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Charles v. Brajdic

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

October 28, 2019

DeAndre Charles, Plaintiff,
Michael Brajdic and Miami-Dade County, Defendants.


          Robert N. Scola, Jr. United States District Judge

         Plaintiff DeAndre Charles complains that Defendant Michael Brajdic, a Miami-Dade County homicide detective, maliciously prosecuted him as well as falsely arrested and imprisoned him for the murder of Rabbi Joseph Raksin in North Miami Beach, in violation of the Constitution and state law. Charles also submits Defendant Miami-Dade County violated his privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment during a press conference where news of his arrest for the rabbi's murder was widely broadcast. The Defendants seek dismissal of the entirety of Charles's second amended complaint (“complaint”) because he has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(6). After careful review, the Court grants the Defendants' motion (ECF No. 36).

         1. Legal Standard

         A court considering a motion to dismiss, filed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), must accept all of the complaint's allegations as true, construing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Pielage v. McConnell, 516 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2008). Although a pleading need only contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, a plaintiff must nevertheless articulate “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). That is, “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqubal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not shown-that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)) (internal punctuation omitted). A court must dismiss a plaintiff's claims if she fails to nudge her “claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         2. Facts[1]

         Rabbi Joseph Raksin, visiting from New York, was shot and killed in an apparent robbery or attempted robbery on August 9, 2014. (2nd Am. Compl. (“Compl.”) ¶ 14, ECF No. 35, 4.) The crime was investigated for sixteen months before Charles was arrested. (Id. at ¶ 16.)

         During the investigation, evidence was uncovered that appeared to link Charles to the murder: an apparent DNA match was made between the crime scene and Charles (id. at ¶¶ 19, 21, 26); cell phone evidence appeared to place Charles at the crime scene (id. at ¶¶ 19, 22); an eyewitness identified Charles as walking away from the crime scene (id. at ¶¶ 19, 20, 23, 26, 27); and a week after the shooting, Charles, along with other suspects, was present when police stopped a black Cadillac Escalade that had been identified as having been involved in the rabbi's murder (id. at ¶¶ 35, 40, 78).

         At the same time, additional evidence linked other suspects to the shooting. A confidential informant named three men who were involved in the murder: K.C., M.K., and D.P. (Id. at ¶ 35.) The police also received a tip through Crime Stoppers that K.C. and D.P. were involved. (Id. at ¶ 38.) Upon questioning a week after the murder, K.C. and D.P. gave inconsistent statements to the police regarding the day of the shooting: where they were; what they were doing; who they were with; and whether they were with each other. (Id. at ¶ 43.) Another man, J.S., told Brajdic that he was in the back of the Escalade on August 9, 2014, when K.S. ran from the scene of the shooting and told J.S. that he had “just bagged a Jew.” (Id. at ¶ 58-64.) J.S. also identified M.K. and D.P. as being involved. (Id. at ¶57.) And J.S.'s description of K.C. and D.P.'s clothing on the day of the murder was similar to the description given by multiple residents near the crime scene of the clothing worn by two suspects seen fleeing. (Id. at ¶ 69.) J.S. additionally maintained that K.C., M.K., and D.P. threatened to kill him if he ever said anything about the murder. (Id. at 66.)

         Further, a man who rented the Escalade to associates of K.C. and M.K described them as possibly “deadly.” (Id. at ¶ 51.) Another man, Navin Romain, told Brajdic that his girlfriend's friend identified K.C., M.K., and D.P. as the rabbi's killers.[2] (Id. at ¶ 54.) Brajdic was also aware that K.C. was the subject of an unrelated attempted murder and a suspect in an armed robbery committed on August 8, 2014, the day before the rabbi's murder. (Id. at ¶ 70.) Brajdic also knew that a shell casing had been recovered from the August 8 armed robbery that matched a casing found at the scene of the rabbi's August 9 murder. (Id. at ¶ 73.)

         According to Charles, Brajdic finally concluded, on December 8, 2015, that Charles had murdered the rabbi. (Id. at ¶ 18.) Charles describes this determination as having “caused” the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office to initiate criminal proceedings, which resulted in a grand-jury indictment against Charles for the rabbi's murder. (Id.; Arr. Warrant, ECF No. 36-1, 2; Pl.'s Resp., ECF No. 40, 6.)[3] The next day, on December 9, 2015, Charles, fifteen at the time, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. (Compl. at ¶ 24.)

         In conjunction with Charles's indictment and arrest, various “elected and appointed [County] officers and officials, appeared at and actively participated in a press conference” where Charles's arrest for the rabbi's murder was publicized. (Id. at ¶ 25.) A poster-sized photograph of Charles was placed on stage during the press conference. (Id. at ¶ 27.) Alongside the photograph, was a poster-sized, cartoonish sketch of a face, drawn by an eyewitness who saw the subject of the drawing walking away from the murder scene. (Id. at ¶¶ 27, 28.) The crudely-drawn sketch and its connection to Charles was widely disseminated on social media, where Charles was roundly mocked and ridiculed. (Id. at ¶¶ 28, 29.)

         Charles then remained in custody for almost a year, until November 11, 2016-on the eve of trial-and thereafter was on house arrest until January 18, 2017, when the charges against him were ultimately dropped. (Id. at ¶¶ 30, 80, 82-84.)

         3. Discussion

         Charles has lodged four counts against Brajdic and one against the County. In count one and two he alleges § 1983 claims against Bradjic and the County, respectively, both arising under the Fourth Amendment. His claim against Brajdic is for an unlawful seizure which he says resulted from Brajdic's “grossly negligent or deliberately indifferent investigation” of the rabbi's murder. His § 1983 claim against the County is for an invasion of his privacy rights as a result of the press conference. Counts three, four, and five are state-law claims against ...

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