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Jenkins v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

December 18, 2013

SHAUN JENKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants

For SHAUN JENKINS, Plaintiff: Jeffrey Louis Light, LAW OFFICE OF JEFFREY LIGHT, Washington, DC.

For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, A municipal corporation, RODNEY FITTS, OFFICER, individually and in his official capacity, Defendants: Shermineh C. Jones, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, CLD - General Litigation Section IV, Washington, DC; Charles Joseph Coughlin, DC OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF DC, Civil Litigation, Section IV, Washington, DC.

For KISHA COLEY, OFFICER, individually and in her official capacity, Defendant: Latif Selassie Doman, LEAD ATTORNEY, DOMAN DAVIS, LLP, Washington, DC.

OPINION

ROSEMARY M. COLLYER, United States District Judge.

Page 138

Plaintiff Shaun Jenkins sues the District of Columbia and Metropolitan Police Department Officers Kisha Coley and Rodney Fitts (collectively, Defendants) for violations of his First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights, allegedly suffered when Officer Coley struck him several times with a metal baton on March 27, 2010, and Officer Fitts failed to stop her. Am. Compl. [Dkt. 9] ¶ ¶ 10, 12-15, 49-59. Officer Coley was charged criminally and pled guilty in D.C. Superior Court to two misdemeanor counts of simple assault, served a short sentence in D.C. jail, and resigned from the police force. Id. ¶ 20; United States v. Coley, No. 2010 CMD 018264 (D.C. S.Ct. 2010).[1] Mr. Jenkins now moves for partial summary judgment on Ms. Coley's liability for excessive force in violation of his rights under the Fourth Amendment (Count I) and in retaliation for his exercise of his First Amendment rights (Count III). See Mot. for Partial Summ. J. [Dkt. 25]. Ms. Coley's Opposition, Dkt. 27, fails to address Count III, and her guilty plea, through which she agreed to a factual proffer describing the underlying events, admits the material facts for one of the two assaults alleged in Count I that she cannot now deny.[2] Mr. Jenkins therefore is entitled to summary judgment finding Ms. Coley liable for one of the assaults alleged in Count I and liable as to Count III.

I. FACTS

It is undisputed that, in the early morning hours of March 27, 2010, Officer Kisha Coley encountered Shaun Jenkins outside a laundromat in the 3500 block of Georgia Avenue, N.W. Officer Coley, a woman, was alone on foot patrol, armed with a weapon and a metal baton known as an Armament System Procedure (ASP), which measured approximately twenty-six inches in length and weighed approximately twenty ounces. Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 8-10; Mot. for Partial Summ. J., Ex. 8 (Pl.'s Statement of Facts) [Dkt. 25-8] ¶ ¶ 1-3. Officer Coley ordered Mr. Jenkins to " move on; " he objected but complied by walking northbound on Georgia Avenue. Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 10-11; Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ ¶ 3-4. Mr. Jenkins alleges that Officer Coley followed him, " verbally harass[ing] him" along the way.

Page 139

Am. Compl. ¶ 10. A verbal argument ensued, during which Mr. Jenkins claims to have told Officer Coley that he was going to file a complaint against her at the Third District Substation, which was located a short distance away at Georgia Avenue and Park Road, N.W. Mr. Jenkins states that he proceeded toward the substation, crossing the street and heading back south on Georgia Avenue. Id. ¶ 11; Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ ¶ 4-5.[3]

The encounter became physical shortly thereafter. Mr. Jenkins alleges that, although he had not been " acting aggressively" and had his back turned toward Officer Coley, she struck him on the back of his head with her ASP. Am. Compl. ¶ 12; Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ ¶ 6-7.[4] Mr. Jenkins asserts that he then ran toward a police cruiser that had stopped on Georgia Avenue, shouting for assistance. Upon arriving at the cruiser, Mr. Jenkins states that Officer Rodney Fitts, who was driving, placed him against the rear of the car with his hands on the trunk. Mr. Jenkins did not resist Officer Fitts, but Officer Coley nonetheless ran toward him wielding her ASP. This time Office Coley's swing allegedly connected with Officer Fitts's knee and one of Mr. Jenkins's hands. Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 13-14; Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ ¶ 9-12. Apologizing to Officer Fitts, Officer Coley " again" struck Mr. Jenkins with her ASP. Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 13.[5]

Mr. Jenkins was handcuffed and transported to Howard University Hospital for treatment for " a bloody cut on his left hand, a contusion on his right wrist, and head injuries." Am. Compl. ¶ 17; see also Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ ¶ 14, 16. Mr. Jenkins contends that Officer Coley admitted to a responding police officer that she

Page 140

had hit Mr. Jenkins on the back of his head with her ASP. Am. Compl. ¶ 18; see also Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ ¶ 18-19 (Officer Coley " told a responding official that [Mr.] JENKINS ran up on her and she hit him across the chest with the [ASP] to get him away. When [Mr.] JENKINS 'turned to get away,' [she] hit him on the back of the head because 'I wasn't going to let him get away.'" ).

On September 28, 2010, Officer Coley was charged in D.C. Superior Court with assaulting Mr. Jenkins and Officer Fitts. Am. Compl. ¶ 20; Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 23; see also Coley, Criminal No. 2010 CMD 018264.[6] Officer Coley subsequently agreed to a plea. In exchange for her plea of guilty to two misdemeanor assault charges, the government agreed to request a sentence of only two weekends in jail; to dismiss an unrelated domestic violence prosecution; and not to pursue any additional or greater charges, including a civil rights violation or assault with a dangerous weapon. Mot. for Partial Summ. J., Ex. 4 (Plea Tr.) [Dkt. 25-4] at 6-7. Officer Coley signed a written proffer of facts concerning the events of March 27, 2010, to-wit: " I have read and discussed the Government's Proffer of Facts with my attorneys, Harold Martin and David Benowitz. I agree, and acknowledge by my signature[,] that this Proffer of Facts is true and correct. " Proffer at 2 (emphasis added). Officer Coley also consented to the placement of the Proffer and plea agreement in her official personnel file, and agreed to resign from the police force within seven days of her guilty plea. Plea Tr. at 3. After conducting a plea colloquy, Superior Court Judge Marisa J. Demeo accepted Officer Coley's guilty plea and sentenced her to six days in jail (to be served on weekends) and one year of probation. See Mot. for Partial Summ. J., Ex. 3 (Judgment and Commitment Order) [Dkt. 25-3].

On March 27, 2013, Mr. Jenkins sued all Defendants in D.C. Superior Court. The case was removed to this Court on April 23, 2013. See Notice of Removal [Dkt. 1]. After Mr. Jenkins filed an Amended Complaint and Ms. Coley answered, Mr. Jenkins moved for summary ...


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