312 F.3d 1228 (11th Cir. 2002), 01-15089, Dahl v. Holley

Docket Nº:01-15089.
Citation:312 F.3d 1228
Party Name:Shirley DAHL, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Jim HOLLEY, individually and as an employee of the City of Dothan, Steven Parrish, individually and as an employee of the City of Dothan, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:November 19, 2002
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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312 F.3d 1228 (11th Cir. 2002)

Shirley DAHL, Plaintiff-Appellant,


Jim HOLLEY, individually and as an employee of the City of Dothan, Steven Parrish, individually and as an employee of the City of Dothan, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 01-15089.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

November 19, 2002

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Luis Garcia-Rivera, Palm Harbor, FL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Ann Ashton Holmes, Freddie Lenton White, II, City of Dothan, City Atty., D. Kevan Kelly, Asst. City Atty., City of Dothan, Dothan, AL, Alan Carpenter Livingston, William W. Nichols, Lee & McInish, Dothan, AL, for Defendants-Appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

Before BIRCH and COX, Circuit Judges, and GEORGE [*], District Judge.

COX, Circuit Judge:

In this civil rights action, Shirley Dahl appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City of Dothan, Alabama and several officers of the Dothan Police Department. Dahl claims that the officers and the City violated her rights under the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution in arresting her and searching her property. Because the record does not show that Dahl's constitutional rights were violated, we affirm.

I. Background

A. Facts 1

This action arises from the circumstances underlying the investigation and arrest of Dahl by several police officers employed by the City of Dothan. The events leading up to Dahl's arrest began on December 12, 1997, when Sgt. Jim Holley received a tip from confidential informant Rustin McCardle that Dahl's son was in possession of illicit drugs. Based on McCardle's tip, Holley stopped and searched Dahl's son, finding him to be in possession of both cocaine and marijuana. Dahl's son gave a taped statement admitting that the drugs were his, and he was released. Later that night, Dahl's son told his mother that McCardle had provided the information resulting in his encounter with Holley.

The next day, McCardle visited Dahl to inquire about her son. During this visit, McCardle told Dahl that he constantly was searched by the police and felt trapped. McCardle also told Dahl that he wanted to "get out," but he did not know how to do

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so. In the following months, Holley contacted Dahl's son on numerous occasions, attempting to recruit him as a confidential informant. Remembering McCardle's statements, and based on information gained from other sources, Dahl became concerned for her son's safety. She also disapproved of the tactics used by the police in recruiting confidential informants, which she thought to be corrupt and illegal.

Dahl brought these concerns to the attention of CLARA, 2 a citizens' group founded by Dahl to provide information about, and encourage reform of, the legal system. Another member of CLARA, Jeff Hargett, spoke to the mayor about the police department's recruitment and use of confidential informants, and the mayor agreed to investigate the matter if Hargett could provide evidence to corroborate CLARA's allegations. Dahl then contacted McCardle and asked him to meet with her.

Dahl and McCardle met on February 23, 1998, approximately one week after the police obtained an arrest warrant for her son. 3 Dahl told McCardle about CLARA and about her suspicion that the police department was corrupt. McCardle told Dahl that the information she had gathered about the police was correct, and he agreed to tell the same thing to Hargett the next day. At the meeting with Hargett, however, McCardle expressed concern that, if he helped CLARA, the police would resurrect old drug charges against him. Should that happen, McCardle indicated, he would not be able to afford an attorney for his defense. Dahl and Hargett pledged that CLARA would help McCardle and would pay up to $10,000 in attorney's fees on his behalf. Hargett then set up a meeting with the mayor, at which McCardle was to corroborate CLARA's allegations against the police department.

On February 25, 1998, concerned that his anonymity as a confidential informant had been compromised, McCardle telephoned the police department and asked to speak to Sgt. Antonio Gonzalez. McCardle inquired if Gonzalez had exposed him as the informant against Dahl's son. Gonzalez answered that he had not done so, but he informed McCardle that Dahl was spreading rumors that McCardle had planted drugs on her son. Gonzalez urged McCardle to come in and talk to the police about the situation. McCardle then talked to Holley, who said that McCardle was headed for trouble and also urged him to tell the police what was going on. McCardle told Holley that Dahl offered him $10,000 to lie about the facts and circumstances underlying the arrest of her son. After reporting McCardle's statements to Lt. Steve Parrish, Holley asked McCardle to provide a written statement of his interactions with Dahl.

In his written statement, McCardle repeated his accusation that Dahl offered him money to lie about the circumstances of her son's arrest. According to the statement, Dahl indicated that she "would do everything she could do to help her son," (R.2-48, Ex. 19 at 2), and she told McCardle that she wanted him to tell both Hargett and the mayor that "Holley set [her son] up." (Id. at 3.) After Dahl said this, according to the statement, McCardle sat back in his chair and remained silent for a few minutes. Eventually, Dahl allegedly said to him, "You want to know what is in it for you don't you [?]" (Id.) McCardle's statement indicated that Dahl then

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held up ten fingers and said "Ten Thousand." (Id.) Finally, the statement indicated that Dahl told McCardle to keep quiet about their arrangement when he talked to Hargett, because Hargett was "legit and would not have any part of an illegal act." (Id. at 4.)

After questioning McCardle about his statement, the police commenced an investigation of Dahl, conducted primarily by Sgt. Jon Beeson and Sgt. David Jay. As part of their investigation, the police monitored and recorded several telephone conversations between Dahl and McCardle. In a conversation on February 26, 1998, after McCardle indicated that he was having second thoughts, Dahl said "[l]et's just forget it then." (R.2-38, Ex. 6 at 2.) However, when McCardle remarked that he "would feel more comfortable ... if [he] saw what [he] needed to see first," Dahl responded: "So you're not wrestling with your conscience then, you're wrestling with your pocketbook." (Id. at 3.) Later in the same conversation, in response to McCardle's requests to see "that," Dahl said: "Then I have to take care of it all during the weekend and worry about getting ripped off." (Id. at 6.) In a subsequent conversation, on...

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