United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Beckley Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. BERGER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Court has reviewed Defendants Gary Epling and Jason
Redden's Motion for Summary Judgment (Document 242),
Defendants Gary Epling and Jason Redden's Memorandum
of Law in Support of their Motion for Summary Judgment
(Document 243), the Plaintiff's Response to
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Document
271), Defendants Gary Epling and Jason Redden's Reply
to the Plaintiff's Response to Defendants Motion for
Summary Judgment (Document 291), Defendants Raleigh
County and Steven Tanner's Motion for Summary
Judgment (Document 244), Defendants Raleigh County
and Steven Tanner's Memorandum of Law in Support of Their
Motion for Summary Judgment (Document 245), the
Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Defendants
Raleigh County and Tanner's Motion for Summary
Judgment (Document 267), Defendants Raleigh County
and Steven Tanner's Reply to the Plaintiff's Response
to Defendants Raleigh County and Steven Tanner's Motion
for Summary Judgment (Document 288), Defendants City
of Beckley and David Snuffer's Motion for Summary
Judgment (Document 246), Defendants City of Beckley
and David Snuffer's Memorandum of Law in Support of their
Motion for Summary Judgment (Document 247), the
Plaintiff's Response to Defendants City of Beckley
and David Snuffer's Memorandum and Motion for Summary
Judgment (Document 269), Defendants City of Beckley
and David Snuffer's Reply to Plaintiff's Response to
their Motion for Summary Judgment (Document 287),
Defendant Kenneth Pack's Motion for Summary
Judgment (Document 248), the Memorandum in Support
of Defendant Kenneth Pack's Motion for Summary
Judgment (Document 249), Plaintiff Marquel Ali's
Memorandum in Support of Response in Opposition to Defendant
Pack's Motion for Summary Judgment (Document 266),
Defendant Kenneth Pack's Reply to “Plaintiff
Marquel Ali's Memorandum in Support to Response in
Opposition to Defendant Pack's Motion for Summary
Judgment” (Document 292), all attached exhibits
and the Amended Complaint (Document 23). For the
reasons stated herein, the Court finds that the motions for
summary judgment should be granted.
23, 2017, the Plaintiff, Marquel Ali, initiated this suit
with a Complaint (Document 1). On August 23, 2017,
Mr. Ali filed an Amended Complaint (Document 23)
against the Beckley Police Department, the City of Beckley,
Gary Epling, David Snuffer, Kenneth L. Pack, Raleigh County,
the Raleigh County Sheriff's Department, Jason Redden,
Steven Tanner, and the West Virginia State Police. Mr.
Ali's amended complaint sets forth eleven counts: Count I
- Race Discrimination, Count II - Color Discrimination,
Count III - Discrimination and Interference with
Plaintiff's Right to Equal Benefit of the Law in
Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Count IV - Warrantless
Arrest Pursuant to False Tip in Violation of 42 U.S.C. §
1983, Count V - Conspiracy to Interfere with Constitutional
Rights in Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), Count VI -
Neglect to Prevent Conspiracy to Interfere with
Plaintiff's Rights, Count VII - False/Wrongful Arrest and
Improper Investigation and Prosecution in Violation of 42
U.S.C. § 1983, Count VIII - Abuse of Process, Count IX -
Malicious Prosecution, Count X - Negligent Infliction of
Emotional Distress, and Count XI - Outrage. After the
Court's ruling on the motions to dismiss, the remaining
Defendants are: Steven Tanner, former Sheriff of Raleigh
County; Gary Epling, detective with the Raleigh County
Sheriff's Department; Kenneth Pack, officer with the West
Virginia State Police; David Snuffer, officer with the
Beckley Police Department; and Jason Redden, parole officer
with the West Virginia Division of Corrections. These
remaining claims are against the Defendants in their
individual capacities only.
genesis of Mr. Ali's suit begins with his employment with
the Raleigh County Sheriff's Department. On March 18,
2014, Raleigh County hired Mr. Ali as one of its
deputies. Mr. Ali is an African American
male. Before hiring Mr. Ali, then Sheriff Tanner
interviewed him. The interview lasted only a few minutes, and
during the interview Mr. Tanner asked Mr. Ali “do you
think you'll fit in here[?]” (Ali Dep.
242:8-9, Document 273-1). In February 2015, Lt. Halstead
evaluated Mr. Ali's performance as a deputy sheriff and
concluded that it was “satisfactory.”
March 3, 2015, Jane Doe made a complaint against Mr.
After filling out a complaint form, Jane Doe made a statement
to Captain Larry Lilly of the Raleigh County Sheriff's
Office. Jane Doe alleged that on February 21, 2015, Mr. Ali
and another officer responded to a call at Jane Doe's
house for domestic violence. The officers arrested Jane Doe
based on a bench warrant from Wyoming County. While in the
back seat of the police car, Jane Doe alleged that Mr. Ali
had “something hanging with his stuff in it which had
two prescription pill bottles and his ticket book and
reports.” (Statement of Jane Doe, pg. 1, Document
273-2). She admitted “I went through it and I put the
pills and stuff in my hoodie and I thought I was going to use
like some leverage over him like so he wouldn't give me a
bunch of charges.” Id. Mr. Ali alleged that
she attempted to escape and got the pills from the glove box
of the car. While Jane Doe was in custody, she alleged
that Mr. Ali was on a video call talking about the domestic
violence incident and the incident involving the pills.
