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Montgomery v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 5, 2019

BRANDON MONTGOMERY, as personal representative for the estate of Gary Montgomery, Plaintiff,
THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.



         In 2012, Gary Montgomery was charged in Superior Court with first-degree murder for fatally stabbing Deoni JaParker Jones at a bus stop in Washington, D.C. After initially being held at the D.C. Jail, Montgomery spent much of the next five years confined at a psychiatric hospital while proceedings regarding his competency to stand trial unfolded. After finally being determined competent, Montgomery was acquitted at trial in 2017. He died shortly thereafter. Plaintiff Brandon Montgomery, as personal representative for the estate of Gary Montgomery, has brought this action against the District of Columbia and several Metropolitan Police Department officers (collectively "defendants"). Plaintiff alleges that defendants committed various constitutional and statutory violations related to their investigation and detention of Montgomery. Currently pending before this Court is [10] defendants' partial motion to dismiss four counts of the complaint. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant in part and deny in part defendants' motion.


         I. FACTS[1]

         On February 2, 2012, at approximately 8:12 p.m., Deoni JaParker Jones was stabbed in the head and killed while sitting at a bus stop in northeast Washington, D.C. Compl. [ECF No. 1] ¶ 36. A nearby motorist, Jermaine Jackson, witnessed the murder and provided his account to the Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") a few hours later. Id. ¶¶ 37, 40. According to Jackson, the killer was between 5'9 and 6'O tall, between thirty and forty years old, and dressed in a gray hoodie under a black puffy jacket. Id. ¶ 41. After Jones was stabbed, Jackson exited his car and fought with the killer to prevent him from escaping, punching him to the ground and stomping on his head several times. Id. ¶¶ 39, 42. The killer eventually escaped. Id. ¶39. Video footage from the interior of America's Best Wings, a business establishment a few blocks from where the murder occurred, showed a person fitting Jackson's description running in the opposite direction of the murder scene. Id. ¶ 56.

         The next day, MPD released a different video to the public that showed a man crossing a street in the area of the murder a few minutes before it occurred. Id. ¶ 48. After releasing the video, MPD received several phone calls from individuals identifying the man as Gary Montgomery. Id. ¶ 62. Montgomery, then fifty-five years old, was a mentally disabled resident of the District of Columbia ("the District") who had suffered from Schizophrenia for most of his adult life. Id¶3l. Montgomery was identifiable to his neighbors based on his "prominent limp" and "distinctive clothing." Id. ¶63.

         MPD first interrogated Montgomery in connection with Jones's murder on February 4, 2012. Id. ¶¶ 65, 71. Photographs and video footage captured by MPD that day show Montgomery wearing a light brown jacket, khaki pants, and white tennis shoes, which Montgomery said he had been wearing for several days and which matched the clothing worn by the man crossing the street in the released video. Id. ¶¶ 72-74. Despite Jackson's account of the murder and his fight with the killer, Montgomery "did not appear to be 3O[-]4O years old," and his "face was unblemished and free of any bruises or injuries." Id. ¶ 46.

         Defendant Officers Brian Wise and Hosam Nasr conducted the interrogation of Montgomery, which lasted for nearly six hours. Id. ¶ 108. The officers used the Reid technique, id ¶ 109, "a method of interrogation . . . aimed at extracting confessions and evaluating suspect credibility." United States v. Jacques, 744 F.3d 804, 808 n.l (1st Cir. 2014); see United States v. Preston, 751 F.3d 1008, 1023 & a 19 (9th Cir. 2014) ("The 'Reid method,' named for the manual of which [John E.] Reid was a coauthor, is widely used by law enforcement agencies."). Throughout the interrogation, "Montgomery repeatedly showed signs of psychosis manifested by disorganized and jumbled thoughts," and provided responses to questions that "frequently had no apparent meaning." Compl. ¶¶ 113-14. Montgomery's mental illness limited his "ability to understand information and to communicate information" throughout the interrogation. Id. ¶ 115. At one point, Officer Wise inquired whether Montgomery had a mental illness. Id. ¶ H6- The officers nevertheless did not "make any modification or accommodation to their interrogation of . . . Montgomery to ensure he was able to communicate and understand the information given to him." Id. ¶23.

         On February 7, Officer Wise interviewed Mark Johnson, who a member of the public had also identified as possibly being the person in the released video. Id. ¶¶ 79, 81. Johnson told Wise that, around the time of the murder, he was buying heroin near the bus stop where Jones was killed. Id. ¶ 81. When Wise showed Johnson a picture of Montgomery, Johnson told Wise he recognized Montgomery from the neighborhood but did not say Montgomery was with him on the night of the murder. Id. ¶ 82.

