Martin v. Conner, Civil No. WDQ–11–0881.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
Citation882 F.Supp.2d 820
Docket NumberCivil No. WDQ–11–0881.
PartiesDavid K. MARTIN, Plaintiff, v. Christopher CONNER, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date20 August 2012

882 F.Supp.2d 820

David K. MARTIN, Plaintiff,
Christopher CONNER, et al., Defendants.

Civil No. WDQ–11–0881.

United States District Court,
D. Maryland,
Northern Division.

March 2, 2012.
Opinion Denying Reconsideration Aug. 20, 2012.

[882 F.Supp.2d 827]

Seth A. Rosenthal, Joeann E. Walker, Venable LLP, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Nichole C. Gatewood, Maryland Office of the Attorney General, Baltimore, MD, Phillip Michael Pickus, Maryland Department of State Police, Pikesville, MD, for Defendants.


WILLIAM D. QUARLES, JR., District Judge.

David Martin sued law enforcement officers Christopher Conner and Jeremiah Gussoni (collectively, “the defendants”) for civil rights violations. For the following reasons, the defendants' motion to dismiss or for summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background 1

Martin, an African–American resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, regularly travels to the Baltimore, Maryland area via Interstate 95 to visit his fiancee's family and friends. ECF No. 1 ¶ 5.

A. The October Stop

On October 12, 2009, at 11:09 a.m., Trooper First Class (TFC) Gussoni, a Trooper with the Maryland State Police (“MSP”),2 stopped Martin in a rented purple Hyundai (“the Hyundai”) on Interstate 95 (“I–95” or “the interstate”) Southbound near mile marker 97.5 in Cecil County, Maryland for speeding, making an unsafe lane change, following another vehicle too closely, and negligent driving. Id. ¶ 8. TFC Gussoni's dashboard camera recorded the stop. ECF No. 7 Attach. 4 ¶ 36.3 TFC Gussoni contends that his laser showed Martin's car going 75 miles per hour, 10 miles per hour above the speed limit. Id. ¶¶ 3–4. Martin contends that he did not commit the infractions. ECF No. 14 Attach. 3 ¶ 5.

TFC Gussoni, speaking to Martin through the passenger side front window, told Martin he could not hear him and asked him to exit the car. ECF No. 14 Attach. 5. Martin refused several times, and TFC Gussoni ordered him out of the car. Id. Martin eventually agreed to get out of the car, after his girlfriend LaShonda Baker got out, and he climbed through the passenger seat to avoid the interstate traffic. Id. TFC Gussoni told Baker she “c[ould] have a seat back in the car.” Id.

Martin asked TFC Gussoni why he had been pulled over, and TFC Gussoni told Martin he would tell him “in a second,” but

[882 F.Supp.2d 828]

he didn't understand why Martin had refused to get out of the car. Id. TFC Gussoni then said, “for my safety, I have to pat you down for weapons. Do you have any weapons on you?” Martin asked why TFC Gussoni had to pat him down; TFC Gussoni said “for weapons.” TFC Gussoni patted Martin down, finding nothing. TFC Gussoni told Martin that he saw him speeding before exiting I–95; “you've got to slow down ... you've got to be careful,” TFC Gussoni told him. Id.

Martin told TFC Gussoni that he was taking Baker home, then returning to Philadelphia. He was driving a rental car, and showed TFC Gussoni the rental agreement, stating that the car was due back in Philadelphia later that day. Id. TFC Gussoni asked Martin why he was “so nervous,” and said it made him nervous to see Martin nervous. Id. TFC Gussoni then took Martin's driver's license and rental agreement, told him he planned to give him a warning, and took the documents to his police car to check them. Id. A moment later, TFC Gussoni returned to Martin, confirmed his identity, and asked if he had ever been stopped before. Martin responded that he had, but had never been asked to get out of his car. Id.

Martin again said that he was dropping Baker off in Baltimore, in Gwynn Oak, and said he did not know how to get there, but knew he had to take Interstate 695. Id. In response to TFC Gussoni's questions, Martin told TFC Gussoni that he worked as an “X-ray tech” and that there were no firearms in the car. TFC Gussoni said that he asked about firearms because he noticed that Martin was wearing a Glock lanyard.4 Martin admitted that he owned a 9 mm Glock compact. Martin and TFC Gussoni discussed Martin's job for about 30 seconds, then TFC Gussoni told Martin he was going to check the Hyundai's registration. TFC Gussoni looked at the Hyundai's front windshield, then spoke to Baker, who was sitting in the front passenger seat. Id.

Baker told TFC Gussoni she was going to Baltimore; TFC Gussoni asked what she planned to do; her response is inaudible. Id. TFC Gussoni can be heard asking, “and you guys are going to stay down there for the week?” and mentioning “your [Baker's] family.” Id. TFC Gussoni checked Baker's identification, then returned to Martin. Id. He again asked Martin how long “you guys” were staying in Baltimore; Martin responded that he was “driving her up, then coming right back to Philly.” Id. Martin said Baker had lived in Maryland for three years. Id.

