Spence-Jones v. State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Case No. 12–24253–CIV.

Citation991 F.Supp.2d 1221
Decision Date20 December 2013
Docket NumberCase No. 12–24253–CIV.
PartiesMichelle SPENCE–JONES, Plaintiff, v. State Attorney Katherine Fernandez RUNDLE, Mayor Tomas Regalado, Assistant State Attorney William Richard Scruggs, and Investigator Robert Fielder, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida


Charles J. Ogletree, Debra L. Greenberger, Ilann Maazel, Jennifer M. Keighley, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, LLP, New York, NY, Raymond J. Taseff, Ray Taseff, P.A., Coral Gables, FL, for Plaintiff.

Sanford Lewis Bohrer, Brian W. Toth, John Michael Hogan, Scott Daniel Ponce, Holland & Knight, Jose Quinon, Jose M. Quinon, P.A. William Richard Scruggs, Miami, FL, Jane Serene Raskin, Martin Robert Raskin, Raskin & Raskin, Coral Gables, FL, Christopher John Whitelock, Whitelock & Associates, Rachel Mendes COE, Fort Lauderdale, FL, for Defendants.



THIS CAUSE comes before the Court upon the following:

1. Motion to Dismiss by Katherine Fernandez Rundle (DE 60);

2. Motion to Dismiss by Tomás Regalado (DE 61);

3. Motion to Dismiss by Robert Fielder (DE 62);

4. Motion to Dismiss by William Richard Scruggs (DE 73); and 5. Motion to Strike Amended Complaint by William Richard Scruggs (DE 74).

I have had the benefit of memoranda filed by the Parties as well as oral argument.

I. Introduction

The Plaintiff, Michelle Spence–Jones (Spence–Jones), a former Miami City Commissioner has sued Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle (Rundle), Assistant State Attorney Richard Scruggs (“Scruggs”), an investigator in the State Attorney's office, Robert Fielder (Fielder), and the Mayor of Miami, Tomás Regalado (“Regalado”). Essentially the Complaint alleges that the Defendants conspired to remove Ms. Spence–Jones from office by manufacturing false evidence, hiding exculpatory evidence, and manipulating the criminal process by charging her in two criminal cases. One of the cases was dismissed. In the other she was acquitted by a jury of her peers.

The Complaint 1 reads more like a political manifesto than the short, plain statement of jurisdiction and the claims contemplated by Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Nineteen claims are asserted: ten claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging fabrication and concealment of evidence, false arrest, malicious prosecution, First Amendment retaliation, civil rights conspiracy, supervisory liability, retaliatory inducement to prosecute, and Due Process Stigma–Plus; Civil RICO; common law false arrest; malicious prosecution; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and negligent hiring, discipline, training, retention and supervision. Mindful of the damage that could be inflicted on the functioning of the government and law enforcement officials of Miami Dade County, I stayed discovery pending resolution of the instant motions to dismiss. See Chudasama v. Mazda Motor Corp., 123 F.3d 1353 (11th Cir.1997).

II. Amended Complaint

The Complaint is 114 pages long and has 757 numbered allegations. It is full of self-serving hyperbole, personal attacks, and formulaic, implausible conclusions. For example, Spence–Jones describes herself as “a powerful voice for the community ... [who] quickly developed a reputation for independence and loyalty to her constituents, often fighting powerful, moneyed, and entrenched interests for the sake of what she believed to be the good of her District and the City.” (Compl. ¶ 30). Her opposition, however, “came from a somewhat different school of politics than Spence–Jones, a school based on friendship, patronage, and political favors.” ( Id. ¶ 35).

Full of political intrigue, the Complaint moves from an attempted extradition or kidnapping in Costa Rica ( id. ¶¶ 83–88), the 1993 confrontation between the FBI and Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas ( id. ¶¶ 89–93), a plan to fire the Miami Police Commissioner because he had ordered raids on illegal gambling ( id. ¶¶ 535–540), the Mayor's alleged misuse of a city-issued gas credit card ( id. ¶ ¶ 51–55), and the failure to arrest and prosecute the Mayor (at the time, a city commissioner) over an incident during street protests over Elian Gonzalez which occurred over a decade ago. ( Id. ¶ 56).

For purposes of this Order, however, the pertinent allegations are relatively discreet, involving two criminal prosecutions.

A. Karym Ventures*Café Soul Prosecution

Allegations of the Complaint pertaining to the prosecution of Ms. Spence–Jones arising out of the Karym Ventures*Café Soul matter may be found in paragraphs 238–325 and 543–592. I have construed the Complaint in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, accepting as true all facts that she alleges. See Hishon v. King of Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984); see also Wright v. Newsome, 795 F.2d 964, 967 (11th Cir.1986).

