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Smith v. United States

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

August 14, 2015

RONALD SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendant

Page 113

          For RONALD M. SMITH, Plaintiff: Gregory L. Lattimer, LAW OFFICES OF GREGORY L. LATTIMER, PLLC, Washington, DC.

         For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, LAWRENCE O. ANYASO, COREY ROGERS, Defendants: Marian L. Borum, LEAD ATTORNEY, William Mark Nebeker, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

Page 114

         MEMORANDUM OPINION

         KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Ronald Smith (" Plaintiff" or " Smith" ) was working as a driver for a federal government agency on November 5, 2009, when he dropped off passengers near a controlled barricade on the outskirts of the United States Capitol complex. Smith encountered Defendant Corey Rogers, an officer with the U.S. Capitol Police (" USCP" ), and a confrontation ensued. When Rogers walked away from the car that Smith was driving, Smith pulled off quickly, coming close to Rogers as he went. Rogers immediately reported the incident to headquarters by radio, prompting Defendant Lawrence Anyaso, another USPC officer, to arrest Smith and charge him with assault with a deadly weapon and assault on a police officer. Although the United States Attorney's Office subsequently dropped the criminal charges, Smith has filed the instant action against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (" FTCA" ) asserting various claims arising from his arrest. Specifically, Smith brings claims for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and a Bivens claim against Rogers and Anyaso

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in their individual capacities for violating Smith's Fourth Amendment rights.

         Before this Court at present is Defendants' motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. ( See Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summ. J. (" Defs.' Mot." ), ECF No. 14.) Defendants base most of their arguments on a video recording of the incident--which closed-circuit television captured--and audio recordings of the radio communications between the officers, both of which the Defendants have submitted for the Court's review. In particular, Defendants maintain that the recordings reveal that probable cause existed to arrest and prosecute Smith, and therefore, that the false arrest and malicious prosecution claims against the United States and the Bivens claim against Rogers and Anyaso must be dismissed. ( See Defs.' Mot. 10, 24-26.)[1] Defendants also argue that Smith's Bivens claim is barred by the applicable statute of limitations ( see id. at 8), and that, in any event, the individual officers are entitled to qualified immunity for any such claim ( see id. at 10). Finally, Defendants contend that Smith has failed to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress because the conduct alleged in the complaint does not meet the high standard of " extreme and outrageous conduct" that District of Columbia law requires. ( Id. at 26-27 (quoting Olaniyi v. District of Columbia, 763 F.Supp.2d 70, 95 (D.D.C. 2011).)

         On July 31, 2015, this Court entered an order GRANTING Defendants' motion and dismissing Smith's case. The instant Memorandum Opinion sets forth the Court's reasons for that order. In short, this Court agrees with Defendants that the closed-circuit video footage of the incident establishes that there was probable cause to arrest and prosecute Smith--which means that Smith's false arrest, malicious prosecution, and Bivens claims must be dismissed--and that none of the allegations of wrongdoing in Smith's complaint related to the type of outrageous conduct that is required to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The background facts alleged in Smith's complaint are largely undisputed, and as mentioned, both the vehicle-related incident and the officers' ensuing radio communications were recorded.

         On November 5, 2009, Smith was dropping off passengers in the area of Delaware and Constitution Avenues, NE, which is near the U.S. Capitol complex, in his capacity as a driver for a federal agency. (Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ ¶ 6-7.) After the passengers exited, Officer Rogers approached Smith's vehicle and allegedly chastised Smith for stopping to drop off passengers at that location. ( Id. ¶ 7.) The two men proceeded to have a conversation that lasted for about a minute, at which point Rogers turned away from the car and began to walk back toward his post. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 7-8.) The video captured Smith looping around and pulling away aggressively. (Video Footage: Cam. 1864 Ind. & Del. (Nov. 5, 2011), Ex. 2 to Decl. of Cathy Y. Barnhardt (" CCTV Video" ), ECF No. 14-1, at 14:50-14:57.) Although the camera angle does not reveal the exact distance between Rogers and Smith's car, it is clear that Smith drove the car toward Rogers, and that the passenger side of Smith's car was close to Rogers when the

