United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
KRISTI K. DuBOSE, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Docs. 17-20), Plaintiff's Response (Docs. 25, 27-28) and Defendant's Reply (Doc. 30).
I. Factual Background
Plaintiff Francis Paxten Pruitt (Pruitt), initiated this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging three (3) federal claims against Defendant Deputy Kristen Gillespie (Gillespie), in her individual capacity, for violations of his Fourth Amendment rights due to: 1) false arrest; 2) malicious prosecution; and 3) business invasion/unlawful search of a business. (Doc. 1).
Pruitt operated a check cashing business in a room connected to Buck's Country Store (Buck's), a convenience store/gas station in Mobile County, Mobile, Alabama. (Doc. 19-1 (Dep. Pruitt at 19, 21-24)). Pruitt's business had a separate entrance and operated completely separately from Buck's. (Id.) Pruitt had a business arrangement with Buck's through which he rented the front room and paid them a percentage of his net every month. (Id. at 19-20).
Gillespie was a Deputy Sheriff with the Mobile County Sheriff's Office, a Corporal, and a Detective in the White Collar Crimes Unit. (Doc. 19-2 at 2 (Aff. Gillespie)).
This litigation stems from Pruitt and Gillespie's December 30, 2011 interaction. On that day, Pruitt tried to effect a citizen's arrest against an individual he believed was passing fraudulent checks at his business. As a result, Pruitt was arrested by Gillespie for unlawful imprisonment and menacing, which was later upgraded to robbery in the first degree.
Specifically, on December 29, 2011, Buck's employee Kenyetta Gilmore McCarty (McCarty)cashed two (2) Whitney Bank checks for an individual named Roderick Jones (Jones) for $2, 300. (Doc. 19-2 at 14 (McCarty's Witness Statement)). The next day, December 30, 2011, Pruitt - after conferring with McCarty - cashed four (4) Whitney Bank checks for three (3) individuals who were accompanied by Jones. (Id.) After they left the store, Pruitt called the bank number on the checks provided, learned they did not belong to Whitney Bank, and looked on-line and saw that there was not a Whitney Bank at the address on the checks. (Id.) From this, Pruitt concluded the checks were forgeries. (Id.) Pruitt asked McCarty how she knew the individuals; she explained that she had cashed Jones' check the prior day and had Jones' number. McCarty called Jones asking him to return to the store, telling him that her car needed to be jumped (which was true). (Doc. 19-2 at 14 (McCarty's Witness Statement)). Pruitt admits that he "lured" Jones back to the store. (Doc. 27 at 5).
After Jones arrived, Pruitt entered Buck's, where Buck's employees McCarty and Maletta Monigan (Monigan) had been working, and at that point, Pruitt's "Glock was out and pointed down at arm's length as [he]...went in the door." (Doc. 19-1 (Dep. Pruitt at 92)). McCarty and Jones were in the back left corner of Buck's, so Pruitt called out to Jones and said "we need to talk." (Id. (Dep. Pruitt at 93)). Jones approached Pruitt, who was standing in front of the Buck's front door. (Id.) Jones "came charging around the aisles" towards Pruitt "but stopped when he got about six feet from where I stood." (Id. (Dep. Pruitt at 94-95)). Pruitt told Jones "those checks we cashed...and those girls were no good." (Id. (Dep. Pruitt at 95)). Jones responded that he did not cash any checks and Pruitt told him he did and that he had vouched for the girls. (Id.) Jones repeated that he did not cash any checks. (Doc. 19-1 (Dep. Pruitt at 95)). Pruitt then yelled at McCarty and Monigan to call 911. (Id.)
Jones then "basically confessed. He said, okay, man, like, yeah, I cashed those checks here" and then asked to go out to his truck to retrieve his phone. (Id. (Dep. Pruitt at 102)). Pruitt told Jones he "wasn't going anywhere. He had stolen from me and he wasn't going anywhere." (Id.) Pruitt told Jones there were six (6) checks totaling over $6, 500 plus whatever the total was from that evening at issue, stating: "this was way serious. I was upset and shaking. I didn't like being put through all of this. He [Jones] got down on his knees [on all fours] saying calm down and let's talk." (Id. (Dep. Pruitt at 103)). Jones said he needed to make a call and Pruitt told Monigan to retrieve Jones' phone from his truck. (Id. (Dep. Pruitt at 104)). Monigan then handed the phone to Jones and he called someone stating they "needed to get the money back together and bring it up to the store." (Doc. 19-1 (Dep. Pruitt at 106)).
