         Following a car accident, Officer Bryan J. Allen took out arrest warrants for Rickey S. Eley ("Mr. Eley") and Tawanne S. Eley ("Mrs. Eley") for giving false reports to a police officer and violating Virginia's hit-and-run laws. According to the Eleys, Officer Allen had no basis or cause for these charges, so they have sued Officer Allen for violating their Fourth Amendment rights, engaging in malicious prosecution, and defaming them. Officer Allen has moved to dismiss all claims. Because the facts and inferences as plead by the Eleys sufficiently state a claim for a Fourth Amendment violation and malicious prosecution, the Court will deny the motion to dismiss these claims. The Court, however, will grant the motion to dismiss the Eleys' defamation claim because absolute privilege covers the alleged defamatory statements.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 17, 2015, the Eleys were driving in Petersburg, Virginia. Specifically, Mrs. Eley drove and Mr. Eley sat in the front seat. The car the Eleys drove had an inoperable inside door handle on the driver's side door.

         At an intersection, another car ran a red light and collided with the Eleys' car. Mrs. Eley could not open the driver's side door because of the broken door handle, so Mr. Eley reached across Mrs. Eley, rolled down the driver's side window, and opened the driver's door from the outside. Mr. Eley helped his wife get out of the car on the driver's side, then got out of the car on the passenger's side. Mr. Eley then called 9-1-1. While they waited, the teenage driver of the other car acted aggressively and belligerently.

         Officer Allen arrived at the scene and interviewed "the individuals involved and witnesses." (Compl. ¶26.) The Eleys explained the accident. The driver and passengers of the other car accused the Eleys of switching seats after the accident. The Eleys responded to this accusation by explaining the broken door handle to Officer Allen. During the investigation, Officer Allen was condescending and arrogant to the Eleys, and he grew increasingly frustrated and angry as the investigation continued without resolution. Officer Allen left without charging either vehicle with any traffic offenses.

         Later that evening, Officer Allen took out warrants for the Eleys' arrest. In statements to a magistrate, he alleged that both of the Eleys gave false reports to a police officer and violated Virginia's hit-and-run laws.[1] The magistrate issued the arrest warrants, which police executed the next day. While in custody, the Eleys explained the facts to officers in the City of Suffolk, who said that "the charges never should have been taken out." (Compl. ¶ 51.) A magistrate released the Eleys on their unsecured recognizance. In February 2016, the Commonwealth's Attorney dropped the charges.

         Nevertheless, Mr. Eley, who served as a high school principal in North Carolina, reported the charges to the superintendent, who then reported to the school board. On November 16, 2015, the school board forced Mr. Eley to resign. At least four media outlets reported the story and portrayed Mr. Eley in a very negative light. As a result, Mr. Eley has not found a comparable job.

         II. DISCUSSION [2]

         The Eleys have sued Officer Allen for (I) violation of their Fourth Amendment rights; (II) malicious prosecution; and (III) defamation. Officer Allen has moved to dismiss all claims against him.

         Count I: Fourth Amendment Claim

         The Court will deny the motion to dismiss Count I because the Eleys plausibly alleged that Officer Allen showed reckless disregard for the truth when he took out warrants for their arrest. A police officer violates the Fourth Amendment-made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment-"if, in order to obtain a warrant, he deliberately or with reckless disregard for the truth makes material false statements or omits material facts." Miller v. Prince George's Cnty., 475 F.3d 621, 631 (4th Cir. 2007) (citing Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 155 (1978)) (quotation marks omitted). An officer acts with reckless disregard when, having viewed all the evidence, he "entertained serious doubts as to the truth of his statements or had obvious reasons to doubt the accuracy of the information he reported." Id. at 627 (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         In this case, the Eleys have plausibly alleged that Officer Allen showed reckless disregard for the truth when he took out warrants for their arrest. Accepting as true all allegations in the complaint, Officer Allen had a mature couple telling a consistent story, a broken door handle on their car, and a belligerent teenager and his friends.[3] Nevertheless, Officer Allen presented to the magistrate only statements that the Eleys made false reports to a police officer and violated Virginia's hit-and-run laws. Officer Allen omitted potentially material facts from his statement, including the Eleys exculpatory version of events. Further, Officer Allen plausibly had reason to doubt the accuracy of the information he reported. Accordingly, Count I survives Officer Allen's motion to dismiss.[4]

         Count II: ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.