Wood v. Eubanks

Decision Date11 February 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 3:18-cv-168
PartiesMICHAEL A. WOOD, Plaintiff, v. CHAD EUBANKS, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio

District Judge Thomas M. Rose

Magistrate Judge Sharon L. Ovington


Plaintiff Michael A. Wood was arrested by Defendants at the Clark County Fairgrounds and was charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing official business. The State, however, was unable to locate lay witnesses in time for trial and the charges were dismissed.

Plaintiff brings this case against Defendants Sergeant Chad Eubanks and Deputies Mario Troutman, Jr., Cherish Steiger, Matthew Yates, Jacob Shaw, and Joseph Johnson alleging under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 violations of his constitutional rights.

This case is presently before the Court upon Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #31); Plaintiff's Response (Doc. #35), and Plaintiff's Reply (Doc. #36).


The events at issue in the present case began on July 29, 2016 at the Clark County Fairgrounds. Plaintiff entered the fairgrounds around 10:30 a.m. on that day, wearing a shirt that said, "f**k the police." (Doc. #6, PageID #63) (capitalization omitted). Plaintiff alleges that later that day, he and Defendant Shaw spoke to each other. Id. at 64. Shortly after their conversation began, Defendants Yates and Troutman approached in a golf cart and interrupted. Id. The other Defendants were also seated in golf carts surrounding Plaintiff, albeit at a distance. Id. At Plaintiff's request, Defendants Yates and Troutman identified themselves and then asked Plaintiff to identify himself. Id. Plaintiff responded that he was not obligated to do so. Defendant Yates replied, "We know who you are." Id.

According to Defendants Troutman and Shaw, fairgoers had complained to them that a male—Plaintiff Michael Wood—was using his phone to record them and their children. (Doc. #31, PageID #s 216, 223). The male was using profanity and was wearing a shirt with "f**k the police" written on it. Id. Defendants Troutman and Shaw spoke with Plaintiff; "The conversation was brief, uneventful and cordial." Id. Afterwards, they drove away. Id.

Plaintiff alleges that after this initial interaction with Defendants, he was followed by an unidentified male civilian. (Doc. #6, PageID #64). Plaintiff did not know he was being followed until he saw the individual give a hand-held police radio to an unidentified deputy located at the end of the Youth Building. Id. There is no suggestion of who this individual was.

Plaintiff alleges that Dean Blair, a Clark County Fair Board member, told Defendants, "'due to Mr. Wood's [constitutionally protected] conduct, Dean Blair wanted Mr. Wood to leave the public event.'" Id. (alteration in original). According to Plaintiff, he "was then surrounded and detained by all of the Defendants ..., half coming from one end of the Youth Building, half coming from the other and led by Sergeant Eubanks; all participating in the obstruction and prevention of Mr. Wood's movement with intent to intimidate him and allow Fair Board member, Dean Blair, to engage Mr. Wood in a challenging manner." Id. at 65. Dean Blair hastily walked from almost one end of the building to the other, and when he was several meters from Plaintiff, began pointing at Plaintiff and yelling, "Where is this shirt?!"; "I want to see this shirt!"; "This is my house, you're not welcome here!"; "This is my house." Id. (emphasis omitted).

According to Defendants Eubanks, Troutman, Shaw, Johnson, Yates, and Steiger, they were called to the Youth Building around 5:45 p.m. (Doc. #31, PageID #s 213, 216, 223, 226, 229, 232). Defendants Yates, Johnson, and Troutman wore bodycams and filmed the interaction with Plaintiff. Defendant Yates began filming first (via his bodycam) in the Youth Building. His video shows that Mr. Blair approached Plaintiff first. Yates Cam #1 00:01-30. As Defendant Yates walked closer to Plaintiff and Mr. Blair, two other uniformed officers entered the Youth Building from the opposite direction. Yates Cam #1 00:25-30. As Defendant Johnson approached Plaintiff and Mr. Blair, the following conversation ensued:

Plaintiff: Am I being detained? I don't answer questions.
Mr. Blair: You're in my home. This is my property.
Plaintiff: I don't answer questions.
Mr. Blair: This is my property. I want you to leave. You're not welcome at my home. I want you off my grounds.

Johnson Cam 00:13-00:25; Yates Cam #1 00:25-35.

Plaintiff agreed to leave if his entrance fee ($3) was refunded. (Doc. #6, PageID #65). Mr. Blair gave Plaintiff $5 and told him to "keep the change" and never come back. Johnson Cam 00:25-00:40. Plaintiff offered, "I have change for you, sir." Johnson Cam 00:39-42. But Mr. Blair refused. Johnson Cam 00:43-53. Mr. Blair and Plaintiff continued to argue.

Plaintiff: You do realize that what I'm doing is a constitutionally protected activity, right?
Mr. Blair: Not in my home.
Plaintiff: Not in your home? This isn't your home. This is public property.

Johnson Cam 00:53-1:04. Eventually, Mr. Blair asked Defendants, "What I have to say to him?" and then reiterated to Plaintiff, "Get off my grounds." Yates Cam 1:24-30. Plaintiff responded, "Very well. I'll be talking to my attorney about this." Yates Cam 1:27-35.

