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Evans v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 1, 2016

Abraham Evans, Plaintiff,
v.
District of Columbia, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Amit P. Mehta United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Abraham Evans filed this lawsuit against his former employer, Defendant District of Columbia, alleging discriminatory treatment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § et seq., and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 14.01.1 et seq. Plaintiff-an African-American police officer who worked in the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”)-asserts that Defendant terminated his employment on the basis of his race. Defendant disagrees and instead contends that it fired Plaintiff because he engaged in conduct that violated internal MPD policies and lied to MPD investigators about that conduct.

         This matter is before the court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Having reviewed the pleadings and evidence, the court finds that no reasonable factfinder could conclude that Defendant discriminated against Plaintiff when it terminated his employment. Accordingly, the court grants Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         In 2002, the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) hired Plaintiff as a police officer. Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 25 [hereinafter Pl.'s Opp'n], at 2. Before his termination in 2013, Plaintiff had received several performance awards and had not been cited for any performance-related issues. Id.

         In December 2008, MPD received a complaint that several on-duty MPD officers were being paid to provide security for the Calvert Woodley liquor store, which recently had been robbed. Pl.'s Opp'n at 2-3; Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Stmt. of Material Facts, ECF No. 25 [hereinafter Pl.'s Resp.], ¶ 1; Def.'s Stmt. of Material Facts, ECF No. 23 [hereinafter Def.'s Stmt.], ¶ 1. In response, MPD's Internal Affairs Division and the FBI launched an investigation into the allegations. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 2; Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 2. As part of that investigation, MPD officers set up surveillance at Calvert Woodley from December 2008 through May 2009, which revealed that Plaintiff, along with two other MPD officers, would arrive at the liquor store around closing time, receive an envelope from a store employee, and stand guard until the store closed. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 3; Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 3. Based on the surveillance footage, MPD and FBI investigators questioned several Calvert Woodley employees who admitted to paying MPD officers, including Plaintiff, for extra security during closing hours. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 4. The investigators then targeted an MPD officer implicated in the allegations, Officer Nathaniel Anderson, who eventually admitted to accepting payment for providing security and informed investigators that two other officers, including Plaintiff, had done the same. Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 2, Final Investigative Report for Abraham Evans, ECF No. 23-2 [hereinafter Evans Report], at 4-5.

         The United States Attorney's Office pursued criminal charges against the implicated MPD officers. Id. at 1-2. On November 21, 2010, Officer Anderson pleaded guilty to illegally supplementing his salary and ultimately resigned from MPD. Id. at 5. On January 21, 2011, Plaintiff was indicted on charges of receiving illegal gratuities and illegal supplementation of salary. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 5; Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 5. A year later, however, prosecutors moved to dismiss the indictment after discovering that Plaintiff had provided security to the liquor store while on unpaid lunch breaks, which meant that he had not supplemented his income while on duty.[1] Evans Report at 10.

         Notwithstanding dismissal of the indictment, MPD Internal Affairs continued its investigation of Plaintiffs conduct to determine whether to bring administrative charges. On February 22, 2012, MPD investigators interviewed Plaintiff. Id. at 7. Plaintiff claimed that his lieutenant had ordered him and the other officers on his shift to provide extra security for Calvert Woodley during its closing hours. Id. Plaintiff flatly denied accepting any money in exchange for providing those security services and explained that the envelopes he was seen accepting on the surveillance footage did not contain cash, but rather, discounts on certain bottles of wine that he had purchased while on duty. Id. at 8.

         MPD Internal Affairs issued its Final Investigative Report on June 4, 2012. Id. at 1. The Report concluded that Plaintiff had violated MPD policies by accepting unauthorized employment and compensation; receiving gratuities while on duty; and making false statements to both MPD and FBI investigators during the course of their investigations. Id. at 10-11; Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 6; Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 6.

         On January 17, 2013, Plaintiff was afforded an Adverse Action Hearing before a panel of three senior MPD officers: Commander James Crane, Captain Marvin Lyons, and Captain Andrew Wright (“the Panel”). Plaintiff was represented by counsel and both sides were able to present evidence and witnesses to the Panel. At the hearing, two witnesses testified that they had personally paid Plaintiff money in exchange for providing security services for Calvert Woodley. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 7; Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 7. The Panel ultimately found Plaintiff guilty of all three charges and recommended his termination. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 9; Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 9.

         On March 4, 2013, the MPD Human Resource Management Division issued a Final Notice of Adverse Action, which formally adopted the Panel's findings; notified Plaintiff that he would be terminated effective April 19, 2013; and informed him of his right to appeal to the MPD Chief of Police. See Def.'s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 23 [hereinafter Def.'s Mot.], Ex. 1, Final Notice of Adverse Action for Abraham Evans, ECF No. 23-1 [hereinafter Evans Final Notice], at 3-4.

         B. Procedural Background

         On October 2, 2014, Plaintiff filed suit in this court, alleging discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq., and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 14.01.1 et seq. See Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 38. The crux of Plaintiff's discrimination claims is that the MPD investigation leading to his termination was in fact pretext for race discrimination and that other non-African American officers had been treated more leniently than Plaintiff for committing similar misconduct.

         On February 15, 2016, following discovery, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that it had terminated Plaintiff for a legitimate non-discriminatory reason- specifically, his acts of misconduct and deceit, as detailed in the Final Notice of Adverse Action. See Def.'s Mot at 4-7. On April 11, 2016, Plaintiff filed his Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, claiming that Defendant's proffered non-discriminatory reason for terminating him was a pretext for discrimination. See generally Pl.'s Opp'n. On May 13, ...


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