At the time, Pruitt had not heard from the bank and had not yet been informed that Jones' checks were, in fact, fraudulent or "no good, " that was only confirmed after the December 30th incident and after Pruitt's arrest. (Id. (Dep. Pruitt at 115-116)).
Gillespie was dispatched, along with another detective Clifton Holifield (Holifield), to Buck's after being told a suspect was trying to cash a bad check at the business. (Doc. 19-2 at 2 (Aff. Gillespie)). When they arrived, there were already several officers on site and Gillespie was told they had been dispatched for "a call that a robbery was occurring with a black male dressed in all black who had entered the store armed with a gun." (Id.) According to Gillespie:
The Mobile County Sheriffs Deputies told me that the call was made by a female clerk at the convenience store. They advised that when they arrived there was no robbery in progress and that the owner of a check cashing business located at the store, later identified as Francis Paxton Pruitt was holding at gun point a black male suspect of attempting to pass a bad check. The Deputies advised me that when they arrived on the scene they observed on the scene they observed Mr. Pruitt holding a black firearm in his right hand down by his side. They also advised that the black male suspect, later identified as Roderick Jones, was not armed with any weapon or gun.
After speaking with the Deputies Sheriffs on site I along with Det. Holifield interviewed Mr. Jones, Mr. Pruitt and two (2) females at the scene.
Based upon our investigation we determined that Mr. Jones had not attempted to rob the store or Mr. Pruitt or any other party at the scene and further, the Jones had not come to the business and attempted to pass a bad check.
Roderick Jones stated that one of the females, Kenyetta Gilmore, who was later identified as a clerk at the store, called Mr. Jones claiming she had car trouble and asking for his help. When he arrived at the store he went inside and spoke with Ms. Gilmore. He stated that while he was at the back of the store a white male (Mr. Pruitt) came from somewhere in the store and pointed a handgun at him and began yelling at him to retrieve his, Mr. Pruitt's, Eight Thousand Dollars ($8, 000.00) that Pruitt claimed to get three (3) females who had cashed checks at the business earlier to come to the store and to bring his Eight Thousand Dollars ($8, 000.00) or else he, Mr. Jones, was going to die. Jones said that Pruitt pointed a gun at him demanding his money and told him that he, Mr. Jones, was going to leave the store dead or in jail. Jones further stated that Pruitt would not let him leave the store to make a phone call.
Jones told me and Det. Holifield that Pruitt had pointed a gun at him until the Deputies arrived on the scene and that he believed that Pruitt was going to kill him and that he, Mr. Jones, was in fear for his life....
We also interviewed Mayetta Monigan. Monigan told us that Pruitt had yelled for her to call 911 stating that he was about to be robbed. She told us that she was on the phone with Pruitt while he was waiting outside behind the rear of the business. He said that Pruitt advised her to tell him when Jones was finished looking at the car and was inside the store.
Monigan told us that Gilmore and Jones entered the business, she advised Pruitt that Jones was inside the business and that Pruitt then came in the business.
She told us that she heard Pruitt yelling at Jones for Jones to give him, Mr. Pruitt, his Eight Thousand Dollars ($8, 000.00). She said that she saw Pruitt with a black handgun in his hand at that Pruitt would not let Jones leave the store.
She told us that Pruitt pointed the handgun at Jones stating for him to give him his "fuckin money". She stated that she went outside and retrieved Jones' cell phone and that Jones attempted to call someone while Pruitt continued to yell at him. ...
We also interviewed Kenyetta Gilmore. Gilmore told us that she had been contacted by Pruitt that day and advised that Pruitt had cashed some checks for some females who were introduced to him by Mr. Jones.
She advised us that Pruitt had asked her to contact Jones and see if she could convince him to return to the store so he could get his money back. She told us she did contact Jones and asked him to come back to the store because she needed her vehicle jumped off.
She told us that Pruitt was waiting outside in the rear of the business for Jones to arrive. She said that once she entered the store Pruitt came inside and began yelling at Jones about his money. She confirmed that Pruitt had a handgun in his hand but she stated that she did not see Pruitt point the gun at Jones.
She also confirmed that Pruitt had told her and the other clerk to call 911 and to say that he was about to be robbed. She said that during the entire time Pruitt had a gun in his hand and was continuously yelling at Jones....
We also interviewed Mr. Pruitt. Based upon his answers I did not believe that he gave direct answers and further, that he gave inconsistent statements about the events that occurred. Pruitt advised us that he thought Jones had cashed some counterfeit checks but when asked he stated that he had not heard back from the bank at that time as to whether the checks were worthless.
He told us that it was Ms. Gilmore who made the suggestion to lure Jones back to the business. He told us that the reason he moved his truck to the back of the store was that he had money in the truck. He ...