During the statement, Jane Doe also alleged that she knew of
Ali selling marijuana in high school, although she never
purchased marijuana from him. While Jane Doe was giving her
statement, Captain Lilly began asking questions, which he
stated were a part of an internal investigation. At that
point, Jane Doe stated:
It's just the fact that he's a cop that just irks me,
like he's just a regular “Nigger” off the
street. At the end of the day the “Nigger” went
from selling weed to, just because he didn't get caught,
just think about it if I never would have got caught selling
dope I could be a cop right now, bottom line. Do you know
what I'm saying he just didn't get caught that's
the only difference, things should change for him.
(Statement of Jane Doe, pg. 12, Document 273-2). She also
alleged that Mr. Ali associated with drug dealers in Beckley.
March 11, 2015, then Sheriff Tanner requested that Captain
Lilly conduct an internal investigation of Mr. Ali based on
Jane Doe's statement. That same day, Mr. Ali was
suspended pending the investigation. The internal
investigation sought to address three allegations made by
Jane Doe: “1. [i]mproper handling of evidence, 2.
[l]eaving a prisoner unattended, [and] 3. [i]mproper use of
handcuffs.” (Raleigh County Sheriff's Office
Report, Pg. 2, Document 273-4). After conducting the
investigation, Captain Lilly concluded that the exact origin
of the pills was unknown, although Mr. Ali claims that they
were recovered at the scene of a crash a week earlier.
Captain Lilly also concluded that there was no documentation
to support this claim. He did not make a conclusion with
respect to the improper use of handcuffs. Finally, he
concluded that Jane Doe was not left unattended, because
another Deputy Sheriff was a short distance away from the
car. (Id. at 10-11).
March 17, 2015, Mr. Ali was terminated and timely filed a
grievance with the Raleigh County Civil Service Commission
(“Civil Service Commission”). On June 2, 2015,
the Civil Service Commission held a hearing on Mr. Ali's
grievance regarding his termination by Mr. Tanner and Raleigh
County. During the hearing, Mr. Ali contended that Mr. Tanner
and Raleigh County discriminated against him because of his
race. The parties were required to submit proposed findings
of fact and conclusions of law to the Commission by June 22,
November 2014, prior to his termination, Mr. Ali had arrested
Thomas Short for shoplifting. Mr. Short gave Mr. Ali his
brother's identification. Mr. Short, still posing as his
brother, pled guilty and was convicted. Mr. Short's
brother did not know he was convicted of a crime until he
sought to renew his driver's license. On June 16, 2015,
Mr. Short's brother went to the Beckley office of the
West Virginia State Police to file a report and spoke with
troopers K.A. Filer and Wood. On June 23, 2015, (the day
after proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law were
due to the Commission) Trooper Aaron Wood called Mr. Ali to
inform him that a complaint was filed against him and asked
Mr. Ali if he was able to meet in Beckley to discuss the
matter. Mr. Ali indicated that he was not able to meet that
23, 2015, parole officer Jason Redden received a phone call
from Ella Coppola, Jerell Johnson's mother. At the time, Mr.
Johnson, who is Mr. Ali's cousin, was living with Ms.
Coppola. After calling Mr. Redden, Ms. Coppola met with him
and reported that Mr. Johnson was dealing drugs and storing
drugs in her home. Mr. Redden contacted Detective David
Snuffer, and asked the Beckley/Raleigh County Drug and
Violent Crime Task Force Unit (“Task Force”) to
assist in apprehending Mr. Johnson.
condition of his parole, Mr. Johnson was on a GPS monitoring
system. Mr. Redden and the Task Force were going to Ms.
Coppola's house, where Johnson was living, but when
parole officer Redden attempted to confirm that Johnson was
still there, the GPS indicated he was not home and on the
move. Initially, Redden and the Task Force went to a Family
Dollar store to locate Johnson, but by the time they arrived,
Mr. Redden realized that he was no longer at the
store. Fletcher Johnson picked up Mr. Johnson at
the Family Dollar store and drove him to apartments on
Hubbard Street (“the apartments”). While Mr.
Johnson was at the apartments, he retrieved a bag of drugs
located near a dumpster.
the Task Force did not locate Johnson at the Family Dollar
store, they went to a car wash on Hubbard Street. While at
the car wash, the Defendants again tried to locate Johnson,
and concluded that because the GPS indicated that he was
moving from location to location, he apparently was in a car.
