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Wilson v. Woods

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

September 30, 2019

CLAUDE OWEN WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID WOODS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT)

          HENRY E. HUDSON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Claude Owen Wilson, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. Wilson's claims flow from his interaction with Defendant David Woods, Richmond City Police Officer ("Officer Woods"), on October 21, 2015. The following claims remain before the Court:

Claim One: Officer Woods unlawfully detained and searched Wilson on October 21, 2015 in violation of the Fourth Amendment. (Compl. 6, ECF No. 1).[1]
Claim Two: Officer Woods falsely arrested Wilson on October 21, 2015 in violation of the Fourth Amendment when he, "without probable cause [and] against protest [and] by force, placed [Wilson] in restraints [or] cuffs." (Id.)
Claim Three: On December 15, 2015, "when [Officer Woods] ([in the] absence of probable cause [and] [in] sheer malice) obtained a warrant for [Wilson's] arrest for forgery," he (a) falsely arrested Wilson and (b) maliciously prosecuted him. (Id.)
Claim Four: On October 21, 2015, Officer Woods "us[ed] excessive force" against Wilson in violation of the (a) Fourth Amendment, and (d) "committed the tort of assault [and] battery." (Id.)

         Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief. (Id. at 7.)

         The matter is before the Court on Wilson's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 63), and Officer Woods's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 68). Officer Woods responded to Wilson's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 67.) Despite the provision of notice pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), Wilson has not responded to Officer Woods's Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons set forth below, Officer Woods's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 68) will be granted, and Wilson's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 63) will be denied.

         L STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         Summary judgment must be rendered "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment bears the responsibility to inform the court of the basis for the motion, and to identify the parts of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "[W]here the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, a summary judgment motion may properly be made in reliance solely on the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file." Id. at 324 (internal quotation marks omitted). When the motion is properly supported, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and, by citing affidavits or "'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. (quoting former Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) and 56(e) (1986)).

         In reviewing a summary judgment motion, the court "must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party." United States v. Carolina Transformer Co., 978 F.2d 832, 835 (4th Cir. 1992) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). However, a mere scintilla of evidence will not preclude summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251 (citing Improvement Co. v. Munson, 81 U.S. (14 Wall.) 442, 448 (1872)). "[T]here is a preliminary question for the judge, not whether there is literally no evidence, but whether there is any upon which a jury could properly proceed to find a verdict for the party... upon whom the onus of proof is imposed." Id. (quoting Munson, 81 U.S. at 448). Additionally, "Rule 56 does not impose upon the district court a duty to sift through the record in search of evidence to support a party's opposition to summary judgment." Forsyth v. Barr, 19 F.3d 1527, 1537 (5th Cir. 1994) (quoting Skotak v. Tenneco Resins, Inc., 953 F.2d 909, 915 n.7 (5th Cir. 1992)); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(3) ("The court need consider only the cited materials........").

         Further, "[w]hen faced with cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court must review each motion separately on its own merits 'to determine whether either of the parties deserves judgment as a matter of law.'" Rossignol v. Voorhaar, 316 F.3d 516, 523 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting Philip Morris Inc. v. Harshbarger, 122 F.3d 58, 62 n.4 (1st Cir. 1997)). In considering each individual motion, the Court must again resolve factual disputes and rational inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing that motion. Id.

         In support of Officer Woods's Motion for Summary Judgment, he submits: (1) his own declaration ("Woods Decl.," ECF No. 70-1); (2) copies of two warrants of arrest for Wilson (ECF No. 70-2); (3) the declaration of Richard E. Hill, Jr. ("Hill Decl," ECF No. 70-3), declaring that "[t]o the best of my knowledge, the video that is attached as Exhibit D is a true and accurate copy of the video posted on YouTube.......";[2] and, (4) a compact disc depicting Wilson's video recording of the October 21, 2015 incident.

         Wilson did not file a response to Officer Woods's Motion for Summary Judgment; however, Wilson filed his own Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 63.) Wilson's Motion for Summary Judgment addresses his belief that, in Officer's Woods's previously filed Motion to Dismiss, Officer Woods did "not den[y] any of Plaintiff s verified claims" and "has failed to contest the monetary damages of $600, 000.00." (Id. at 1.)

         In support of Wilson's Motion for Summary Judgment, he submits an affidavit in which he states that he is the "affiant," however, it is unclear whether Wilson signed the affidavit because the signature line indicates that the affidavit is signed by his "Authorized Representative POA on behalf of CLAUDE OWEN WILSON TRUST." (ECF No. 64, at 1, 3.) Even considering the affidavit as properly sworn, the affidavit makes no mention of Wilson's interaction with Officer Woods on October 21, 2015, and instead addresses the amount of damages owed to Wilson by Officer Woods. (See Id. at 1-2.) Thus, the affidavit does not impact the resolution of the Motion for Summary Judgment. Wilson, however, did swear under penalty of perjury to the truth of his statements in his Complaint. (See Compl. 6.)

