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Young v. City of Columbus

January 9, 2007

WILLIAM E. YOUNG, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF COLUMBUS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Algenon L. Marbley United States District Judge

JUDGE ALGENON L. MARBLEY

Magistrate Judge King

OPINION & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court on the following motions: (1) Motion f or Summary Judgment by Defendants City of Columbus (the "City") and Sergeant Stan Latta ("Sgt. Latta"), (collectively, "City Defendants"); and (2) Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendants Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien ("Pros. O'Brien") and former Franklin County Assistant Prosecutor Stephanie Gussler ("Pros. Gussler"), (collectively, "County Defendants"). For the reasons set forth herein, the Court GRANTS Defendants City's and Sgt. Latta's Motion for Summary Judgment and GRANTS Defendants Pros. O'Brien's and Pros. Gussler's Motion for Summary Judgment.

II. STATEMENT OF FACTS

A. Background

In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, Plaintiff William E. Young ("Plaintiff") alleges that Defendants Sgt. Latta, the City, Pros. O'Brien, and Pros. Gussler (collectively, "Defendants") violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights. In addition, Plaintiff alleges state law claims of theft, tampering with evidence, perjury, defamation of character, liable, slander, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The facts giving rise to the allegations are set forth below:

1. The Search

On October 25, 1999, Plaintiff was convicted of Menacing by Stalking in Delaware Municipal Court for, among other actions, sending a series of disparaging letters to members of the Shamansky family. Plaintiff was placed on probation for one year and ordered to stay away from the Shamansky family. On April 10, 2002, Cathryn Baehr ("Det. Baehr"), a detective for the Columbus Division of Police, began an investigation into new allegations that Plaintiff had been sending harassing emails to the Shamanskys under the screen name, "Boogieeman" (boogieeman@aol.com). It was also reported that Plaintiff went to Mr. Shamansky's business and posted embarrassing deposition testimony from Mr. Shamansky's wife, relating to a previous lawsuit wherein she purportedly admitted to having worked as an escort. Several of the Shamansky's neighbors also reported receiving a copy of the deposition testimony in the mail.

In August 2002, America On Line (AOL) confirmed with Det. Baehr that the screen name "Boogieeman" was registered to Plaintiff. Based on this information, along with the victims' reports, Judge Janet Grubb of the Franklin County Municipal Court issued a warrant to search Plaintiff's residence for evidence of stalking.

On August 27, 2002, when Plaintiff was not present, several detectives, including Sgt. Latta, executed the search warrant in Plaintiff's apartment. The detectives seized, photographed, and turned in as evidence several items found inside Plaintiff's residence. Plaintiff alleges that during the search, Sgt. Latta planted evidence -- "specifically, but not limited to, an illegal substance (marijuana)" -- in his residence. Plaintiff acknowledges that he did have marijuana in his apartment, just not the amount that was seized (102.5 grams). Because it could not be proven that it was Plaintiff's marijuana at the time, no charges pertaining to the marijuana were filed.

Plaintiff also alleges that Sgt. Latta then went outside the scope of the warrant and took items unrelated to the investigation -- items that were "vital to Plaintiff's existence." These items allegedly include Plaintiff's federal tax wage earning statements for the years 2000 and 2001, and Plaintiff's purported evidence of police misconduct and gross dereliction of duty relating to a civil suit that was pending against Delaware Officers for allegedly helping Ms. Shamansky cover up her past involvement in prostitution.

On October 30, 2002, Det. Baehr filed a criminal charge against Plaintiff for Menacing by Stalking, to which Plaintiff entered a guilty plea on January 8, 2003.

2. The Forfeiture

Following Plaintiff's conviction, on August 18, 2003, former Franklin County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gussler petitioned the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas for forfeiture of Plaintiff's computer, which had been seized during the August 27, 2002 search. Plaintiff claims that Pros. Gussler, acting on behalf of Franklin County Prosecutor O'Brien, did not notify him of the forfeiture petition, and deliberately fabricated evidence to have Plaintiff perceived as a drug dealer by proclaiming Plaintiff purchased the computer with proceeds from drug dealing instead of with inheritance money.

On September 4, 2003, Judge Reece issued an Entry of Default Judgment and Disbursal, granting the petition. Soon thereafter, Assistant City Attorney Kelly Castle moved for disposal of the remaining seized items, and Judge Liston of the Franklin County Municipal Court also issued an Entry authorizing disposal of the remaining seized items.

Plaintiff claims that he went to the property room on June 1, 2003 in an attempt to retrieve his property and was told he must first have Det. Baehr sign a release form. Plaintiff claims he sent a certified letter with return receipt requested with his current address and phone number to Det. Baehr requesting her to fill out the release form; Plaintiff has not produced this receipt in the record. Plaintiff alleges that Det. Baehr received the letter but ignored Plaintiff's request. Plaintiff, unaware of the forfeiture hearing and its outcome, sent Pros. Gussler a letter by regular mail on December 8, 2003, requesting the return of his property; Plaintiff has not produced this letter in the record. Sometime after January 1, 2004, Plaintiff received a copy of the judgment of the forfeiture hearing, and learned that the property had been sold at a police auction held on December 20, 2003.

3. The Internal Investigation

On January 8, 2004, Plaintiff submitted a complaint with the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Columbus Division of Police regarding the alleged illegal seizure and subsequent destruction of Plaintiff's property. The complaint was assigned to Sergeant Chantay Boxill ("Sgt. Boxill"). Plaintiff claims Sgt. Boxill refused to investigate Plaintiff's complaint and instead altered the allegation in the complaint to state that Sgt. Latta "mishandled" Plaintiff's property. According to Defendants, however, Boxill conducted an investigation of Plaintiff's complaint, which included communications with Plaintiff, Sgt. Latta, and the other detectives present at the search. Sgt. Boxill also reviewed photographs of the evidence that had been seized and she unsuccessfully attempted to gather evidence from Plaintiff to support his allegations. Sgt. Boxill ultimately concluded that there was no evidence to support Plaintiff's complaint, and she therefore recommended Plaintiff's complaint to be classified as "unfounded" and informed Plaintiff accordingly through a letter dated July 1, 2004.

B. Procedural History

On January 3, 2005, Plaintiff filed a complaint (the "Complaint"), asserting that his rights were violated by City of Columbus, Sgt. Stan Latta, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien, and former Franklin County Assistant Prosecutor Stephanie Gussler. In count one, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from illegal search of his property. In count two, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. In count three, Plaintiff claims that Defendants committed acts of theft, tampering with evidence, perjury, defamation of character, libel and slander. In count four, Plaintiff claims that Defendants' acts also constitute intentional infliction of severe emotional and financial distress. In count five, Plaintiff alleges that all of these violations resulted from the customs and policies of the City of Columbus, including unreasonable and inadequate training, poor supervision and discipline, permitting, condoning, ratifying and/or encouraging the illegal ...


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