Carmichael v. City of Cleveland

Decision Date01 May 2012
Docket NumberCase No. 1:11CV220.
Citation881 F.Supp.2d 833
PartiesCARMICHAEL, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF CLEVELAND, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio


Donald R. Murphy, Cleveland, OH, for Plaintiff.

Gary S. Singletary, Joseph F. Scott, L. Stewart Hastings, Jr.William M. Menzalora, Thomas J. Kaiser, Cara M. Wright, James A. Climer, Mazanec, Raskin, Ryder & Keller, Barbara R. Marburger, Cleveland, OH, Debra Gorrell Wehrle, Ryan G. Dolan, Office of the Attorney General, Columbus, OH, for Defendants.


DONALD C. NUGENT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Donnita Carmichael brings this suit individually and in her official capacity as Administratrix of the Estate of Tonia Carmichael. Tonia Carmichael was murdered by Anthony Sowell between November and December of 2008.

The Complaint names the following defendants:

(1) The City of Cleveland;

(2) Cleveland Police Detective Georgia Hussein;

(3) Cleveland Police Detective Kristin Rayburn;

(4) Cleveland Police Lieutenant Michael Baumiller;

(5) Cleveland Police Sergeant Antoinette McMahon;

(6) Unknown Detectives of the Cleveland Police Department (Defendants (2)-(6) are sometimes referred to herein as the “Cleveland Police Defendants);

(7) The City of Cleveland Health Department;

(8) Martin Flask, City of Cleveland Public Safety Director (Defendants (1)-(8) are collectively referred to herein as the “Cleveland Defendants);

(9) Assistant Cleveland Prosecutor Lorraine (erroneously named as “Loretta”) Coyne;

(10) The City of Warrensville Heights;

(11) Warrensville Heights Police Detective McGlibra;

(12) Warrensville Heights Police Lieutenant Jelenick;

(13) Warrensville Heights Police Officer Stephanie Prince;

(14) Warrensville Heights Police Sergeant Martinez (Defendants (10)-(14) are referred to herein as the “Warrensville Heights Defendants, and Defendants (11)-(14) are sometimes referred to herein as the “Warrensville Heights Police Defendants);

(15) Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners;

(16) Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department;

(17) Gerald T. McFaul, Cuyahoga County Sheriff;

(18) The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (“ODRC”);

(19) Reginald Wilkinson, ODRC Director and Managing Officer;

(20) Serginia Sowell (Anthony Sowell's mother); and

(21) Anthony Sowell.

Defendants, excluding Serginia and Anthony Sowell, have filed dispositive motions. The motions are as follows:

(1) Warrensville Heights Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF # 55);

(2) Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants City of Cleveland, Cleveland Health Dept., and Martin Flask (ECF # 57);

(3) Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Filed by Det. Georgia Hussein, Det. Kristin Rayburn, Lt. Michael Baumiller, and Sgt. Antoinette McMahon (ECF # 56);

(4) Defendant, Lorraine (“Loretta”) Coyne's Motion to Dismiss (ECF # 54);

(5) Defendant, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's, Motion to Dismiss (ECF # 29);

(6) Motion to Dismiss Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department (ECF # 24); and

(7) Motion to Dismiss Defendant Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners (ECF # 25).

For the reasons stated herein, the dispositive motions are GRANTED in their entirety. Plaintiff's Complaint lacks a plausible claim against the moving Defendants under federal or Ohio law in connection with the tragic murder of Tonia Carmichael.1 Counts I, II, IV, V, and VI are therefore dismissed with prejudice.

Further, the sole remaining claim contained in Count III of the Complaint is dismissed without prejudice. Count III is an Ohio state law claim for negligence/wrongful death against the nonmoving defendants, Serginia and Anthony Sowell. Plaintiff may refile this claim in state court if she so desires.


The following facts are alleged in the Complaint. For the purposes of Defendants' dispositive motions, they are accepted as true.

In late 2009, the bodies of eleven African–American women, including Tonia Carmichael, were found inside the Cleveland, Ohio home of Anthony Sowell. Tonia Carmichael had disappeared on or about November 10, 2008.

Ms. Carmichael was a resident of Warrensville Heights, Ohio at all times relevant to the Complaint. After her disappearance, Ms. Carmichael's family members initially attempted to file a missing person report with the Cleveland Division of Police, because the family believed that Ms. Carmichael had frequented locations in the City of Cleveland. An officer with the Cleveland Police declined to take a report for a non-resident.