         In light of foregoing submissions and principles, the following facts are established with respect to the Motions for Summary Judgment.

         II. SUMMARY OF PERTINENT FACTS

         "On October 21, 2015 [, ] at approximately 11:00 P.M. [Officer Woods] was dispatched to 2400 East Main Street to a CVS for a disorderly conduct call." (Woods Decl. ¶ 5.) "At the time of this incident, [Officer Woods] was employed as an officer with the City of Richmond Police Department." (Id. ¶ 3.)

         "When [Officer Woods] arrived on scene, [he] observed [Wilson] speaking with the manager, Therese Germain [("the store manager")], inside the store." (Id. ¶ 6.) Officer Woods then "requested that Wilson step outside to speak with [Officer Woods]," and "[w]hile speaking with Wilson, [Wilson] stated that the store would not cash his personal checks." (Id. ¶ 7; see Compl. 3.) Officer Woods asked Wilson "to show [him] the checks to better understand the situation." (Woods Decl. ¶ 7; see Compl. 3.) "Wilson informed [Officer Woods] that the checks were in his pocket, but declined to show them to [Officer Woods]." (Woods Decl. ¶ 7; see Compl. 3.) Officer Woods "advised Wilson that [he] had no control over CVS and could not force them to accept his checks." (Woods Decl. ¶ 8.) Wilson then "departed the scene." (Id; see Compl 3.)

         Officer Woods "then entered the store to speak with the [store] manager." (Woods Decl. ¶ 9.) The store manager "stated that Wilson wanted to cash his personal checks and she asked to see his identification (I.D.), but Wilson refused." (Id.) "[The store manager] relayed that she informed Wilson it is store policy to require I.D. prior to cashing a personal check." (Id.) The store manager informed Officer Woods that "Wilson became angry and wanted to see the store policy, to which [she] refused." (Id. ¶ 10.) The store manager also advised Officer Woods that "after she informed Wilson she could not cash the checks, he then requested to convert the checks to gift cards." (Id. ¶ 12.)

         "According to [the store manager], Wilson informed her that the address on his I.D. differed from the address on the checks." (Id. ¶ 10.) The store manager advised Officer Woods that "she thought the checks were suspicious," and "[s]he noted that the checks appeared to be copies with the amount changed." (Id. ¶ 11.) "One check was made out to CVS for $1, 000 and dated for October 21, 2015. The other check was made out to CVS for $1, 009.90." (Id.)

         "Based upon this information," Officer Woods determined that "[he] had probable cause to believe that [Wilson] committed or attempted to commit a check fraud felony." (Id. ¶ 13.) Officer Woods, therefore, "continued [his] investigation and attempted to again make contact with Wilson." (Id.)

         Officer Woods "observed Wilson again in the 1800 block of East Main Street," and Officer Woods "advised Wilson that [Officer Woods] needed to speak with him, but he continued to walk away while recording [Officer Woods] on his cell phone." (Id; see Compl. 3-4.) Officer Woods then "advised Wilson that he was not free to leave due to the investigation," and "Wilson continued to walk away, yelling and making a scene." (Woods Decl. ¶ 14.) At that time,

since [Officer Woods] was the sole officer at the scene with Wilson, [Officer Woods] made the decision to place [Wilson] in cuffs due to his evasive behavior, and aggressive posturing. Wilson was trying to leave the scene and [Officer Woods] was concerned that [Wilson] would fight back as the encounter continued.

(Id. ¶ 15.)

         Wilson then "continued to record on his cell phone, and resisted [Officer Woods's] attempt to restrain him, and place him in handcuffs. Since [Officer Woods] was the only officer on scene, [Officer Woods] advised [Wilson] that if he continued to resist he could be tased." (Id. ¶ 16.) Officer Woods "did not tase Wilson." (Id.) During this interaction, "Wilson continued to resist, but ultimately, [Officer Woods] was able to handcuff him by bringing his wrists behind his back." (Id. ¶ 17.) After Officer Woods handcuffed Wilson, he "asked Wilson to identify himself, or present an I.D. Wilson refused to cooperate." (Id. ¶ 18.)

         Based on the results of Officer Woods's investigation, including the "information gleaned from CVS, [Officer Woods] believed that Wilson had attempted to commit a felony by passing bad checks at the CVS. [Officer Woods] also believed that Wilson resisted arrest and obstructed [Officer Woods's] investigation." (Id. ¶ 19.) Officer Woods then "attempted to retrieve the checks from Wilson's pocke[t] because he informed [Officer Woods] the checks were in his pocket at CVS, and [Officer Woods] believed they were possible evidence of a crime." (Id. ¶ 20.) At that time, "Wilson oriented his body in a way to allow him to record [Officer Woods], while holding his phone behind his back. This prevented [Officer Woods] from retrieving the checks initially." (Id. ¶ 21.) Because of Wilson's attempts to evade Officer Woods, Officer Woods "took possession of [Wilson's] cell phone, and was then able to retrieve the checks." (Id. ΒΆ 22.) Upon review of the ...


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