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Quigley v. City of Huntington

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division

November 2, 2017




         Proceeding pro se, Plaintiff, Harry Quigley, commenced this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging, in relevant part, violations of his rights under the Fourth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment. Comply ECF No. 2, at ¶ 27-30. Per standing order, the case was referred to Magistrate Judge Eifert for Proposed Findings and Recommendations ("PF&R"). Standing Order, ECF No. 3, at 2. Magistrate Judge Eifert issued her PF&R on September 22, 2017. In her PF&R, Judge Eifert recommends that this Court grant, in part, and deny, in part, Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 14, 24). PF&R, ECF No. 38, at 27-28. As explained below, the Court will adopt Judge Eifert's findings and recommendations, consistent with this Memorandum Opinion and Order. Therefore, the Court grants, in part, and denies, in part, Defendants' Motions to Dismiss.

         Plaintiff filed objections to the PF&R on October 6, 2017, which the Court will address under de novo review. Although Magistrate Judge Eifert made a number of factual and legal findings, Plaintiff only objects to two of Magistrate Judge Eifert's findings and recommendations. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). The Court rejects Plaintiffs objections.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs claims arise out of interactions he had with City of Huntington police officers. On March 17, 2017, a Huntington police officer arrested Plaintiff and charged him with brandishing, a misdemeanor offense. Second Am. Comply ECF No. 33, at ¶ 8-21; PF&R, at 2. The arrest occurred after a Cabell County Deputy Sheriff witnessed a part of an altercation during which Plaintiff produced a knife in self-defense. Id. at If 20-23; PF&R, at 3.

         That evening, Plaintiff had been en route to Kroger to purchase a few items. Id. at If 17; PF&R, at 3. As Plaintiff had voluntarily relinquished ownership of a car, Plaintiff usually walked to the store on foot. Id. at If 15-17; PF&R, at 3. Only one block separated his home from Kroger. Id. In the one block between Plaintiffs residence and Kroger is the home of Jason David Blankenship. Id. During three or four of Plaintiff s previous trips to Kroger, Mr. Blankenship, apparently intoxicated on each occasion, had "interrupted" Plaintiffs walks. Id. Plaintiff kept interactions with Mr. Blankenship brief and cordial. Id.

         At roughly 7:30pm on March 17, 2017, Mr. Blankenship once again reached out to Plaintiff as he was walking to Kroger. Id. This time, however, Mr. Blankenship had two male friends with him. Id. Mr. Blankenship called out to Plaintiff, wanting Plaintiff to purchase beer for he and his two friends. Id. at If 18; PF&R, at 3. Believing that the men were intoxicated, Plaintiff rebuffed Mr. Blankenship's proposal. Id. Apparently unhappy with Plaintiffs response, the three men descended from the porch on which they had been standing, and aggressively surrounded Plaintiff, insisting that he satisfy their request. Id. at If 18-20; PF&R, at 3.

         During the ensuing exchange of words, one of Mr. Blankenship's intoxicated friends punched Plaintiff in his right eye. Id. Fearing the increasingly physical nature of the disagreement, Plaintiff stood back and pulled a roughly six-inch long, unsheathed straight blade from his waistband. Id. The three aggressors, while staring beyond Plaintiff, began to back up simultaneously with the production of the knife. Id.

         Plaintiff, turning to see what held the aggressors' attention, saw a Cabell County deputy on one knee, with his pistol aimed at Plaintiff, who instructed him to drop the knife. Id. at If 21-22; PF&R, at 3. The deputy, who had been conducting his regular patrol of the Kroger parking lot, was roughly 20 feet away from the scuffling group when he saw the knife. Id.

         Shortly thereafter, several Huntington Police Department cruisers had arrived at Mr. Blankenship's house. Id. While the police officers spoke with Mr. Blankenship and his two friends, officers handcuffed and frisked Plaintiff, then ordered him to sit in the back of a cruiser. PF&R, at 3. An officer took a photo of Plaintiff s black eye, but at no point did any officer interview Plaintiff about what happened. Second Am. Compl., at If 25-26; PF&R, at 3. Officers then transported Plaintiff back to the Huntington police station. Id. at If 23; PF&R, at 3. Officers told Plaintiff that they did not see anything for which they could arrest Mr. Blankenship's group. Id. However, officers did notify Plaintiff that Mr. Blankenship had asked officers not to arrest Plaintiff. Id.; PF&R, at 4.

         Plaintiff was presented before a county magistrate, who questioned the Huntington police officer about the arrest. Compl., at If 24; PF&R, at 4. The officer told the county magistrate that all the men involved in the confrontation were drunk, despite the fact that Plaintiff was not intoxicated. Id. Plaintiff was not given an opportunity to correct the inaccurate account given by the officer because the magistrate never elicited Plaintiffs version of events. Id. The magistrate advised Plaintiff that he was being charged with misdemeanor brandishing, that he would be assigned a public defender, and that the magistrate had to send Plaintiff to jail. Comply at If 25; PF&R, at 4. The magistrate set Plaintiffs bond at $5, 000, a sum that Plaintiff could not afford. Plaintiff remained in jail for ten days, only gaining release when his 89-year-old aunt drove 80 miles to post Plaintiffs bond. Comply at If 27; PF&R, at 4.

         Although originally set for March 20, 2016, Plaintiffs preliminary hearing was rescheduled for May 19, 2016 because Mr. Blankenship and his cohort of friends initially failed to appear. Comply at If 28; PF&R, at 4. At the May 19, 2016 preliminary hearing, Mr. Blankenship finally appeared and notified the magistrate that he did not wish to proceed with the charge against Plaintiff. Id. Upon this notification, the magistrate dismissed the charge.

         II. Standard of Review

         This Court conducts a de novo review of those portions of the magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations to which a party objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C) ("A judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. A judge of the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate."). The Court, however, is not required to review, under a de novo or any other standard, the factual or legal conclusions of ...

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