I have also reviewed a document entitled Close–Out Memo, Michelle Spence–Jones Case No. F09–37102,” attached as Exhibit B to the Defendant Scruggs' Motion to Dismiss (the “Closeout Memo”). References to the Closeout Memo are contained in paragraphs 8, 553–577, 584–585, and 589–592 of the Complaint. The Eleventh Circuit has held that a court may consider a document attached to a motion to dismiss without converting the motion into one for summary judgment if the attached document is: (1) central to the plaintiff's claim, and (2) undisputed. In this context “undisputed” means that the authenticity of the document is not challenged. A document need not be physically attached to a pleading to be incorporated by reference into it; if the document's contents are alleged in a complaint and no party questions those contents, such a document can be considered, provided it meets the centrality requirement. Day v. Taylor, 400 F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th Cir.2005). See also Horsley v. Feldt, 304 F.3d 1125 (11th Cir.2002). Unlike the factual allegations of the Complaint, I have not presumed the truth of the statements contained in the Closeout Memo. But it is helpful in understanding the nature of the dispute and the chronology of events during the criminal prosecutions.

Karym Ventures, Inc. (“Karym”) was a private corporation founded by Ms. Spence–Jones and several of her family members while Ms. Spence–Jones was a city employee, but before she was elected to the City Commission. (Compl. ¶¶ 31, 239; Closeout Memo, p. 2). According to the Complaint, Dr. Barbara Carey–Shuler, Chairperson of the Dade County Commission, authorized $50,000 in public funds to Karym for a neighborhood revitalization project called Café Soul that involved redevelopment of a crack house. The project had several components: a restaurant focusing on southern cuisine, an art gallery, a hair salon, and an entertainment space. ( Id. ¶ 239). On September 23, 2004, Dr. Carey–Shuler recommended that the Metro–Miami Action Plan Trust (“MMAP”) provide funding for Café Soul, but “the Commission, at least according to some MMAP staff, apparently recommended mistakenly” that the funds be directed to two other entities: Timbuktu Marketplace and Osun Village. ( Id. ¶ 241).

The Closeout Memo describes the “mistake” as follows:

The facts relevant to the criminal case against Ms. Spence–Jones began on September 23, 2004. On that date the Miami–Dade County Commission held a budget meeting to determine how county funds should be allocated in fiscal year 2005. Shortly before the public meeting, Chairperson Dr. Barbara Carey–Shuler had a meeting in her county office with MMAP officials and told them she was going to recommend that MMAP award grants to three separate entities: (1) Friends of MLK, Inc. (“FMLK”); Timbuktu Marketplace (“Timbuktu”), and Osun Village (“Osun”). Commissioner Dr. Carey–Shuler's “recommendation” became part of the county's budget at that nights' Commission meeting; however, no dollaramounts were included in the line item. According to MMAP officials, nothing like this had ever happened before. Under normal circumstances individuals submit grant applications on their own behalf or on behalf of their organization to MMAP, the applications are reviewed by members of MMAP's staff and the proposed grantees to the MMAP Board, and finally the MMAP Board votes on whether to fund the grant. Commissioner Dr. Carey–Shuler's “recommendation” voided this entire process. Furthermore, MMAP officials have stated that the recommendation from the Chairperson of the Miami Dade County Commission was considered to be a directive and that neither the staff nor the Board ever believed that they had any choice about the three grants.

(Closeout Memo, pp. 2–3).

According to the Complaint, after Ms. Spence–Jones informed Dr. Carey–Shuler of the “mistake,” she took steps to direct the $50,000 to Karym. However, the Closeout Memo states as follows:

Processing of the three grants was assigned to William Simmons, MMAP's senior manager. Since the three grants as voted on by the County Commission had no dollar amount, Mr. Simmons called Commissioner Dr. Carey–Shuler's office to determine the amount for each grant. He was told by a senior staff person in the Chairperson's office that each of these grants should be for $25,000. The MMAP Board affirmed the three grants on November 8, 2008 without even knowing which individuals would actually receive the funds. After the Board's vote, Mr. Simmons tried to determine who would sign the grant documents for each of the three entities since he had never heard of them and no application had been submitted to MMAP. During November and December, 2004 Mr. Simmons was unable to ascertain any of the individuals associated with FMLK, Timbuktu, or Osun. Meanwhile, on December 15, 2004 (after MMAP had affirmed the three grants) Karym Ventures, Inc. was incorporated by attorney Marlon Hill. Mr. Hill has testified in a sworn statement that he was called to the home of Michelle Spence–Jones and requested to file the incorporation papers for Karym since,...

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    ...a 1983 defamation claim." (Id. at 51, citing, e.g., Rehberg v. Paulk, 611 F.3d 828 (11th Cir. 2010); Spence-Jones v. Rundle, 991 F. Supp. 2d 1221 (S.D. FL 2013); Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 20 F.3d 789, 797 (7th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 1085 (1995)). Flores does not address the challe......

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