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Kenley v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

July 13, 2015

WILLIAM KENLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants

For WILLIAM KENLEY, Plaintiff: Grey A. Gardner, LEAD ATTORNEY, GARDNER LAW PLLC, Washington, DC; Richard Alan Seligman, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF RICHARD SELIGMAN, Washington, DC.

For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Office of the Attorney General, Defendant: Sarah L. Knapp, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC; Steven J. Anderson, OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR DC, Washington, DC.

For ADAM SHAATALL, MPD Officer, Fifth District Station, MICHAEL LITTLEJOHN, MPD Officer, Fifth District Station, BALDWIN BALDWIN, MPD, JONATHAN DORROUGH, MPD, Defendants: Sarah L. Knapp, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC; Steven J. Anderson, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR DC, Washington, DC.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES E. BOASBERG, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff William Kenley brings this suit alleging that Metropolitan Police Department officers overstepped their bounds

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during a June 20, 2013, incident. He claims that after he began to videotape officers falsely arresting his friend, they turned on him. One charged at him, knocked his phone from his hands, and shoved him to the ground. Several officers then conspired to falsely arrest him to cover up their misdeeds and to retaliate against him for recording them. As part of this plan, they fabricated a claim that he had sicced his dog on one of the officers and had thus committed an assault on a police officer. He was consequently arrested, detained overnight, and formally charged. Although the prosecutor eventually dismissed the case, Plaintiff seeks recompense from the District of Columbia and four of the officers under myriad causes of action.

Defendants previously moved to dismiss many of the claims in Plaintiff's Complaint, and in a lengthy Opinion, the Court granted these motions in part and denied them in part. See Kenley v. District of Columbia (Kenley I), 83 F.Supp.3d 20, 2015 WL 1138274, at *1-2 (D.D.C. 2015). It also reserved judgment on a handful of issues, noting the cursory manner in which the parties had addressed them. Kenley thereafter filed an Amended Complaint in accordance with the Court's Order, and several Defendants have taken the opportunity to bring a second, consolidated Motion to Dismiss, advancing their absolute-immunity defense once more and raising new arguments regarding the negligent-training-and-supervision claim against the District. Because the Court concludes that immunity does not lie for the officers, but agrees that the training-and-supervision cause of action should be dismissed, it will again grant the Motion in part and deny it in part.

I. Background

The Court has previously recounted Kenley's allegations in considerable detail, see Kenley I, 83 F.Supp.3d 20, 2015 WL 1138274, at *1-2, so it only briefly summarizes them here. On June 20, 2013, Kenley observed Metropolitan Police Department officers assaulting and falsely arresting his friend, so he began to record the incident on his cellphone. See Am. Compl., ECF No. 41, ¶ ¶ 8-11. As Officer Adam Shaatal placed the friend in handcuffs, he looked at Kenley and told Officer Brandon Baldwin to " get him back." Id. Baldwin subsequently " charged" at Plaintiff, " intentionally knocking his cellphone . . . out of his hands," and " pushed him violently to the ground." Id., ¶ 12. Around the same time, Kenley's dog came running out of his house. See id., ¶ 13. The officers drew their guns and pointed them at both him and his dog. See id. " [I]n an effort to defuse the situation," Plaintiff took the dog back inside. See id.

Officers Shaatal, Baldwin, and Michael Littlejohn then met with other officers on the scene and " agreed to falsely charge . . . Kenley with assaulting a police officer" and to " institute criminal proceedings" against him in order to intimidate him and " cover up their wrongful conduct." Id., ¶ ¶ 16-18. In furtherance of the plan, Shaatal claimed that Kenley had assaulted him by goading his dog to attack. See id., ¶ 20. Plaintiff was then arrested, and Baldwin, who " knew or should have known" that Shaatal's claim was false, wrote up an arrest report based on his accusation. See id., ¶ 20.

Afterwards, Sergeant Jonathan Dorrough secured the area and canvassed it for witnesses. See id., ¶ 21. At least one gave a statement on a PD Form 119 (for witness statements) that when the dog ran outside, Kenley did not encourage it to attack, but instead said, " Mom, put her back in the house." Id. (internal quotation

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marks omitted). That evening or the next morning, Dorrough told Baldwin about the exculpatory statement. See id., ¶ 24. Although Baldwin, the " papering officer," and Dorrough, the supervising officer, were allegedly required to turn over all witness statements to the U.S. Attorney's Office during the " papering" process -- i.e., the prosecution's initial screening of the case for formal charging -- they did not disclose this statement. See id., ¶ ¶ 22-23. Baldwin and Littlejohn also failed to inform the prosecutor that they had been present when the dog ran out, yet had never heard Kenley say, " [G]et him, sic him" -- which is the entire apparent basis for the assault charge. See id., ¶ 19.

As a result of the officers' conduct, Kenley was detained overnight, presented in court, and charged with felony assault on an officer. See id., ¶ 20. Sometime after the arrest, an unknown officer also informed Kenley's employer of the charges, and he was suspended from work without pay while the case was pending. See id., ¶ 15. Over a month after the incident, the witness statement was finally turned over to the prosecution. See id., ¶ ¶ 25-26. After receiving this information and conducting an investigation, the prosecutor moved to dismiss the charges. See id., ¶ 26.

Plaintiff claims to have suffered a number of injuries as a result of this incident, including " lost wages, medical expenses[,] . . . emotional distress, and . . . damage to his professional reputation." Id., ¶ 40. He thus filed this suit against Shaatal, Littlejohn, Baldwin, Dorrough, and the District of Columbia, alleging a multitude of claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the U.S. Constitution, and state law. After the case was removed to this court, each of the Defendants moved to dismiss certain of the claims against them, and Plaintiff moved to amend his Complaint. The Court granted these motions in part and denied them in part, allowing Kenley to proceed with the following claims:

(1) Violations of the First Amendment against Baldwin, Dorrough, Littlejohn, and Shaatal (Count I);
(2) Violations of the Fourth Amendment against Baldwin, Dorrough, Littlejohn, and ...

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