After Mr. Blair and Plaintiff's conversation, something happened outside the cameras' view, and Plaintiff said to one of the Defendants, "You ain't pushing me nowhere. I'll leave." Yates Cam #1 1:35-42; Johnson Cam 1:17-1:22. Plaintiff began to walk towards a large open door. Johnson Cam 1:17-1:22. However, very shortly after he started walking, he turned to face Defendants and asked multiple times if they took an oath to uphold the Constitution. Yates Cam #1 1:40-2:03; Troutman Cam #1 00:00-00:23; Johnson Cam 1:26-43. Around the same time, Mr. Blair repeated, "you're not welcome in my house." Troutman Cam #1 00:20-25.

Plaintiff alleges that Deputy Troutman then pushed him "on the back of his right shoulder propelling his body forwards towards a large garage door opening." (Doc. #6, PageID #65). The "push" is not visible on any of the videos. However, Defendant Troutman described that same interaction very differently: "I put my hand on Mr. Wood's shoulder or arm to direct him to the Youth Building exit. I did not push Mr. Wood. I did not use any force. My hand was in contact with Mr. Wood for no more than a second." (Doc. #31, PageID #217). The cameras capture Plaintiff's response; he told Defendant Troutman not to touch him or put his hands on him. Yates Cam #1 2:00-19; Troutman Cam #1 00:15-30; Johnson Cam 1:43-1:53.

As they are walking out, one Defendant said to Plaintiff, "you've been given an order" and Plaintiff asked, "an order? is that a lawful order?" Yates Cam #1 2:10-18; Troutman Cam #1 00:30-35. And the same Defendant continued, "to vacate the property. So you're leaving." Troutman Cam #1 00:32-35. Mr. Blair repeated, "I've asked you to leave my grounds." And, Plaintiff reiterated that the fairgrounds are not Mr. Blair's and are instead public land. Yates Cam #1 2:15-25; Troutman Cam #1 00:36-48

As Plaintiff and Mr. Blair walked out of the Youth Building, Defendants remained close to them. Yates Cam #1 2:18-57. Plaintiff alleges that once outside, Mr. Blair continued to "belittle Plaintiff about the t-shirt ...." (Doc. #6, PageID #65). As Plaintiff and Mr. Blair continued to argue, one Defendant spoke into his radio, "Everybody'sback here with Sergeant Eubanks, Mr. Blair, we're escorting ... We're walking with him to the front gate." Johnson Cam 2:26-35.

While Plaintiff was walking, he announced, "Look at these thugs with badges behind me. How many is there? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 motherf**kers. Six b***h ass f**kin' pigs. F**king thugs with guns that don't uphold the United States Constitution. F**k all you. You dirty rat bastards." Yates Cam #1 2:57-3:14; Troutman Cam #1 1:15-31. As Plaintiff spoke, he stopped and turned towards the officers. A Defendant instructed him, "keep walking, sir." Yates Cam #1 3:01-05. Plaintiff then turned to Defendant Steiger and said, "And you, you're a f**king thief, I've heard about you." Yates Cam #1 3:13-17; Troutman Cam #1 1:30-35.

Plaintiff walked to a small tent and picked up a cooler and folding chair. Yates Cam #1 3:24-58. As Plaintiff stopped to pick up his belongings, a Defendant said, "this way, sir, sir." Yates Cam #1 3:26-30; Troutman Cam #1 1:44-48. Plaintiff said, "F**king thugs with badges." Yates Cam #1 3:32-38; Troutman Cam #1 1:50-2:00. And shortly thereafter, Plaintiff proclaimed, "United States Constitution doesn't apply at the Clark County fairgrounds, people." Yates Cam #1 3:41-46; Troutman Cam #1 2:00-05.

Plaintiff and Defendants then disagreed on where Plaintiff should exit. Plaintiff asserted, "I'm going out the back gate." Yates Cam #1 3:49-53; Troutman Cam #1 2:07-12. He also told them that he came in the back gate. But the officers insisted on walking to the front gate. Defendant Johnson said, "we're not going to walk all the way to the back gate" and Plaintiff replied, "Then that's your f**king fat-ass problems, mother**kers. I'm leaving." Yates Cam #1 3:55-4:02; Troutman Cam #1 2:08-21.

Plaintiff alleges that as he walked towards the back gate, "Deputies were flanking the outside of Dean Blair and Mr. Wood and surrounding them from behind ...." (Doc. #6, PageID #s 65-66). The videos show that Plaintiff walked away and Mr. Blair walked next to him. All six Defendants followed, discussing disorderly conduct. One Defendant said, "he's talking the whole way out the door, he's still talking." Yates Cam # 4:40-50; Troutman Cam #1 3:00-05. Mr. Blair reported to Defendants, "He's disturbing my peace." Yates Cam #1 4:05-29; Troutman Cam #1 2:37-40.

Plaintiff turned around as he was walking and said to a Defendant, "Look at this bullshit. You're one big man ain't you, mother**ker." Troutman Cam #1 3:40-47.

Plaintiff (to

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