Bini v. City of Vancouver

Decision Date22 May 2017
Docket NumberCASE NO. C16-5460 BHS
CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Washington)
PartiesGUIDO BINI, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF VANCOUVER, et al., Defendants.

GUIDO BINI, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF VANCOUVER, et al., Defendants.

CASE NO. C16-5460 BHS

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT TACOMA

May 22, 2017


ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

This matter comes before the Court on the joint motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 28) of City of Vancouver ("City") and Officer Sandra Aldridge ("Aldridge") (collectively "Defendants"). Also before the Court is Plaintiff Guido Bini's ("Plaintiff") motion to continue. Dkt. 44. The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motions and the remainder of the file and hereby grants the motion for summary judgment in part, denies it in part, and declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's surviving state law claims.1

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I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On June 9, 2016, Plaintiff filed his complaint against Defendants claiming violations of constitutional rights actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a violation of the Washington State Criminal Records Privacy Act ("CRPA"), abuse of process, false arrest, false imprisonment, and negligence. Dkt. 1.

On September 1, 2016, the City moved to dismiss. Dkt. 9. On October 28, 2016, the Court granted the motion in part and denied it in part, dismissing Plaintiff's claims against the City but granting Plaintiff leave to amend. Dkt. 16. On December 15, 2016, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. Dkt. 22.

On March 2, 2017, Defendants jointly moved for summary judgment. Dkt. 28. On March 20, 2017, Plaintiff responded. Dkt. 41. On March 24, 2017, Defendants replied. Dkt. 49.

On March 23, 2017, Plaintiff moved to continue the Court's consideration on the motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 44. On April 3, 2017, Defendants responded. Dkt. 52. On April 7, 2017, Plaintiff replied. Dkt. 56. On April 11, 2017, Defendants filed a surreply. Dkt. 59.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In 2014, Aldridge was monitoring jail communications between Plaintiff and Garrett Smith while Garrett Smith was awaiting a trial which would ultimately result in his conviction for second degree assault and the attempted murder of his wife, Sheryl Smith ("Smith"). Dkt. 22 at 3; Dkt. 29 at 2-4; Dkt. 31-2; Dkt. 9-1.

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At that time, and as a result of Plaintiff's communications with Garrett Smith, Plaintiff's girlfriend began publishing and maintaining a webpage called "Garrett's Voice" (the "blog"). Dkt. 22 at 3; Dkt. 30-1 at 62, 74-78. The website made many disparaging statements about Sheryl Smith's character, claiming that she was a "fraud," "an excessive drinker," and that the horrendous injuries inflicted by Garrett Smith were actually the result of her "own alcohol-induced rage." Dkt. 29-2; Dkt. 30-1 at 58-59; Dkt. 31 at 3; Dkt. 31-1 at 4-5. See also Dkt. 32 at 9 (documenting Smith's injuries). The website was also highly critical of Aldridge, the Vancouver Police Department, the judiciary in Clark County and their work on Garrett Smith's case. Dkt. 22 at 3; Dkt. 31-2. At the request of Garrett Smith, Plaintiff also began contacting common business associates and family members of Sheryl and Garrett Smith. Dkt. 30-1 at 76-77, 79-82. Plaintiff's contact with these persons included sending them emails with links to and copies of the information posted on the blog. Dkt. 25 at 3. See also Dkt. 30-1 at 76-77, 79-82. Based on the content of the blog, Plaintiff's jail communications with Garrett Smith, and complaints by Smith, Aldridge started investigating Plaintiff for cyberstalking in violation of RCW 9.61.260. Dkt. 24 at 3-4; Dkt. 29 at 3.

On April 29, 2014, Smith obtained a temporary anti-harassment order against Plaintiff. Dkt. 30-2 at 2-3. Later that day, Aldridge went to Plaintiff's home, served Plaintiff with the protective order, and issued a warning regarding the blog. Dkt. 24 at 3-4; Dkt. 29 at 4. The blog was temporarily removed, but was subsequently republished. Id. On May 7, 2014, Aldridge arrested Plaintiff, improperly concluding that he had committed felony cyberstalking in violation of RCW 9.61.260(3). Dkt. 24 at 4. Felony

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cyberstalking under RCW 9.61.260(3) requires a previous conviction of a crime of harassment as defined under RCW 9A.46.060 as a mandatory element, while cyberstalking as a gross misdemeanor under RCW 9.61.260(1) does not. See RCW 9.61.260. Plaintiff has not been convicted of a crime of harassment as defined under RCW 9A.46.060. Dkt. 22 at 4. Although Aldridge was wrong in her assessment that Plaintiff had committed felony cyberstalking, this assessment and her decision to arrest were based on her belief that Plaintiff had violated a temporary anti-harassment order. Dkt. 24 at 4. On May 12, 2014, a county deputy prosecutor declined to file an information against Plaintiff. Dkt. 34-1.

