Ernst v. Hinchliff

Decision Date08 September 2015
Docket NumberCase No. 14–cv–4923 (SRN/TNL).
Parties Ronald R. ERNST, Plaintiff, v. Jon HINCHLIFF, Dwight Close, Jeremy Britzius, Jack Rusinoff, Ed Hanson, ADL, Barbara L. Neilson, Patricia Moen, Michelle Murphy, Scott Nadeau, Minneapolis Police Dept., MN Department of Corrections, Bloomington, MN Police Department, State of Minnesota, and Columbia Heights Police Department, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Minnesota

Ronald R. Ernst, Hilltop, MN, pro se Plaintiff.

Angela Helseth Kiese, Assistant Attorney General, Minnesota Attorney General's Office, St. Paul, MN, for Defendants Close, Britzius, Rusinoff, Neilson, Moen, Murphy, MN, Department of Corrections, and State of Minnesota.

Ryan M. Zipf, League of Minnesota Cities, St. Paul, MN, for Defendants Hanson, Nadeau, Bloomington Police Department, and Columbia Heights Police Department.

Brian Scott Carter, Assistant City Attorney, Minneapolis City Attorney's Office, Minneapolis, MN, for Defendants Hinchliff and Minneapolis Police Department.



, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Objection to Recommendation to Dismiss ("Objections") [Doc. No. 76] to Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung's July 15, 2015 Report and Recommendation ("R & R") [Doc. No. 75] granting Defendants' Motions to Dismiss [Doc. Nos. 13, 18, 30, 40], dismissing the State of Minnesota and the Department of Corrections ("DOC") as an arm of the State of Minnesota, and declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any remaining state claims, including Plaintiff's Minnesota Government Data Practices Act ("MGDPA") claim against Defendant Moen, dismissing these state claims without prejudice. For the reasons set forth below, the Court overrules Plaintiff's objections and adopts the R & R in its entirety.


The factual and procedural background of this case is well documented in the R & R and is incorporated herein by reference. (R & R at 712–20 [Doc. No. 75].) In general terms, this case involves information distributed to various communities regarding Plaintiff Ronald Ernst's sex offender status. Plaintiff is required to register as a sex offender under Minn.Stat. § 243.166

as he was convicted of a gross-misdemeanor offense which mandates registration. See Ernst v. State, No. A03–63, 2003 WL 23023992, at *1 n. 1 (Minn.App. Dec. 30, 2003).

A. Plaintiff's Prior Offenses

In 1984, Plaintiff plead guilty to a charge of Criminal Attempt to Commit Sexual Assault on a Child in the State of Colorado. (R & R at 713–14.) The child was eleven (11) years old, but the Plaintiff asserts he only touched the child on the abdomen. (Id.; see also Objections at 3 [Doc. No. 76] (describing what is presumably the conduct underlying the 1984 conviction).)

In 1997, Plaintiff was charged with several criminal charges (collectively, "1997 Charges") in Scott County, Minnesota including felony indecent exposure. (R & R at 714.) See Ernst, 2003 WL 23023992, at *1

. Although several of the charges were dismissed, Plaintiff plead guilty to one count of felony indecent exposure for exposing himself to a minor child. (R & R at 714.) See Ernst, 2003 WL 23023992, at *1. Subsequently, it was determined errors in the pre-sentencing investigation resulted in an unwarranted felony enhancement and the indecent-exposure offense was reduced to a gross misdemeanor. (R & R at 714.) See Ernst, 2003 WL 23023992, at *1.

Prior to his release from incarceration on the indecent-exposure conviction, Plaintiff claims he completed a Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Sex Offender Notification and Registration Form—Minnesota Statute 243.166

. (R & R at 714–15.) However, after his release, he discovered his "Staff social worker" had allegedly altered this form to include the dismissed charges from Scott County. (Id. ) He also claims this same social worker told him that if the felony indecent-exposure had been charged as a gross misdemeanor, the Plaintiff would not have to register.2 (Id. )

In 2001, Plaintiff was arrested and convicted in Minnesota for failure to register as a predatory offender. (Id. at 714–15.) Soon after, in 2002, Plaintiff received a Level III designation from the Minnesota Department of Corrections' end-of-confinement review committee ("ECRC"). (Id. at 715.) See Minn.Stat. § 244.052, subd. 3


B. Minneapolis: February 2010

In February 2010, Defendant Jon Hinchliff ("Hinchliff"), an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, publicly distributed a fact sheet3 regarding the Plaintiff's prior sexual offenses. (R & R at 715.) Plaintiff disputes the accuracy of this fact sheet, specifically challenging its description of his prior offenses, victim pool, and the fact it including dismissed charges. (Id. at 715–16.)

