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Jones v. Kirchner

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 6, 2014

ANTOINE JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
STEVE KIRCHNER, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION [Dkt. #37]

RICHARD L. LEON, District Judge.

Plaintiff Antoine Jones is currently incarcerated and serving a fifteen year sentence on a drug-related charge. Defs.' Mem. in Support of Mot. to Dismiss at 5 [Dkt. #37] ("Defs.' Mem."). In this civil suit, he alleges that a number of government officials violated his Fourth Amendment rights during searches and seizures that precipitated his arrest and ultimate incarceration. Defendants Steve Kirchner, Joseph Sopata, and Norma Horne are District of Columbia Municipal Police Department ("MPD") detectives. Am. Compl. ¶ 3 [Dkt. #4]. Defendants Stephen Naugle, Kelli O'Brien, Stephanie Yanta, Jon Snow, Gregg Horner, Joseph Lowery, Angela McCravy, Brian Mumford, Timothy Pak, Jared Wise, Serghy Kaluzny, Kevin Wolf, and Kate Beaton are Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") agents. Id. ¶ 4. Defendant Brooks is an FBI technician.[1] Id. ¶ 5. Defendants Katerina Gikas, Kevin Butts, Fred (last name unknown), Michael G. Sharpe, and William Winters are United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") agents and/or employees. Id. ¶¶ 6-8. The Amended Complaint also names unknown FBI and ICE agents. Id. ¶¶ 4, 6. All defendants are sued in their individual capacities. Id. ¶¶ 3-8.

The named defendants move to dismiss the complaint on a number of grounds. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. #37] ("Defs.' Mot."); Defs.' Mem. Upon consideration of the pleadings, relevant law, and the entire record therein, defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Six events leading up to Mr. Jones's arrest and incarceration form the basis of this Amended Complaint. As alleged, the first three events involve ICE agents operating out of a field office in Baltimore, Maryland. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 12-19; Defs.' Mot. at 5. On February 8, 2004, defendants Winters, Butts, Fred (last name unknown), and unknown ICE agents entered an apartment Mr. Jones was leasing on Summit Circle in Largo, Maryland. Am. Compl. ¶ 12. Approximately one week later, the ICE agents returned and again entered the apartment. Id. At neither time did the ICE agents obtain a search warrant for the apartment. Id.

Mr. Jones alleges that, in early February, 2004, defendants Gikas, Winters, Butts, Sharpe, Fred (last name unknown) and unknown ICE agents entered and searched a warehouse Mr. Jones was leasing on Hampton Park Boulevard in Capitol Heights, Maryland. Am. Compl. ¶ 15. The agents did not have a warrant. Id. In addition, on March 5, 2004, unknown ICE agents attached a GPS tracking device to a white box truck registered to Mr. Jones. Id. ¶ 18. The agents monitored the truck through July 7, 2004, and did not have a warrant. Id.

The other three events involve a joint task force comprised of MPD officers and FBI agents. Id. ¶¶ 11, 20-30. On October 24, 2005, unknown FBI SWAT team members entered Club Levels, a Washington, D.C., nightclub, pursuant to a federal search warrant. Id. ¶ 20. The agents destroyed the club's front door and shot smoke bombs and concussion grenades into the club, seriously damaging the interior. Id. At the time, Mr. Jones owned Levels Entertainment Corporation, which operated Club Levels. Id. ¶ 2. He spent thousands of dollars on repairs. Id. ¶ 20.

That same day, defendants Sopata, Naugle, Snow, Horner, Lowery, McCravy, Mumford, Pak, Wise, Kaluzny, Wolf, and Beaton entered and searched the home in which Mr. Jones resided with his wife, located on Moore Street in Waldorf, Maryland. Id. ¶ 23. The government had obtained a search warrant authorizing a search between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., but defendants entered the house at 4:45 a.m. using an unauthorized key and without knocking and announcing. Id. ¶¶ 23, 25-26. Defendants encountered Mr. Jones and his wife naked in their upstairs bedroom, and pointed guns at the couple's heads. Id. ¶ 23. Defendants seized approximately 30 to 40 boxes of Mr. Jones's personal property that was not listed on the attachment to the warrant. Id.