On May 28, 2014, Smith obtained an anti-harassment order against Plaintiff. Dkt. 31 at 5; Dkt. 30-4. At the hearing on the order, Plaintiff appeared and testified. See Dkt. 30-1. In his testimony, Plaintiff made statements indicating that (1) he had consulted with his girlfriend regarding information to post on the blog about Smith, (2) he contacted at least 12 friends and family members of Smith in order to disseminate the blog at the direction of Garrett Smith, and (3) he understood how the information he disseminated would be embarrassing and harassing in nature. Id. at 76-77, 79-82. Notably, on appeal of the anti-harassment order, the Clark County Superior Court concluded that it was lawful for the County District Court to enter a protective order against Plaintiff, stating:

Mr. Bini admitted that he contacted these individuals for the purpose of "mak[ing] them aware of the blog"; "mentioning" the underlying criminal proceeding against Mr. Smith; and informing them that Ms. Smith was a fraud, a drunk and subject to habitual drinking rages. Furthermore, Mr. Bini admitted he had no knowledge whether or not these allegations were true, and admitted that these statements were embarrassing and harassing in nature.

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With respect to the publication of the blog, Mr. Bini further admitted that he provided the details to his so called girlfriend to post certain information about Ms. Smith, and had discussions with her to post said derogatory comments.
The evidence presented at the district court level showed that Ms. Smith felt intimidated, harassed, and humiliated. The conduct engaged by Mr. Bini served no lawful purpose.

Dkt. 30-5 at 9.

Based on the statements made at the May 28, 2014, hearing, combined with the information she already had, Aldridge continued to pursue the prosecution of Plaintiff for cyberstalking. On May 30, 2014, after receiving a copy of the hearing transcript, Aldridge prepared a supplemental probable cause statement and issued a "Be on the Look Out" ("BOLO") advising officers who came into contact with Plaintiff that there was probable cause for his arrest. Dkts. 25, 26.

On June 10, 2014, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the city police department, complaining that Aldridge had arrested him on May 7, 2014, without probable cause. Dkt. 42-4. On July 1, 2014, the complaint was forwarded to Aldridge by her supervisor. Id. at 2. While there is no further admissible evidence on the matter, Plaintiff's amended complaint alleges that the reviewing law enforcement authority ultimately dismissed the complaint on October 22, 2014, concluding that the complaint was "unfounded" and that there was "no merit to the complaint by GUY BINI." Dkt. 22 at 8.

On July 3, 2014, Aldridge met with the Vancouver City Attorney to discuss whether the prosecutor would pursue charges against Plaintiff for misdemeanor cyberstalking. Dkt. 27 at 5; Dkt. 29 at 6; Dkt. 46 at 2-4. The City Attorney declined on the basis that, although he believed there was probable cause to arrest Plaintiff, he would

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require additional witnesses that were willing to testify before he could prove every element of cyberstalking beyond a reasonable doubt. Dkt. 33; Dkt. 46 at 3. Accordingly, the City Attorney requested that Aldridge find additional witnesses who were willing to testify to receiving multiple emails from Plaintiff before he would file an information and pursue charges. Dkt. 29 at 6; Dkt. 46 at 2-4.

After the City Attorney declined to prosecute without additional witnesses, Aldridge was unable to locate any additional witnesses who were willing to testify that they had received multiple emails from Plaintiff. Dkt. 29 at 6. Nonetheless, Aldridge did not remove from the computer system the BOLO notifying her fellow officers that there was probable cause to arrest Plaintiff. Id. On October 24, 2014, city police officers arrested Plaintiff pursuant to the outstanding BOLO. Id. On the way to the jail, the arresting officers contacted Aldridge to inform her that they had arrested Plaintiff under the outstanding BOLO, whereupon Aldridge informed them that Plaintiff should be released. Id.; Dkt. 42 at 2.2 The officers then immediately released Plaintiff and returned him to his home. Dkt. 22 at 9; Dkt. 29 at 6.

On November 10, 2014, the City Attorney reached a final decision not to file charges against Plaintiff for cyberstalking. Dkt. 42-3. In a letter informing Smith that the City would not prosecute Plaintiff, a city attorney stated:

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Prosecution is declined. There is insufficient evidence to charge [Guy Bini] with a crime. This does not imply that the City of Vancouver does not believe that the events occurred as relayed to the police; we simply cannot pursue criminal charges based on the evidence given. The decision does not affect any form of civil litigation you may wish to pursue for these allegations.

Id. at 2.

On March 25, 2015, Aldridge provided Sheryl Smith's attorney with a declaration and two non-redacted police incident reports she had authored in relation to her investigation and arrest of Plaintiff. Dkt. 29-7 at 5. Although the copies of the incident reports actually attached to that declaration...

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