United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
STADTMUELLER, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
who was formerly imprisoned in the Wisconsin prison system,
was allowed to proceed on a claim of violations of his Fourth
Amendment rights against the Defendants, who are law
enforcement officers. (Docket #10 at 3-4). Plaintiff alleged
that he was arrested by Defendants as part of a prostitution
sting, but that Defendants lacked reasonable suspicion to
initially detain him or probable cause to arrest him.
Id. All parties have filed motions for summary
motion was filed on October 4, 2018, (Docket #50), and
Defendants' motions were filed on November 1, 2018,
(Docket #53 and #60). Along with their motions, Defendants
filed a joint statement of proposed findings of fact. (Docket
#58). According to that statement, Defendants were indeed
engaged in a prostitution sting operation. In this instance,
the sting targeted a woman, Laquita Blackmer
(“Blackmer”), who was a suspected prostitute. The
officers hoped to lure Blackmer to meet with them so they
could determine who was trafficking her, or in more common
parlance, who her pimp was.
April 20, 2016, Blackmer arrived at the officers'
undercover residence in a vehicle driven by Plaintiff.
Defendants followed Plaintiff, who drove around the block and
then back towards the sting location, where he then parked.
They approached Plaintiff's vehicle and spoke with him
for a time. They then detained Plaintiff and placed him in
handcuffs, based on their experience that individuals
involved in sex trafficking are often armed. Plaintiff was
searched, led into the house, and read his Miranda
rights. The handcuffs were taken off about thirty minutes
simultaneously arrested, and then interviewed, Blackmer. She
admitted that she had come to the house intending to
prostitute herself. Blackmer was quite nervous when the
conversation turned to Plaintiff, stating that he was just a
friend dropping her off. Blackmer fearfully asked officers
whether Plaintiff was nearby or could hear them speaking. She
later stated that she was afraid that Plaintiff would hurt
her. The officers also located a few identical phones on
Blackmer and in the car. This behavior is consistent with a
pimp owning several phones for his girls to use, so that he
could be in control of their conversations with the clients.
Eventually, Blackmer stated outright that Plaintiff had
recruited her to be a prostitute for him.
light of these facts, Defendants had probable cause to arrest
Plaintiff at least for being an accomplice to the crime of
prostitution, if not additional and far more serious human
trafficking offenses. Plaintiff was nevertheless interviewed
and released that night, after being detained for about an
hour. Later, Plaintiff was charged with human trafficking in
state court. At Plaintiff's preliminary hearing, the
judge found probable cause existed to arrest Plaintiff for
human trafficking based on the facts recounted above.
argue that these facts warrant judgment in their favor, both
on the issue of Plaintiff's stop and his arrest. All
persons enjoy the Fourth Amendment's right to be free
from unreasonable seizures, including warrantless arrests.
Nevertheless, Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968),
permits police officers to detain persons whom they
reasonably suspect are engaged in criminal activity. Such
investigatory stops are proper “if the officer making
the stop is able to point to specific and articulable facts
that give rise to a reasonable suspicion of criminal
activity.” United States v. Bullock, 632 F.3d
1004, 1012 (7th Cir. 2011) (quotation omitted). “When
determining if seizure exceeds the bounds of Terry,
the court should ask: (1) whether the police were aware of
specific and articulable facts giving rise to reasonable
suspicion; and (2) whether the degree of intrusion was
reasonably related to the known facts.” Id.
assessing a Fourth Amendment claim related to a
Terry stop must “examine the totality of the
circumstances known to the officer at the time of the stop,
including the experience of the officer and the behavior and
characteristics of the suspect.” Id. The
threshold for reasonable suspicion to justify a
Terry stop is low; “[i]t requires more than a
hunch but less than probable cause and considerably less than
preponderance of the evidence.” Id. (quotation
omitted). Here, the evidence before Defendants easily
supported a reasonable suspicion that Plaintiff was engaged
in crime. Defendants had engaged Blackmer unmistakably for
the purpose of prostitution. Plaintiff was observed dropping
off her off at the sting location designated for the
commission of the crime. He then circled back to the area
after briefly driving away.
actions also did not go beyond the bounds of a permissible
Terry stop. Such stops generally involve an
interview and may include handcuffing if appropriate for the
officers' safety. Based on Defendants' experience
with these types of crimes, their decisions to handcuff
Plaintiff for a limited time and to conduct a pat-down search
were reasonable. Plaintiff was detained for just under an
hour before being released. The degree of intrusion on
Plaintiff's affairs was low, particularly in light of the
damning statements made by Blackmer.
maintains that his detention went beyond a mere
Terry stop to a full-blown arrest. If true,
Defendants would need to demonstrate that they had probable
cause to suspect that Plaintiff had committed a crime.
United States v. Paige, 870 F.3d 693, 699 (7th Cir.
2017) (“A warrantless arrest is constitutionally
permissible if supported by probable cause.”)
(quotation omitted). As with reasonable suspicion, the test
for probable cause examines “the totality of the facts
and circumstances known to the officer at the time of the
arrest” to determine whether “a reasonable,
prudent person [would believe] that the arrestee had
committed, was committing, or was about to commit a
crime.” United States v. Sands, 815 F.3d 1057,
1062 (7th Cir. 2015).
half-heartedly dispute whether Plaintiff was indeed arrested,
but they accurately note that even if this were true, they
had probable cause for the arrest. All of the same evidence
leading to Defendants' reasonable suspicion of
Plaintiff's criminal activity also establishes probable
cause for a number of crimes, including being a party to the
crime of prostitution, and human trafficking. Additionally,
the state court trial judge in Plaintiff's criminal case
found probable cause on these facts. Because
“[p]robable cause is an absolute defense to a claim of
wrongful arrest, ” Plaintiff's claim related to his
arrest fails. Chelios v. Heavener, 520 F.3d 678, 685
(7th Cir. 2008).
responded to Defendants' motions on November 19, 2018.
His responsive materials consisted of a letter to the Court
about his filings, (Docket #68), a brief in opposition to
Defendants' motions, (Docket #69), and an affidavit,
(Docket #70). Nowhere in Plaintiff's submissions,
however, is a response to Defendants' statement of facts
that complies with the applicable procedural rules. Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Civil Local Rule 56 describe
in detail the form and contents of a proper summary judgment
submission. In particular, they state that a party opposing a
summary judgment motion must file
(B) a concise response to the moving party's statement of
facts that must contain:
(i) a reproduction of each numbered paragraph in the moving
party's statement of facts followed by a response to each
paragraph, including, in the case of any disagreement,
specific references to the affidavits, declarations, parts of