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Mazloum v. District of Columbia

June 27, 2006

EMILE MAZLOUM, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Bates United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

In this civil rights action, plaintiff seeks recovery against the District of Columbia, several individual officers of the Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD"), and certain employees and owners of the Fur Nightclub, alleging that he was the victim of a beating carried out by off-duty police officers in conjunction with the nightclub's employees, and that all defendants then participated in a cover-up of the incident. Before the Court is the motion of two police officers, defendants Acosta and Smith, to dismiss all claims pending against them pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Acosta and Smith contend that the facts alleged in the amended complaint fail to support the claim that they violated plaintiff's rights under the U.S. Constitution or the D.C. Human Rights Act, and furthermore, that in the absence of such a violation the claims of conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) and District of Columbia common law cannot survive. The Court concludes that the amended complaint states a claim for relief against Acosta and Smith under the D.C. Human Rights Act, but that the claims against Acosta and Smith must be dismissed in all other respects. Furthermore, the legal deficiencies warranting dismissal of the two conspiracy claims (Counts III and VI) are present in the conspiracy claims as pled against all defendants, and those claims are thus dismissed in their entirety.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are alleged in plaintiff's amended complaint and taken as true at this stage of the litigation. Plaintiff, a permanent legal resident of the United States and a Lebanese citizen, was at the Fur Nightclub in the District of Columbia on the night of March 11-12, 2005, with two friends, Imad Alkadi and Marwan Abi-Aad. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 15-16. Plaintiff's friends worked at the nightclub in an unidentified security capacity for a party promoter referred to as Massoud. Id. ¶ 16. In the early morning hours of March 12, plaintiff was descending a flight of stairs from a special access area of the club when defendant Persons, a nightclub security guard, grabbed him. Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiff's friend, Alkadi, attempted to intercede on his behalf, and shortly thereafter, the three of them fell to the floor. Id. ¶¶ 18-19. Four off-duty police officers at the nightclub -- defendants Ramirez, Modlin, Phillips, and Schneider -- responded to the incident and identified themselves as police officers. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. Ramirez then handcuffed plaintiff's arms behind his back, and both he and Persons began hitting plaintiff from behind. Id. ¶¶ 21-22. Ramirez, Persons, and one or more of the other off-duty officers then dragged plaintiff out of the nightclub and dropped him on his back. Id. ¶¶ 23-24. Ramirez continued to kick and beat plaintiff, referring to him as "Al-Qaeda." Id. ¶ 24. Alkadi had, by this time, come out of the nightclub and witnessed the beating. Id. ¶ 25.

An undisclosed time later, an MPD squad car appeared on the scene. Id. ¶ 27. Defendants Acosta and Smith (the "on-duty officers") exited the vehicle as plaintiff was sitting on the ground. Id. They first consulted in private with Ramirez and Persons. Id. Persons expressed a desire to file a complaint against plaintiff, but was discouraged from doing so by one of the on-duty officers who was concerned about plaintiff's battered appearance and the possibility of an investigation into the incident. Id. ¶ 28. Acosta and Smith then returned to the scene, requested identification from plaintiff, and took him aside for questioning, whereupon plaintiff explained the entire incident. Id. ¶ 29. One of the on-duty officers then removed the handcuffs, and returned plaintiff's identification to him. Id. ¶ 30. Plaintiff sought to immediately file a complaint against the off-duty officers, but Acosta and Smith rebuffed his efforts. Id. ¶ 31. Plaintiff describes his attempts and the officers' refusal as follows:

The officer told Mr. Mazloum that if he wanted to file a complaint, he would have to be arrested and taken to the police station to make a report. However, when Mr. Mazloum indicated that he still wished to make a report, and was prepared to be arrested, the uniformed police officers refused to take him to the station, or to take any complaint from him, and told him simply to go home. When Mr. Mazloum then got into the back seat of the police cruiser in order to be arrested and taken to the station, so that he could report the misconduct of the off-duty officers, he was physically removed by Officers Acosta and Smith and physically placed inside his own car.

Id.

Plaintiff was then driven back to his apartment in Virginia by Alkadi, and thereafter continued on to the Inova Alexandria Hospital to obtain treatment. Id. ¶ 32. Plaintiff had a broken nose, a bloody left eye, swelling around his neck and knee, and an assortment of cuts, scrapes, deep bruises, and bumps on his head. Id. Two police officers from the Alexandria Police Department interviewed plaintiff at the hospital, and called D.C. MPD to request that D.C. officers come to the hospital to take a report. Id. ¶ 33-34. No one was sent. Id. ¶ 34.

On the afternoon of March 12, 2005, plaintiff and his two friends traveled to the First District station in D.C. to file a formal complaint about the arrest and beating. Id. ¶ 35. There, they encountered Ramirez, and had a discussion about the events of the prior evening and plaintiff's intent to file a formal complaint with MPD. Id. ¶¶ 35-36. Plaintiff was questioned by Ramirez and later interviewed by another officer, and submitted a written complaint that afternoon. Id. ¶¶ 36-37. Afterwards, Ramirez allegedly called defendants Rehman and Fiorito, the owner/managers of the Fur Nightclub, told them what had transpired, and discussed with them the importance of destroying the security camera films which would show the beating. Id. ¶

41. That evening, plaintiff's friend, Alkadi, was called into a meeting with Rehman, Fiorito, Persons, and the head of security. Id. ¶¶ 42-43. Those defendants told Alkadi that plaintiff would be "burned" if he pursued the claim and also told Alkadi that the security camera films were "gone." Id. ¶ 44.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) will not be granted unless "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); see also Haynesworth v. Miller, 820 F.2d 1245, 1254 (D.C. Cir. 1987). All that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require of a complaint is that it contain "'a short and plain statement of the claim' that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Dura Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 346 (2005) (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 47). "Given the Federal Rules' simplified standard for pleading, '[a] court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations.'" Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002) (quoting Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)).

Under Rule 12(b)(6), the plaintiff's factual allegations must be presumed true and should be liberally construed in his or her favor. Leatherman v. Tarrant Cty. Narcotics and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993); Phillips v. Bureau of Prisons, 591 F.2d 966, 968 (D.C. Cir. 1979). The plaintiff must be given every favorable inference that may be drawn from the allegations of fact. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000). However, the court does not accept "'inferences drawn by plaintiff if such inferences are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint' nor 'legal conclusions ...


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