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Vasquez v. County of Will, Illinois

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 14, 2018

JOSE T. VASQUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF WILL, ILLINOIS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Amit P. Mehta United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This case arises from the arrest and detention of Plaintiff Jose T. Vasquez by the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department based on mistaken identity. Authorities in Will County, Illinois erroneously entered Plaintiff's information into an arrest warrant database accessible nationwide. Based on this wrongful entry, the Metropolitan Police Department arrested and detained Plaintiff in October 2016, and detained him again in March 2017. Plaintiff filed suit alleging various tort claims under District of Columbia law and a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Before the court is Defendant District of Columbia's motion seeking to dismiss all claims. After careful consideration of the arguments by both parties and the applicable legal standards, the court grants the District of Columbia's Motion to Dismiss.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Facts Alleged in the Complaint

         Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (“Complaint”) alleges the following facts. In 1996, the Circuit Court in Will County, Illinois, issued an arrest warrant seeking the apprehension of a “Jose Vasquez” for a murder that occurred in Will County in 1979. First Am. Compl., ECF. No. 28 [hereinafter Am. Compl.], ¶ 25. Plaintiff, whose name is also Jose Vasquez, was not the person wanted by Will County authorities. Id. ¶ 1. In 2016, Will County updated the warrant information in the national database for the suspect “Jose Vasquez, ” but erroneously inputted Plaintiff's physical descriptors and Social Security Number. Id. ¶ 38. The inaccurate warrant information was available to law enforcement nationwide through the National Crime Information Center database (“NCIC”). Id. ¶ 39.

         Plaintiff first faced arrest on the erroneous warrant by District of Columbia authorities in the fall of 2016. On October 23, 2016, a Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) officer stopped Plaintiff for a traffic violation. Id. ¶ 40. During the stop, the officer discovered the warrant for “Jose Vasquez” in NCIC, and an MPD dispatcher confirmed with Will County that it wanted Plaintiff for extradition. Id. The following day, an officer in the MPD Fugitive Unit prepared an affidavit in support of an arrest warrant, stating that he had verified that the warrant remained active and that Will County would extradite Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 41. Despite Plaintiff's continuous protests, id. ¶ 44, “the District of Columbia” commenced a fugitive criminal action, pursuant to which the Superior Court for the District of Columbia (“D.C. Superior Court”) issued a warrant for Plaintiff's arrest and presentment, id. ¶ 43.

         During a bond hearing on November 2, 2016, after Plaintiff had been detained for 10 days, a D.C. Superior Court judge asked an Assistant United States Attorney to obtain a photograph of the Illinois suspect to determine whether Plaintiff was being held based on mistaken identity. Id. ¶ 46. Within a day, the Assistant United States Attorney confirmed that Plaintiff was not the subject of the Will County warrant, and the D.C. Superior Court granted the prosecution's Motion to Dismiss. Id. ¶¶ 47-49. After the court dismissed Plaintiff's case, neither Illinois nor District of Columbia authorities took any action to prevent a future wrongful arrest. Id. ¶¶ 51-52.

         The erroneous arrest warrant would ensnare Plaintiff once more the following spring. On March 3, 2017, a United States Secret Service Officer stopped Plaintiff in the District of Columbia for a traffic violation and saw an outstanding warrant in NCIC. Id. ¶ 55. Like the MPD dispatcher in 2016, the Secret Service Joint Operations Center confirmed the warrant with Will County authorities, and the officer arrested Plaintiff. Id. Eventually, Plaintiff was taken to the Second District of MPD. Id. ¶ 57. Once there, an MPD officer again swore out a warrant affidavit based on the flawed NCIC information, and the “District of Columbia” for a second time commenced a fugitive proceeding in D.C. Superior Court. Id. ¶ 58.

         The next day, March 4, 2017, Plaintiff appeared in D.C. Superior Court, whereupon his counsel informed the court about the proceedings in 2016. Id. ¶ 60. The “District of Columbia” then dismissed the charges. Id.

         On March 14, 2017, Will County finally corrected the NCIC database, by deleting the 2016 NCIC entry and instructing that Plaintiff not be detained. Id. ¶ 63.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed this action on October 23, 2017. See Compl., ECF No. 1. On April 23, 2018, Plaintiff amended his complaint. See Notice of Filing, ECF No. 28. Upon motion by Plaintiff, the court then severed and transferred all claims involving Illinois-based defendants to the Northern District of Illinois. See ...


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