On September 27, 2005, [2] defendant Brooks attached a GPS tracking device to a Jeep Grand Cherokee registered to Mr. Jones's wife. Id. ¶ 29. Mr. Jones was the primary driver of the vehicle. Id. The government had a warrant to attach the tracking device within ten days and within the District of Columbia, but attached it on the eleventh day and in Maryland. Id. Defendants Kirchner, Yanta, Naugle, O'Brien, Horne, and Sopata tracked the vehicle for 28 days. Id.

Mr. Jones was arrested on October 24, 2005, and has been incarcerated since that time. Id. ¶¶ 31, 33. He was indicted in this court on conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 50 kilograms or more of cocaine base. Id. ¶ 31. Mr. Jones's criminal case proceeded before my colleague, Judge Huvelle. His first trial resulted in a hung jury and mistrial; he was subsequently convicted in a second trial and sentenced to life imprisonment. Id. ; see generally Docket, United States v. Jones, No. 05-cr-386. Mr. Jones successfully appealed his conviction. In 2010, our Circuit Court held that the defendants' warrantless use of a GPS tracking device attached to the Jeep Grand Cherokee violated Mr. Jones's Fourth Amendment rights, and that the evidence derived therefrom was not harmless. United States v. Maynard, 615 F.3d 544, 555-568 (D.C. Cir. 2010). The United States Supreme Court affirmed in 2012. United States v. Jones, 132 S.Ct. 945 (2012). Upon remand, Mr. Jones's third trial again resulted in a hung jury and mistrial. Docket Entry, United States v. Jones, No. 05-cr-386 (Mar. 4, 2013). Before he faced trial for a fourth time, Mr. Jones pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. Plea Agreement, United States v. Jones, No. 05-cr-386 (May 1, 2013), ECF. No. 748. On May 1, 2013, Judge Huvelle sentenced him to fifteen years in prison. Docket Entry, United States v. Jones, No. 05-cr-386 (May 1, 2013).

This is not the first civil action Mr. Jones has brought arising out of the searches that led to his criminal convictions. During the summer of 2007, he filed four separate complaints relating to the GPS monitoring of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the searches of the Summit Circle apartment, the Hampton Park warehouse, Club Levels, and the Moore Street residence. Am. Compl. ¶ 36 (Case Nos. 07-cv-1063, 07-cv-1068, 07-cv-1172, and 07-cv-1300). This Court dismissed those complaints pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), which does not allow a plaintiff to recover on civil claims that, if proven, would render a criminal conviction invalid. Id. ; see, e.g., Jones v. Kirchner, No. 07-cv-1063, 2008 WL 2202220 (D.D.C. May 27, 2008); Jones v. Horne, No. 07-cv-1300, 2008 WL 2202375 (D.D.C. May 27, 2008). In addition to his own lawsuits, Mr. Jones's wife and son also brought civil suits arising out of the Moore Street residence search and the GPS device placement on the Jeep Grand Cherokee.[3] Defs.' Mem. at 32 (Case Nos. 07-cv-1994 and 07-cv-1996).

As described above, the Supreme Court affirmed the overturning of Mr. Jones's conviction in 2012. After that decision but prior to his guilty plea, Mr. Jones moved to re-open his earlier civil actions that had been dismissed under Heck, which I denied as untimely. See Mem. Order, Jones v. Horne, No. 07-cv-1300 (Sept. 19, 2013), ECF No. 51. At the same time, Mr. Jones filed a new consolidated action, which is now before this Court. In his Amended Complaint, Mr. Jones asserts six claims that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated, one corresponding to each of the six searches described above.[4] Am. Compl. ¶¶ 40-66. He requests compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at 15. Defendants move to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), 12(b)(3), 12(b)(4), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6), with the specific grounds varying by claim. Defs.' Mot.; Defs.' Mem.

LEGAL ...


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