United States District Court, District of Columbia
RUTH E. RICHARDS, Plaintiff,
METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT OFFICER JENNIFER GELSOMINO, Defendant.
D. BATES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
29, 2013, plaintiff Ruth Richards was arrested following her
involvement in a domestic dispute with her ex-husband and his
girlfriend. She brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against the arresting officer, defendant Jennifer
Gelsomino, alleging that Gelsomino arrested her without
probable cause and because of her race and national origin in
violation of her Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. Gelsomino
has moved for summary judgment, which Richards opposes.
See Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (“Def.'s
Mot.”) [ECF No. 37]; Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s
Mot. (“Pl.'s Opp'n”) [ECF No. 39]. For
the reasons explained below, the Court will grant
facts of this case are largely undisputed. Richards'
description of the domestic dispute has not been challenged
by the defendant and both parties agree on the facts
pertinent to Gelsomino's investigation of the incident
and Richards' Fourth Amendment claim. Disputes between
the parties as to facts relevant to Richards' Fifth
Amendment claim are noted where applicable.
The Domestic Dispute
has known her now-ex-husband, George Richards,  since she was 13
years old, when they both lived on the same street in
Jamaica. Pl.'s Objs. & Resps. to Def.'s 1st Set
of Interrogs. (“Pl.'s Objs. & Resps.”),
Ex. A. to Pl.'s Opp'n [ECF No. 39-3] at 6. The two
eventually married and moved to Washington, D.C. At some
point, their marriage dissolved, ending in divorce. It is not
clear from the record whether their divorce was acrimonious.
However, it apparently became so the first time Richards
encountered George with his new, younger girlfriend,
often visited Grady's neighborhood because she had
friends who lived nearby, including Richards' former
mother-in-law, Eva Woods, who lived next-door to Grady.
See id. at 5; District of Columbia Office of Police
Complaints (“OPC”) Report of Investigation
(“OPC Report”), Ex. D to Pl.'s Opp'n [ECF
No. 39-6] at 19. But until the dispute that led to this
lawsuit, Richards and Grady had never met. See
Pl.'s Objs. & Resps. at 6.
changed on May 29, 2013. Richards, who had visited a friend
in the area, was walking down Woods' street when George
pulled his car up in front of Grady's house. Id.
George got out of his car-as did Grady and her young son.
Id. Richards walked up to George and Grady and
asked, sarcastically, “Is that your daughter?”
slapped Richards across the face. Id. Richards began
yelling in response, swinging her handbag at George. Richards
Dep., Ex. B. to Pl.'s Opp'n [39-4] at 24:1-8;
Pl.'s Objs. & Resps. at 6. The commotion was loud
enough to attract the attention of neighbors down the street.
See OPC Report at 27. It is unclear how long the
shouting lasted, but the parties eventually dispersed, and
Richards retreated to Woods' house, while George, Grady,
and her child went next door to Grady's house. Pl.'s
Objs. & Resps. at 6.
after the altercation, both Grady and her son called 911 to
report the dispute. Grady requested police assistance,
stating that Richards was outside her home talking loudly and
making threats. Sharneisha Grady 911 Call, Ex. 3 to
Def.'s Mot. (on file) at 0:53-2:10. Grady's son also
called 911, stating that Richards was “talking crap to
[his] mom” and had threatened to call the police on
them. D. Grady 911 Call, Ex. 4 to Def.'s Mot. (on file)
at 0:35-1:24. The dispatch team broadcasted to Metropolitan
Department Police (“MPD”) officers that a woman
matching Richards' description had threatened bodily harm
at Grady's address, and that Richards was believed to be
at the scene. Radio Run, Ex. 5 to Def.'s Mot. (on file)
and her partner, Officer Nelson Alas, responded to the
dispatch request. After arriving at the scene, the officers
split up. Alas went to Woods' house to speak with
Richards, while Gelsomino went to Grady's house.
Pl.'s Objs. & Resps. at 7; Gelsomino Dep. Ex. 2 to
Def.'s Mot. [ECF No. 37-3] at 72:4-12. Grady told
Gelsomino that Richards had “got in [her] face”
and said, “bitch, I'm going to smack you.”
Def.'s Stmt. of Undisputed Material Facts
(“Def.'s Stmt.”), Ex. 1 to Def.'s Mot.
[ECF No. 37-1] ¶¶ 10-11; Pl.'s Stmt. of
Material Facts for Which There Is a Genuine Dispute
(“Pl.'s Stmt.”), Ex. 1 to Pl.'s Opp'n
[ECF No. 39-1] ¶¶ 10-11. She also said that she
believed that Richards was going to hurt her and was capable
of carrying out the threat. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 12;
Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 12. George corroborated Grady's
statement, telling Gelsomino that Richards had approached
Grady very aggressively and had “threatened to assault
her.” Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 13; Pl.'s Stmt.
speaking with Grady and George, Gelsomino went next door to
Woods' house and signaled to Richards to come down from
the porch. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 14; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶
14. Gelsomino, who is white, then asked Richards, who is
black, where she was born. Pl.'s Objs. & Resps. at 5,
7; Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 15; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 15.
Although the parties dispute how many times Gelsomino asked
the question-Gelsomino says she asked it once, while Richards
alleges she asked it twice- there is no dispute that it was
the only question Gelsomino asked. See Def.'s
Stmt. ¶ 15; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 15. Richards, who
speaks with an accent, told Gelsomino that she was from
Jamaica. OPC Findings of Fact & Merits Determination
(“OPC Findings”), Ex. E to Pl.'s Opp'n
[ECF No. 39-7] at 6; Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 16; Pl.'s
Stmt. ¶ 16.
point, Gelsomino arrested Richards and placed her in
handcuffs. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 17; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶
17. Richards alleges that she asked Gelsomino to interview
neighbors down the street who had seen the dispute, but
Gelsomino allegedly responded that she wasn't
“going down there.” Pl.'s Objs. & Resps.
at 8. Gelsomino did not question Richards about the alleged
threats, nor did she provide Richards with a reason for the
arrest. Grady Dep., Ex. C to Pl.'s Opp'n [ECF No.
39-5] at 111:13-18; Pl.'s Objs. & Resps. at 7.
Richards was arrested, one of Woods' neighbors,
Katherlean Johnson, approached the officers. OPC Report at
28. Johnson told Gelsomino and Alas that she had witnessed
the dispute and had seen George hit Richards across the face.
See id. Alas then arrested George as well.
Id.; see George Richards Arrest Report, Ex.
7 to Def.'s Mot. [ECF No. 37-5] at 1-2.
brought Richards to the police station, while Alas took
George. Pl.'s Objs. & Resps. at 8. Gelsomino asserts
that while in the car, she asked Richards for basic
biographical information, including her date of birth, social
security number, and birth place, in order to fill out a
required booking form. See Def.'s Stmt.
¶¶ 18-21. Richards disputes this, arguing that
there is no evidence that the booking form was ever filled
out and notes that her place of birth was not included on her
arrest form. Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 18.
charged Richards with violating D.C. Code § 22-407,
which prohibits threats to commit bodily harm. See
Ruth Richards Arrest Report, Ex. 6 to Def.'s Mot. [ECF
No. 37-4] at 1. Richards was held overnight in jail and was
released the following day. Pl.'s Objs. & Resps. at