Webb v. Greene County Sheriff's Office

Citation494 F.Supp.2d 779
Decision Date06 July 2007
Docket NumberNo. 3:04cv190.,3:04cv190.
PartiesPaul M. WEBB, et al., Plaintiffs, v. GREENE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio

Dwight Dean Brannon, Andrea G. Ostrowski, Douglas Dustin Brannon, Dayton, OH, for Plaintiffs.

Jeffrey Charles Turner, Surdk Dowd & Turner Co LPA, Dayton, OH, for Defendants.


RICE, District Judge.

Plaintiffs filed a complaint in the Greene County Court of Common Pleas containing ten claims for relief:1 False Arrest and Imprisonment (Count One), Malicious Prosecution (Count Two), Abuse of Process (Count Three), Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Count Four), Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count Five), Defamation (Count Six), Trespass (Count Seven), Assault and Battery (Count Eight), Loss of Consortium (Count Nine) and a claim for relief seeking attorney's fees, costs to post bond and other costs, which this Court construes as a claim for damages (Count Ten). Doc. # 1. The Defendants filed a Joint Notice of Removal, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1441, based on this Court's original jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' § 1983 claim and this Court's supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims. Id.

One of the then Defendants, Chief Randy Person, moved for judgment on the pleadings.2 Doc. # 8. That motion was overruled, but, in so doing, the Court ordered Plaintiffs to amend their complaint (Doc. # 45) which they did on April 1, 2005. Doc. # 47. The Amended Complaint maintained all the claims for relief from the original Complaint, but dismissed a number of the Defendants and made more specific allegations against each of the remaining such. See, Doc. # 1 and Doc. # 47. Now pending before the Court are two Motions for Summary Judgment, one filed by the Plaintiffs (Doc. # 61) and one filed by the Defendants (Doc. # 63).3


On the last day of 2002, Frances Wiggins took her car to "Paul's Garage," located on N. Detroit Street in Xenia, Ohio, for repairs. Doc. # 53, Deposition of Kirk Keller, Ex. 4 at 2. She retrieved it four days later. Id. On January 12, 2003, she reported to the Greene County Sheriffs Office that the license plates had been stolen off the car. Id. She could not recall if the license plates were on the car when it was picked up from the garage. Id. Detective Kirk Keller was assigned to investigate the complaint. Doc. # 53, Keller Dep. at 4, 6. As part of the investigation, he entered the license plate information into L.E.A.D.S. (the Law Enforcement Automated Data System, a statewide law enforcement database). Id. at 9-11; Keller Dep., Ex. 7.

On March 12, 2003, Richard Smith was arrested by the Dayton police for driving a car with Wiggins' stolen plates.4 Doc. # 53, Keller Dep., Ex. 1. Smith told the Dayton police that he had received the stolen plates from a mechanic who lived on Edgewood. Doc. # 53, Keller Dep., Ex. 8. Keller arranged an interview with Smith, while he was in the custody of the Dayton police. Doc. # 53, Keller Dep. at 17-18. During that interview, Smith told Keller a story different from that which he had told to the Dayton police. Keller, during his deposition, testified to their conversation:

A .... I do know that he changed from the person I think originally that he had told [the Dayton police] that he got the plates from to Paul. Then I verified where that garage is, and that's when he said it was on the east side.

I asked him, "Are you talking about the east side of Xenia, the east side of Dayton? Where are we talking?" He said the east side of Xenia.

Q Did he give you a street on the east side of Xenia that the garage was located on?

A No, ma'am.

Q And did Mr. Smith ever tell you Paul's last name?

A Yes

Q What did Mr. Smith tell you was Paul's last name?

A During the interview I asked him if he had seen this Paul before. He said "yes," he had. I said, "Are we talking about Paul Webb?" And he said "yes."

Doc. # 53, Keller Dep. at 22-23. Keller's interrogation of Smith was originally unrecorded. Id. at 23. He recorded a second conversation with Smith in order to get an official statement from him. Id. at 23-24; Doc. # 53, Keller Dep., Ex. 2. During the recorded conversation, Smith told Keller that he had taken his car to "Paul's Garage" on Detroit Street in Xenia, Ohio, and, while there, someone offered him "dealer tags," as the temporary tags on his car had expired. Doc. # 53, Keller Dep., Ex. 2. When asked who offered him, the tags, he responded:

"Uh, Paul did."

Q OK — Paul Webb?

A (not identifiable)

Id. at 2. According to Smith, the "dealer tags" offered him at "Paul's Garage" were the license plates on his car at the time of his arrest. Id. at 2-3.