At 11:18 a.m., TFC Gussoni returned to his patrol car. He called for backup, asking for a “scan,” and called his barracks to check the license plates of the Hyundai. Id. At 11:21, Sergeant (Sgt.) Conner and TFC McCurdy arrived at the stop. One of the officers noticed that Martin had a Bluetooth earpiece 5 in his ear. Id. TFC Gussoni stayed in his car, reporting Martin's name to the barracks so that police could determine whether he was the subject of any arrest warrants. Id.

On the video, Sgt. Conner can be seen speaking to Martin in front of the patrol car. Id. Sgt. Conner was concerned about the Bluetooth because “suspects can use cell phones to call for assistance” and Martin “appeared to be talking discreetly into” the device, seemed nervous, and was pacing. ECF No. 17 Attach. 1 ¶ 7. Sgt. Conner saw Martin “furtively checking his waist with his forearm,” a “gun checking

[882 F.Supp.2d 829]

movement ... to ensure that a gun does not drop from the waistband.” 6Id. ¶ 8. Sgt. Conner asked Martin if he could frisk him; Martin said Sgt. Conner's partner had already done so, then raised his hands “to allow [Sgt. Conner] to search his body, which [Sgt. Conner] believed meant he consented to the search.” Id. ¶ 9.

The video recording shows Martin raising his hands, and Sgt. Conner frisking Martin, but the conversation is inaudible. ECF No. 14 Attach. 5. About five seconds later, Sgt. Conner moved Martin to the hood of the patrol car and removed a Glock 9mm handgun from Martin's waistband. Id. TFC McCurdy held Martin down, and TFC Gussoni, who had joined the other officers in front of his car, handcuffed Martin on Sgt. Conner's order. Id. TFC McCurdy and Sgt. Conner removed Baker from the car and handcuffed her. Id. Less than 90 seconds passed between Sgt. Conner's arrival and Baker's handcuffing. Id.

TFC Gussoni held Martin against the hood of the patrol car while Sgt. Conner and TFC McCurdy handcuffed Baker. Martin indicated that he understood he could have shot himself; he was otherwise silent. Id. An officer asked Martin if he was permitted to carry a handgun. He said yes, but he did not know what state. He shook his head from side to side when asked whether he was permitted to carry a gun in Maryland. Id. The officer responded, “I need to know ... whether you're permitted to carry in Maryland.” Id.

At 11:25, a drug-sniffing dog alerted to the trunk of the Hyundai. Id. Two of the officers searched the Hyundai, finding no contraband but noticing that the trunk was covered in “laundry detergent, almost.” Id.

At the time of the arrest, Martin had a Florida concealed firearm permit in his wallet. ECF No. 7 Attach. 4. He “had nothing in his possession regarding [other] licenses or permits and refused to provide any information to” the officers. Id. ¶ 30. TFC Gussoni issued Martin a warning for the traffic violations. ECF No. 14 Attach. 4.

On the afternoon of the stop, Cecil County District Court Commissioner Jessica Smith reviewed TFC Gussoni's statement of probable cause and charged Martin with possessing a handgun on his person and knowingly transporting a handgun in a vehicle, each a Maryland offense punishable by up to three years imprisonment. ECF No. 7 Attach. 8 at 1–2.

On October 14, 2009, TFC Gussoni ran the Glock's serial number through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (“ATF”) Etrace system, which documents the ownership history of firearms. ECF No. 14 Attach. 7 at 4; ECF No. 14 Attach. 22 at 2. On November 2, 2009, ATF completed the trace; TFC Gussoni saw the results on November 20, 2009. ECF No. 14 Attach. 22 at 2; ECF No. 14 Attach. 7 at 4. The report states that on April 19, 2005, the Glock was shipped to Ciampolis Gun Shop in New Castle, Pennsylvania; on July 7, 2005, Clinton Saines, of New Castle, Pennsylvania, bought the Glock from Ciampolis; and on October 12, 2009, it was recovered on Martin. The report does not indicate when or from whom Martin bought the gun. ECF No. Attach. 22 at 2. Martin's purchase agreement states that he bought it at Ciampolis on June 10, 2006. ECF No. 14 Attach. 8.

After November 20, 2009, TFC Gussoni contacted ATF and asked for more information

[882 F.Supp.2d 830]

about the trace.' An agent told him that Saines was a suspected straw purchaser of firearms because of four handguns traceable to Saines, three had been recovered after use in violent crimes. ECF No. 14 Attach. 7 at 4. TFC Gussoni says that the ATF asked for more time to investigate Saines and Martin and told him they might be charged federally for gun trafficking crimes. Id. TFC Gussoni “requested that the case be nolle prossed” so that ATF and he could further investigate Martin. Id.

On December 9, 2009, the Cecil County State's Attorney's office nolle prossed the charges. ECF No. 14 Attach. 31.

B. The December Stop

On December 9, 2009, after leaving the Cecil County Courthouse, Martin was again stopped on I–95 Southbound, at the 97.5 mile marker.7

Sgt. Conner's laser, which indicated that it was in proper working order and “shuts down and does not allow any speed readings” when it malfunctions, indicated that a black Kia Spectra (“the Kia”) with Florida...

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