C. Bloomington: March 2010

In March 2010, Defendant Ed Hanson ("Hanson"), a detective with the Bloomington Police Department, also distributed fact sheets regarding Plaintiff's sex offender status. (Id. at 715.) These fact sheets described Plaintiff's charged offenses, including the 1997 Charges, and including those that were ultimately dismissed. (Id. ) Plaintiff again disputes the accuracy of the information contained on this fact sheet and also claims to have received a threatening phone call from a Bloomington resident. (Id. at 715–16.)

D. DOC Documents

In April 2010, Plaintiff requested and received "a stack of papers" from the DOC constituting his file with that agency. (Id. at 715.) This included a 2002 End of Confinement Risk Assessment issued by the ECRC; a 2002 Sex Offender Risk Assessment Recommendation prepared by Defendant Jack Rusinoff ("Rusinoff") for the ECRC; a 1999 Risk Level Recommendation prepared by Defendant Dwight Close ("Close") for the ECRC; and a 2010 memorandum from Defendant Jeremy Britzius ("Britzius")4 regarding the Plaintiff's request for a risk-level-reduction (collectively, "DOC Documents"). (Id. ) Plaintiff disputes the accuracy of the information contained in these reports. (See id. at 716–18.) According to the Plaintiff, the inaccuracies are a violation of his "constitutional rights" and evidence a conspiracy amongst the various Defendants to commit said violations. (See id. )

E. 2010 Risk Level Determination and Appeal

Also in 2010, the ECRC re-assessed the Plaintiff and issued a new Risk Assessment Report. (Id. at 718.) Plaintiff alleges that as part of this re-assessment, he questioned whether Defendant Michelle Murphy ("Murphy") was going to use the "false ‘official’ " documents in the DOC's file.5 (Id. ) According to the Plaintiff, Murphy said the Minnesota legislature had given the ECRC the authority to do whatever it wanted and thus they would consider these "false" documents. (Id. ) The ECRC decided to maintain Plaintiff's Level III designation, which Plaintiff claims is a further violation of his "constitutional rights." (Id. )

Plaintiff appealed the ECRC's Risk Assessment Report and the matter was heard by Defendant Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Barbara Neilson ("ALJ Neilson"). (Id. at 718.) In affirming the ECRC's decision, ALJ Neilson made numerous findings and discussed Plaintiff's 1984 conviction as well as the DOC Documents.6 (Id. ) Plaintiff asserts these findings are false and constitute a violation of his constitutional rights and a continuation of the conspiracy against him. (Id. )

F. Center City: February 2011

Plaintiff moved to Center City Minnesota in February 2011. (Id. ) A public meeting was held at which information about the Plaintiff was presented by Defendant Patricia Moen ("Moen"), a Minnesota state official. (Id. ) Plaintiff alleges Moen not only disseminated false information about his offense history, but also required he provide his cell phone number, which was then made publicly available. (Id. at 718–19.) Plaintiff later claims he received a threatening phone call. (Id. at 718.) In addition to being a continuation of the conspiracy against him and a violation of his constitutional rights, Plaintiff contends the public dissemination of his cell phone constitutes a violation of the MGDPA. (Id. )

G. Minneapolis: July 2011

In July 2011, Plaintiff moved back to Minneapolis and registered with the Minneapolis Police Department. (Id. ) Hinchliff again issued a fact sheet to the public which Plaintiff claims contained both old and new false statements about his criminal history and victim type.7 (Id. ) According to Plaintiff, Hinchliff stated he received the information on this fact sheet "from the Internet." (Id. ) Plaintiff claims posting the "false information" about him online, as well as distribution of the fact sheet, is a violation of his constitutional rights. (Id. )

H. Columbia Heights: July 2013

Sometime in 2013, Plaintiff moved to Hilltop, Minnesota. (Id. at 719.) In July 2013, Defendant Scott Nadeau ("Nadeau"), Chief of Police for the Columbia Heights Police Department, distributed a letter to residents informing them of a community meeting about Plaintiff. (Id. ) Included with this letter was another fact sheet about Plaintiff. (Id. ) Plaintiff contends this fact sheet contained false information about him in violation of his constitutional rights. (Id. )

I. Litigation

Precisely what claims Plaintiff asserts are unclear. (See R & R at 719.) Liberally construing the Plaintiff's Complaint, he claims all Defendants in their individual and official capacities violated his Fifth, Eighth, Eleventh, and Fourteenth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983

; conspired to violate his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 ; and defamed him. (See id. at 719–20.) See Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir.2004) ("pro se complaints are to be construed liberally"). Plaintiff also raises a claim against Moen for violation of the MGDPA, Minn.Stat. § 13.01 et seq. (See R & R at 719–20.) Plaintiff asks for $500,000 in compensatory damages from each Defendant as well as punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial....

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