At this point, the GPS indicated that Mr. Johnson was located
at or near the apartments. Based on this information,
Detective Epling drove around the apartment complex in an
unmarked police car looking for Mr. Johnson. Detective Epling
did not see Mr. Johnson but did see Mr. Ali in a white car.
his termination, Mr. Ali resided in Huntington, West
Virginia, but still drove to Beckley to work as a substitute
teacher. On June 23, 2015, Mr. Johnson contacted his cousin,
Mr. Ali, and asked for a ride. Mr. Ali met Mr. Johnson at
Fletcher Johnson's apartment. Mr. Ali left Fletcher
Johnson's apartment and waited in the car for Mr.
Johnson. When Mr. Johnson approached the vehicle, he was
carrying a plastic grocery bag, and asked Mr. Ali to put the
bag onto the backseat, but Mr. Ali told Mr. Johnson to put
the bag in the trunk. At this point Mr. Ali and Mr. Johnson
headed to a nearby Burger King.
and Mr. Johnson were stopped in Ali's vehicle at the
Burger King drive thru. The Task Force stopped the vehicle
because the GPS indicated that Mr. Johnson's whereabouts
were consistent with movement in a vehicle, and at the time,
Mr. Ali's vehicle was the only moving vehicle in sight.
Mr. Redden states that he had also contacted Ms. Coppola to
see if she knew what kind of vehicle Mr. Johnson would be in
and was told that Mr. Johnson would be in Mr. Ali's white
Chrysler. Mr. Ali drove past the position of the
Task Force at the car wash. Finally, the Task Force followed
Mr. Ali's car and visually confirmed that Mr. Johnson was
in the vehicle. Based on this information, the Task Force
blocked Mr. Ali's car in the drive-thru. The Task Force
ordered both Mr. Johnson and Mr. Ali out of the car at
gunpoint and detained them.
both exited the vehicle and were detained, Mr. Johnson was
taken into custody by parole officer Redden. Trooper Pack
explained to Mr. Ali that they were there to pick up Mr.
Johnson. Mr. Johnson admitted to Mr. Redden that he had a
small amount of marijuana in his pocket. However, Mr.
Pack and others began to notice the smell of marijuana coming
from the vehicle, so they had K-9 Toby walk around Mr.
Ali's car. Toby indicated the presence of more drugs in
the trunk of Mr. Ali's vehicle. After the dog alerted to
the car, Mr. Ali consented to a search of the
vehicle. (Consent to Search form, Document
244-11). When the officers searched the vehicle, drugs were
found in the trunk of the vehicle in a blue duffle bag
containing a white bag of marijuana, cocaine, and some of Mr.
Ali's personal effects. Mr. Ali denied that the drugs
were his and Mr. Johnson also initially denied ownership of
the drugs, so the police arrested both Mr. Ali and Mr.
Johnson. After the arrest, some Task Force members went to
Ms. Coppola's house where Mr. Johnson had been keeping
more drugs. He told them the location of the drugs and Ms.
Coppola consented to a search of the house.
PROCEEDINGS FOLLOWING ALI AND JOHNSON'S ARREST
6, 2015, during a preliminary hearing, Mr. Johnson maintained
that the drugs located in Mr. Ali's car did not belong to
him. The magistrate found probable cause to charge Mr.
Johnson with two counts of possession with intent to deliver,
and conspiracy. Prior to Mr. Ali's trial, Johnson pled
guilty to conspiracy to commit a felony and named Mr. Ali as
his co-conspirator, stating that Ali knew what Johnson was
doing with the drugs.
was tried twice on drug charges related to the drugs found in
his vehicle. The first trial began on February 13, 2017.
Trooper Pack's wife informed the court that she had seen
individuals in court speaking to potential defense witnesses.
The presiding judge sua sponte declared a mistrial
and scheduled a new trial for May 2017. On May 22, 2017, the
second trial began. On May 26, 2017, the jury returned a
verdict finding Mr. Ali not guilty on all the charges.
well-established standard in consideration of a motion for
summary judgment is that “[t]he court shall grant
summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)-(c);
see also Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 549
(1999); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 247 (1986); Hoschar v. Appalachian Power Co.,
739 F.3d 163, 169 (4th Cir. 2014). A “material
fact” is a fact that could affect the outcome of the
case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; News &
Observer Publ'g Co. v. Raleigh-Durham Airport Auth.,
597 F.3d 570, 576 (4th Cir. 2010). A “genuine
issue” concerning a material fact exists when the
evidence is sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to return a
verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. FDIC v.
Cashion, 720 F.3d 169, 180 (4th Cir. 2013); News
& Observer, 597 F.3d at 576.
moving party bears the burden of showing that there is no
genuine issue of material fact, and that it is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex
Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23. When determining whether
summary judgment is appropriate, a court must view all of the
factual evidence, and any reasonable inferences to be drawn
therefrom, in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party. Hoschar, 739 F.3d at 169. However, the
nonmoving party must offer some “concrete evidence from
which a reasonable juror could return a verdict in his
favor.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. “At
the summary judgment stage, the non-moving party must come
forward with more than ‘mere speculation or the
building of one inference upon another' ...