United States District Court, D. Columbia.
BURLEY A. SANDERS, Plaintiff,
METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT,  Defendant
For BURLEY A. SANDERS, Plaintiff, Pro se, Clinton, MD.
For METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendant: Sarah L. Knapp, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC.
ELLEN SEGAL HUVELLE, United States District Judge.
In August 2010, plaintiff was convicted of simple assault following a bench trial in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. ( See United States v. Sanders, 2010 CMD 006551 (D.C. S.Ct. Aug. 23, 2010.) The misdemeanor conviction resulted from an encounter between plaintiff, then a lieutenant in the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (" MPD" ), and a female sergeant, both of whom were assigned to MPD's Fifth District. Following internal proceedings, MPD fired plaintiff on July 1, 2011, after 23 years of employment. ( See Compl. at 1.) Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in May 2014 upon learning " that the District of Columbia EEOC had adopted [MPD's] findings in relation to the termination[.]" ( Id. at 1.)
Pending is the District of Columbia's Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 9.) Because plaintiff has not successfully rebutted MPD's legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for his termination, the Court will grant summary judgment to the District on the federal claim and enter judgment accordingly.
The undisputed facts are as follows. On February 1, 2011, in response to plaintiff's simple assault conviction, defendant served plaintiff with a notice of proposal to terminate his employment. On April 7, 2011, plaintiff appeared with counsel for a hearing
before the Department's Adverse Action Panel and pled guilty to four charges. Three of the charges related directly to plaintiff's arrest and conviction, including his " providing questionable testimony" during his bench trial. A fourth charge alleged that plaintiff had provided " a false account of events involving the female subordinate" during the Department's investigation. (Decl. of Michael I. Eldridge ¶ ¶ 7-8, ECF No. 9-3.) The Panel " unanimously determined" that plaintiff was guilty of the charges and " further determined that [he had] exercised poor judgment as a supervisor and manager." ( Id. ¶ ¶ 9-10.) The Panel also found that due to " the seriousness of the crime, which was compounded by [plaintiff's] false statements to the Court, there would be a significant risk to the Department to allow [him] to have contact with MPD members." ( Id. ¶ 11.) Consequently, the Panel concluded that plaintiff " could not be rehabilitated and termination was the appropriate penalty." ( Id. ¶ 12.)
In his appeal to the Chief of Police, plaintiff argued that officers convicted of drunk driving offenses were " given stiff suspensions, but permitted to retain their positions." ( Id. ¶ 14.) In affirming the termination decision in June 2011, the Chief of Police found such convictions " not equivalent" to the sexual assault charges lodged against plaintiff and the ensuing conviction " of a crime which was also an incident of sexual harassment that involved physical touching[.]" ( Id. ¶ 15.) The Chief further determined that as a lieutenant, plaintiff was " considered an 'official' of the Department . . . held to a higher level of conduct than rank-and-file members," such as " the victim of Sanders' assault." ( Id. ¶ ¶ 16-17.)
On January 22, 2013, The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (" OHR" ) issued a Letter of Determination finding after an investigation that there was " no probable cause to believe [MPD] subjected [plaintiff] to discrimination based on his race . . . when [MPD] allegedly terminated [plaintiff's] employment and did not terminate a [white] employee for similar violations of [MPD's] policies." (Def.'s Ex. C, ECF No. 9-3.)
I. LEGAL STANDARD