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Kirhy Smith v. Rick Beseler

December 28, 2011

KIRHY SMITH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RICK BESELER, ET. AL., DEFENDANT.



ORDER

Plaintiff Kirhy Smith asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Florida law against members of the Clay County Sheriff's Office (the "Sheriff's Office") relating to his arrest and subsequent five-day confinement in a Juvenile Detention Center. Smith alleges that, after failing to conduct a reasonable investigation, defendant Danilo Matos, a detective in the Sheriff's Office, obtained a warrant for his arrest by making false statements and omitting material facts from his supporting affidavit.

This case is before the Court on defendants' motions for summary judgment. The Court considers the motions (Docs. 15, 17) and plaintiff's consolidated response (Doc. 19). The Court held a hearing on July 29, 2011, the record of which is incorporated by reference (Doc. 24), following which the parties filed supplemental briefs (Docs. 26-28).

I. BACKGROUND

This case arises from the investigation of a robbery which took place in Orange Park, Florida on August 7, 2008. The victim, Ryan Maynard, was first interviewed by Deputy D.W. Llewellyn on the night of the incident. According to Deputy Llewllyn's report, Maynard stated that, as he was walking his bicycle along the road, he was approached by two men who struck him on the head, stole his ipod, and destroyed his cell phone. (Doc. 20-1 at 4.) Maynard than fled the area, leaving his bicycle on the ground. (Id.) The report states: "The victim described the suspects to be white males, . . . both wearing black pants & black hooded shirts. The victim said that one suspect was wearing a blue bandana on his face and the other was wearing a red bandana on his face." (Id.)

Matos was subsequently assigned to investigate the robbery. When Matos conducted a second interview of Maynard on August 8, 2008, the day after the incident took place, Maynard repeated most of the same details he had reported to Deputy Llewllyn, including the type of clothing worn by his assailants. (Doc. 20-2 at 8.) In addition, he further explained that he had seen the two suspects standing in a driveway before he was attacked. (Doc. 20-3 at 1-2.) However, unlike in his interview with Deputy Llewllyn, Maynard stated that while one of the suspect was a white male, he could not recall the race of the other suspect. (Id.) Matos did not mention the details of Deputy Llewllyn's report to Maynard. (Id.)

On August 24, 2008, Matos learned that Christopher Palmer, who was in custody charged with an automobile burglary in Orange Park, claimed to have information regarding the robbery of Maynard. (Doc. 20-4 at 1.)*fn1 According to Matos, Palmer volunteered the information because he was trying to cooperate with the Sheriff's Department while under investigation. (Doc. 20-2 at 10-13.)

Palmer told Matos that while he was walking home from a friend's house around 3:00 a.m., he encountered Smith and a white male, whom he knew only as "Shocker." Palmer further stated that, after talking with Shocker and Smith, the three men then smoked marijuana while standing on the road. During this time, they allegedly observed the victim riding by on his bicycle. Palmer stated that he then resumed his walk home while Smith and Shocker chased after the victim. Palmer claimed that he then heard the bike crash, and Smith later rode by on the victim's bike and told Palmer that he had jumped the victim. When Matos presented Palmer with a picture of Smith, Palmer confirmed that Smith was the person he had seen.*fn2 Although Matos reported that Palmer provided a "detailed description" of the victim and his bicycle, Palmer's description of the clothing worn by Smith and Shocker does not match the description provided by Maynard.*fn3

During the course of the interview, Matos came to believe that, because of the amount of detail provided by Palmer regarding the incident, Palmer either was a witness to the incident or was involved in the robbery. (Doc. 20-2 at 10-13.) However, Palmer denied any involvement in the robbery and was released from custody the following day. (Doc. 19 at 4.) Matos did not speak to Palmer again after the interview was complete or conduct any follow-up research relating to Palmer's possible involvement in the robbery. (Doc. 20-2 at 14-15.)

Nearly a month later, Matos sought a warrant for Smith's arrest after discussing the case with his supervisor and an assistant state attorney.*fn4 Matos submitted a supporting affidavit which states that he interviewed a witness to the robbery and provides a brief description of Palmer's account.*fn5 (Doc. 17-4 at 2.) The affidavit further states that "the witness provided virtually the identical details of the offense as the victim did. The witness also provided detailed descriptions of the victim and victim's bicycle." (Id.) Based on this affidavit, the state judge signed the warrant for Smith's arrest on September 20, 2008.

Accompanied by two other Clay County officers, Matos took the warrant to Mandarin High School. Matos first met with two school resource officers at the school's administrative office. (Doc. 20-2 at 19.)*fn6 After Matos presented the warrant, the school resource officers left to retrieve Smith. (Id.)*fn7 At this time, Smith was in the school auditorium, taking the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test with three to five hundred other students. (Doc. 20-9 at 23.) In plain view of the students, a number of Smith's teachers, and his football coaches, Smith was put in handcuffs and escorted by the school resource officers from the auditorium to the administrative office. (Id.)

Matos then took Smith to the Orange Park Operations Center for an interview. (Id. at 24.) Throughout a three-hour interrogation, Smith denied having any knowledge of Maynard's robbery. (Docs. 20-2 at 25; 20-9 at 25.) After the interrogation was over, Smith was taken to the Duval County Juvenile Detention Center, where he remained confined for five days. (Doc. 20-9 at 28-29.)*fn8 Smith was released on October 14, 2008, and the State of Florida dropped all charges against him on January 10, 2009. (Docs. 20-9 at 28, 20-12.)

Smith subsequently filed this action against Matos in his individual capacity and against Rick Beseler in his official capacity as Sheriff of Clay County, Florida. (Doc. 1.) Smith claims Matos violated his Fourth Amendment rights by omitting material information from, and making false statements in, his affidavit in support of a warrant for Smith's arrest. (Doc. 1 at 6-7.) Smith further claims Clay County is liable for Matos's actions in this case and plaintiff's false imprisonment in the Duval County Juvenile Detention Center. (Doc. 1 at 7-9.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is proper "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). An issue is genuine when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986). In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court must draw inferences from the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant and resolve all reasonable doubts in that party's favor. Centurion Air Cargo, Inc. v. United Parcel Serv. Co., 420 F.3d 1146, 1149 (11th ...


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