Ms. Carmichael's family went to the Warrensville Heights, Ohio Police Department to make a missing person report 48 hours after her disappearance. The Warrensville Heights Police Department refused to take the family's missing person report, stating that Ms. Carmichael “will show up after she finishes smoking crack.” On December 2, 2008, Ms. Carmichael's family members went back to the Warrensville Heights Police Department and successfully filed a missing person report.

Ms. Carmichael's body was discovered in Anthony Sowell's home in or around October or November, 2009. The Complaint alleges that Anthony Sowell kept Ms. Carmichael alive for a period of time after her disappearance, and that she was not murdered until on or about December 10, 2008.

In an unrelated incident, on December 8, 2008, Anthony Sowell was arrested by Cleveland Police for allegedly punching, choking and attempting to remove a woman's clothes. After determining there was insufficient evidence to initiate a prosecution, the Assistant Cleveland Prosecutor, Defendant Coyne, declined to charge Sowell. Mr. Sowell was released within the required 24–48 hours.

Plaintiff claims that Cleveland Police Defendants Hussein, Rayburn, Baumiller, and McMahon investigated the 2008 incident, and, among other things, obtained the victim's medical records and observed physical injuries. Plaintiff states she believes that Cleveland Police Defendants either failed to research Mr. Sowell's criminal history, or completely ignored that history, and should have discovered material information to provide to the prosecutor.

Plaintiff further alleges that Anthony Sowell was released in 2008 as a result of an alleged Cleveland practice she terms “straight release and indict later.” Plaintiff claims that, under the “straight release” policy, “because of lack of resources, overcrowded jails, lack of manpower, incompetency, or indifference, [...] the investigators and City prosecutor's Office, often release suspects on straight release, with the idea that down the road if more information is obtained the case could be presented to the Grand Jury for a formal indictment. Unfortunately, this practice resulted in the release of Anthony Sowell.” Plaintiff alleges that the act of releasing Mr. Sowell on December 8, 2008 was “reckless, wanton and willful.”

Plaintiff claims that Defendant the ODRC allowed Anthony Sowell to be released from confinement without rehabilitative treatment presumably being offered during his incarceration. Plaintiff does not allege any facts to indicate that Anthony Sowell qualified for any rehabilitative program.

Plaintiff further states that Defendants the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department and the Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners failed to ensure that Mr. Sowell was properly registered and monitored as a sex offender. According to Plaintiff, these Defendants failed to of 34. PageID # : 539 enforce the community notification provisions for Tier III sex offenders contained in Ohio Revised Code (“R.C.”) § 2950.11, as amended by the Adam Walsh Act.


The moving Defendants bring their dispositive motions under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure:

                ¦¦(1)¦12(b)¦The Cleveland Defendants; Prosecutor Coyne; Cuyahoga County Board ¦
                ¦¦   ¦(6): ¦of Commissioners; Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department;           ¦
                ¦(2)¦12(c):¦The Warrensville Heights Defendants; and¦
                ¦(3)¦12(b)(1): ¦ODRC.¦

A. FRCP 12(b)(6) and 12(c)

Decisions granting judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) are reviewed under the same standard applied to motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). See Kottmyer v. Maas, 436 F.3d 684, 689 (6th Cir.2006). The Court construes the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepts all factual allegations as true, and determines whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. Albrecht v. Treon, 617 F.3d 890, 893 (6th Cir.2010) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)).

The Sixth Circuit has applied the now familiar pleading requirements in Twombly and Iqbal to both Rule 12(b)(6) and Rule 12(c) motions, and held that plaintiffs must ‘plead ... factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.’ Id. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949, 129 S.Ct. 1937);see New Albany Tractor, Inc. v. Louisville Tractor, Inc., 650 F.3d 1046, 1049–51 (6th Cir.2011). Merely pleading facts that are consistent with a defendant's liability or that permit the court to infer misconduct is insufficient. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949–50, 129 S.Ct. 1937;see Courie v. Alcoa Wheel & Forged Prods., 577 F.3d 625, 629 (6th Cir.2009). Additionally, when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c) motion, the Court “need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences.” Kottmyer, 436 F.3d at 689.

The plausibility pleading standard set forth in Twombly and Iqbal requires a plaintiff to have pled enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950, 129 S.Ct. 1937. A complaint that allows the court to...

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