The Plaintiff, Paul Webb, operated an auto repair shop called Webb's Auto Service, located on Douglas Street in Xenia, Ohio.5 Doc. # 58, Webb Dep. at 8-9. On May 5, 2003, Keller, along with Defendant Detective Walton of the Greene County Sheriffs Office, spoke with Webb at his garage. Doc. # 53, Keller Dep. at 25-29. Keller informed him that his name had come up in an investigation regarding stolen license plates, and asked him to come "downtown" to answer some questions. Id. at 27-28. Webb refused to accompany Keller or Walton, angrily denied any knowledge of the stolen plates and told them that if they wanted to question him they would need to get a warrant. Id.; see also, Doc. # 58, Webb Dep. at 21 and Doc. # 55, Deposition of Robert Walton at 11. Keller told Webb that he had sufficient "information and probable cause to get a warrant." Id. at 29. Webb then ordered Keller and Walton off his property. Doc. # 58, Webb Dep. at 21-22. In total, the conversation lasted 5-10 minutes. Doc. # 53, Keller Dep. at 28; Doc. # 55, Walton Dep. at 13.

Following his conversation with Webb, Keller spoke to a member of the Greene County Prosecutor's Office regarding his investigation. Doc. # 53, Keller Dep. at 29. After that conversation, Keller swore out a Complaint and Affidavit seeking an arrest warrant for Paul Webb. Id. at 30; id., Ex. 11. The Complaint and Affidavit alleged one count of receiving stolen property and one count of theft.6 It was "seen and approved" by Suzanne Schmidt, a Prosecutor for Greene County. Doc. # 53, Keller Dep., Ex. 11. Based on the Complaint and Affidavit, an arrest warrant was issued for Webb. Doc. # 53, Keller Dep. at 30-31; id., Ex. 10.

Paul Webb was arrested on May 22, 2003. Doc. # 53, Keller Dep., Ex. 12. Keller hoped to interview Webb a second time following his arrest, but never got the opportunity to do so. Doc. # 53, Keller Dep. at32-33. Webb was charged with receiving stolen property pursuant to O.R.C. § 2913.51(A) and theft pursuant to O.R.C. § 2913.02(A)(1). Doc. # 47, Amended Complaint, ¶ 15. A Grand Jury later indicted him on the same charges. Doc. # 53, Keller Dep. at 34; Doc. # 72, Ex. B. On June 19, 2003, Webb appeared with his attorney for arraignment before Judge Campbell of the Greene County Common Pleas Court. Doe. # 58, Webb Dep. at 33. He pled not guilty to both charges, id., and was released on bond pending trial. Id. As a condition of his bond, he was ordered to check-in weekly with the probation department. Id.

Following Webb's arrest, Keller made no attempt to investigate further. Doc. # 53, Keller Dep. at 34. He later reviewed his case file in preparation for Webb's trial. Id. at 34-35. His review of the file led him to question whether Webb should have been charged in connection with the stolen plates. Id. at 35. He immediately notified the Prosecutor's Office regarding his concerns. Id. at 35-36. Following Keller's conversation with that office, the indictment against Webb was dismissed "[u]pon the Motion of the State of Ohio." Id., Ex. 15.

The indictment against Webb was dismissed on July 3, 2003. Doc. # 53, Keller Dep., Ex. 15. Following the dismissal, Webb ceased his weekly check-ins with the probation department. On July 29, 2003, the Greene County Probation Department filed a motion, indicating that he had violated the terms of his bond by not checking in with them. On August 1, 2003, a capias was issued for Webb's arrest for violation of bond conditions. Doc. # 72, Ex. C. Pursuant to the capias, Webb was arrested, this time by Greene County Deputy Brian Seifert. Doc. # 54, Deposition of Brian Seifert at 8, 11.

The Plaintiffs argue that Webb's arrests and prosecution violated his Fourth Amendment rights and numerous state tort laws. They seek summary judgment on all of their claims, arguing that Webb was first arrested pursuant to an invalid warrant, that Keller lacked probable cause for the arrest, and that, as the first arrest was baseless, the second arrest, which occurred both as a direct result of the first and an error on the part of the Greene County court system, was also groundless. The Defendants seek summary judgment on all of the Plaintiffs' claims, arguing that the arrest warrant was valid, that, even were it not valid, Keller had probable cause to effectuate an arrest and that the second arrest suffered no infirmities.


Summary judgment must be entered "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party...

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