481 F.3d 543 (7th Cir. 2007), 05-4225, Washington v. Haupert

Docket Nº:05-4225.
Citation:481 F.3d 543
Party Name:Leon WASHINGTON and Clara Washington, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. James HAUPERT, Joel Slygh and Fred Rogers, Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:March 27, 2007
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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481 F.3d 543 (7th Cir. 2007)

Leon WASHINGTON and Clara Washington, Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

James HAUPERT, Joel Slygh and Fred Rogers, Defendants-Appellants.

No. 05-4225.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

March 27, 2007

Argued Sept. 14, 2006.

Page 544

Leon Washington (argued), Fort Wayne, IN, pro se.

Clara Washington, Fort Wayne, IN, pro se.

Carolyn M. Trier (argued), Hunt Suedhoff Kalamaros, Fort Wayne, IN, for Defendants-Appellants.

Before CUDAHY, MANION, and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.

CUDAHY, Circuit Judge.

Leon and Clara Washington were arrested for domestic battery by the defendant police officers on January 30, 2001. The plaintiffs claim that they were simply play-fighting when Clara Washington mistakenly called 911. In January 2002, the plaintiffs brought a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 lawsuit against the City of Fort Wayne, Officer James Haupert, Officer Joel Slygh and Sergeant Fred Rogers (collectively, "the officers"). The plaintiffs argue that the officers violated their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure by arresting them without probable cause. Officer Haupert, Officer Slygh and Sergeant Rogers filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. The district court denied the officers' motion for summary judgment, and they now appeal. We affirm.

I. Background

On January 30, 2001, Clara and Leon Washington along with other family members returned home to Fort Wayne from Mississippi, where they had attended the funeral of Clara's brother. After arriving home, in an attempt to cheer Clara, Leon threw a few snowballs at Clara. Their two sons joined in, and Clara also threw some snow back at Leon. The family moved some furniture into the house and then went inside. Leon went upstairs to take a shower and rest. In 2001, Leon and Clara were not residing together in the same home; however, Clara offered Leon her room for the evening since she planned on staying downstairs that night.

At some point later in the evening around 9:00, Clara called up to Leon and asked him to come downstairs. She then called out to Leon offering him a glass of juice. Leon put his hands on her back to let her know that he had come downstairs. At that point, the plaintiffs claim that they playfully dashed a small amount of juice and water on each other. Clara then went to pick up a chair that had been knocked over earlier in the day. Leon, then, jokingly grabbed the chair and threatened Clara with it. Clara then said something

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to the effect of "Put it down or I'll call 911." Leon let go of the chair and went back upstairs to go to bed.

According to Clara, her sister then called from Mississippi. Clara and her sister discussed their brother's death and the possibility that it might have been a murder. Clara then decided to call the Fort Wayne police to discuss her brother's death and dialed 911. She claims that she hung up, though, realizing that she should not have called. The 911 operator called back, and Leon answered the phone. According the Clara, she told the operator that there was no problem. To this, the operator responded that she was going to send a police car out in any event.

The following transcript of the 911 call provides a slightly different account.

Q: 911, what is your emergency?

A: Uh, would you get a car up to 2222 Drexel Avenue, please.

Q: 2222 ... (beep) Hello ... (rustling noise) Hello ....... (beep) Hello (beep, ringing).

Male: Hello.

Q: Hello. Can I speak to the woman that I was just speaking to please ... hello?

A: Hello.

Q: Ma'am.

A: Yes.

Q: What's the problem on Drexel?

A: Uh, my husband, uh, tryin' to fight me.

Q: Has he hit you?

A: No.

Q: Is he the one that hung up?

A: Uh, no the ... yeah yeah.

Q: Does he have any weapons?

A: No.

Q: Does he ... has he been drinking?

A: No.

Q: Alright [sic] we are going to send the police out. If anything happens before they get there call us back.

A: Ok.

Q. Thank you.

A. Bye.

Officers James Haupert and Joel Slygh responded to the call. According to Clara, when the officers arrived, she explained to them that she was depressed about her brother's death. She also told them that she and her husband had been playing around earlier, specifically mentioning that they had dashed juice and water on each other. At that point, one of the officers went upstairs to talk with Leon. According to Leon, he was awakened as Officer Haupert was coming up the stairs. The officer asked him if he had a gun, to which Leon responded no. Officer Haupert then proceeded to question him about the situation and why the 911 call had been placed. Leon told him that there was nothing going on and that he did not know 911 had been called. Officer Haupert then asked him to come downstairs.

According to the plaintiffs, the officers continued to ask them about what had happened. At some point, Clara asked if they were going to jail for calling 911, to which Officer Slygh responded, "No, you ain't going to jail." Officer Haupert added, "But if you ever do something like this again, you will go to jail."

The officers provide a vastly different account of the conversation with the Washingtons leading up to their arrest. According to the officers, Clara Washington said that she and her husband had been arguing and had thrown water and juice on each other during the argument. Clara also told them that Leon had grabbed her shoulders with both hands and pushed her into the kitchen. Clara then told the officers that she had grabbed a chair and

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tried to hit Leon with it in an attempt to defend herself. Clara then said that Leon had held the leg of the chair across her chest and neck and hurt her with it. She claimed that it was painful when Leon choked her with the chair.

According to Officer Haupert, Leon reported that he had been asleep upstairs when Clara came up to the bedroom and began to argue with him. Both officers report that Leon told them that Clara jumped on Leon and said, "You wanna fight mother f_____!" Leon also told the officers that Clara had scratched him on the back of his neck. Leon then reported that he had gone downstairs with Clara. He told the officers that he and his wife began wrestling over a chair, and Clara scratched his hand and face. Leon reported that it was painful when Clara scratched him. The police officers took nine photographs of the Washington's home and of Leon Washington's face, neck and hand.

At some point, the officers went outside. They returned some time later with Sergeant Fred Rogers. According to the plaintiffs, Rogers said that they were offering conflicting stories and inquired as to what was going on. According to Clara, she then said, "Officer, I'm telling the truth." To which, Sergeant Rogers responded along the lines of, "How you telling the truth when this guy here is scratched up?" Clara then said something like, "Apparently you have a problem with ladies." At that point, according to the plaintiffs, Sergeant Rogers ordered Officer Haupert to arrest Clara. Leon then asked, "You're not taking her to jail for this, are you?" To which Rogers allegedly responded, "Yeah, and you're going, too." At that point, Leon Washington was also placed under arrest.

According to the defendants, after Sergeant Fred Rogers arrived, Clara told him that she had been scratched. At that point, the decision was made to make a dual arrest for domestic battery.

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