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car passed by. Rogers immediately reported over the police radio that Smith had " intentionally almost struck" him. (Audio Tape: U.S. Capitol Police Dispatch (Nov. 5, 2011), Ex. 2 to Decl. of Contricia A. Tyson, ECF No. 14-2, at 00:32-00:52; see also id. at 01:45-01:55 (Rogers reporting that he had gotten out of the way of the vehicle).)[2] This report led other Capitol Police officers to stop Smith's vehicle, and Rogers then reiterated his accusation. (Compl. ¶ 9.) According to the complaint, Rogers's statement was a " blatant falsehood" that resulted in Smith's arrest at the hands of Officer Anyaso. ( Id. )

         After the arrest, Anyaso wrote a report in which he stated that he had viewed the footage related to the incident and that the recorded episode " 'was consistent with what Rogers has reported." ( Id. ¶ 10.) Smith contends that Anyaso's statement, too, was false, insofar as the video footage instead " clearly and unequivocally" reveals that Smith did not " attempt to hit defendant Rogers [or] come close to striking the left leg of defendant Rogers with his vehicle as alleged." ( Id. ¶ 11.) Based on the representations by Rogers and Anyaso, Smith was held in jail overnight and charged with assault on a police officer and assault with a deadly weapon. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 9, 13.)

         Although the government later dropped the criminal charges that had been brought against Smith ( id. ¶ 13), Smith filed a claim for damages with the USCP on November 4, 2011 ( id. ¶ 14). The USCP denied Smith's claim on April 16, 2012, and on October 11, 2012, Smith brought the instant action in federal court. Smith's complaint asserts three common law claims against the United States under the FTCA: false arrest ( id. ¶ ¶ 15-17), intentional infliction of emotional distress ( id. ¶ ¶ 18-20), and malicious prosecution ( id. ¶ ¶ 21-24). The complaint also brings a Bivens claim against Officers Rogers and Anyaso, alleging that these officers violated Smith's Fourth Amendment rights in connection with his arrest and subsequent prosecution. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 25-28.) [3]

         On September 9, 2013, Defendants filed the motion to dismiss the complaint, or in the alternative, motion for summary judgment, that is the subject of this Memorandum Opinion. Defendants motion asserts that Smith's false arrest and malicious prosecution claims against the United States fail because probable cause existed to arrest and prosecute Smith. ( See Defs.' Mot. 10, 24.) Defendants further argue that the existence of probable cause, the statute of limitations, and the doctrine of qualified immunity likewise doom Smith's Bivens claim against Rogers and Anyaso. ( Id. at 8, 10, 24). Finally, Defendants contend that Smith's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress fails because the predicate conduct does not rise to the level of " extreme and outrageous conduct" necessary to state such a claim under District of Columbia law. ( Id. at 26-27.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Legal Standard For A Rule 12(b)(6) Motion To Dismiss

         " A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint."

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Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242, 352 U.S. App.D.C. 4 (D.C. Cir. 2002). " To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Plausibility " is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The plausibility standard is satisfied " when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citation omitted). " [W]hile 'detailed factual allegations' are not necessary, the plaintiff 'must provide more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation[.]'" Schmidt v. U.S. Capitol Police Bd., 826 F.Supp.2d 59, 65 (D.D.C. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         In deciding whether to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim, the court " must treat the complaint's factual allegations--including mixed questions of law and fact--as true and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in the plaintiff's favor." Epps v. U.S. Capitol Police Bd., 719 F.Supp.2d 7, 13 (D.D.C. 2010) (citing Holy Land Found. for Relief & Dev. v. Ashcroft, 333 F.3d 156, 165, 357 U.S. App.D.C. 35 (D.C. Cir. 2003)). However, the court need not accept as true inferences unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint or legal conclusions cast as factual allegations. Browning, 292 F.3d at 242.

         B. Legal Standard For A Motion For Summary ...


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