         At some point between February 4 and 10, MPD arrested Montgomery, after which Officers Wise and Nasr interrogated him for a second time. See id ¶¶ 2, 92. During the second interrogation, Montgomery was "in an active psychotic state[, ] hearing voices and speaking to voices he heard." Id. ¶ 117. As with the first interrogation, Montgomery's ability to understand the officers' statements and communicate with them was limited, id ¶ 115, but no accommodations for his mental illness were made, id ¶ 23.

         On February 23, the D.C. Superior Court held a preliminary detention hearing pursuant to section 23-1325(a) of the D.C. Code, which authorizes pretrial detention of defendants charged with certain serious crimes, including first-degree murder, upon a showing of (1) probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the offense and (2) clear and convincing evidence that no conditions of release will reasonably assure the safety of the community. Jeffers v. United States, 208 A.3d 357, 359 (D.C. 2019); see United States v. Montgomery, 2012 CF1 002614 (D.C. Sup. Ct. Feb. 11, 2012)[2]; Compl. ¶ 53. When the government asked Officer Nasr, who testified at the hearing, whether anyone aside from Montgomery was near Jones in the minutes leading up to her death, Nasr said no. Compl. ¶53. Nasr's testimony was knowingly false, plaintiff alleges, because at the time, MPD possessed footage showing another man sitting next to Jones at the bus stop in the moments before her death-footage that it had not yet disclosed to the public or to Montgomery's defense counsel.[3] Id. ¶¶ 53-54, 92. The hearing resulted in a finding that pretrial detention was warranted. See Seventh Docket Entry of Feb. 23, 2012, Montgomery, 2012 CF1 002614.

         Montgomery was indicted on November 7, 2012. First Docket Entry of Nov. 7, 2012, Montgomery, 2012 CF1 002614. Shortly thereafter, Montgomery's defense counsel submitted a written request to the government for material covered under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).[4], [5] Compl. ¶¶ 92-93. In response, the government represented that it would disclose a surveillance DVD, but no such DVD was included in the materials Montgomery's counsel received.[6] Id. ¶¶92, 95- In early 2013, the Superior Court ordered that Montgomery be moved from the D.C. Jail to a psychiatric hospital and examined for competency to stand trial. Fifth Docket Entry of Jan. 29, 2013, Montgomery, 2012 CF1 002614. Montgomery was initially found competent to stand trial, but his competency status changed several times over the next few years. See Docket Entries of Apr. 5, 2013-Nov. 29, 2016, Montgomery, 2012 CF1 002614. In late 2016, Montgomery was again found competent and a jury trial was scheduled for July 31, 2017. Seventh Docket Entry of Nov. 29, 2016, Montgomery, 2012 CF1 002614.

         Montgomery's counsel made an additional request for Brady material in June 2017. Compl. ¶ 94. In the week preceding the trial, the government disclosed Jackson's eyewitness account of Jones's murder, the America's Best Wings video showing a person fitting Jackson's description of the killer, and details of MPD's interview of Johnson. Id. ¶¶ 60, 85, 90.

         After a two-week trial beginning on July 31, 2017, a jury acquitted Montgomery of first-degree murder. Id. ¶¶ 1, 3; Fifth Docket Entry of Aug. 16, 2017, Montgomery, 2012 CF1 002614. Shortly after his release, Montgomery died at sixty-one years of age. Compl. ¶31.


         On August 16, 2018, Brandon Montgomery, as personal representative for Montgomery's estate, filed the present lawsuit. Id. at 7, 39. The complaint consists of nine counts alleging various constitutional and statutory violations committed by the District, Officer Wise, Officer Nasr, and others.[7] Id. ¶¶132-199. Defendants move to dismiss four of the nine counts: Count IV (claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging Officers Wise and Nasr violated Montgomery's due process rights under Brady); Count VII (claim under section 1983 against the District alleging municipal liability for various constitutional violations under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978)); Count Vin (claim under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12132); and Count IX (claim under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794(a)). Defs.' Mot. for Partial Dismissal of the Compl. ("Mot") [ECF No. 10] at 1. The motion to dismiss is fully briefed and ripe for resolution.


         "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 (2009) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Plausibility requires "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. (citation omitted). "Legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations" are insufficient. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). A court must accept factual allegations as true and grant the ...

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