United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART
DEFENDANTS' FIRST MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
VAZQUEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on Defendants Cory
Crayton, Pete Kassetas, and John Does 1-40's First Motion
for Summary Judgment, Doc. 26, filed April 13, 2016. The
Court, having considered the Motion, briefs, relevant law and
being otherwise fully informed, will GRANT IN
PART Defendants' Motion.
September 10, 2013, Officer Cory Crayton of the New Mexico
State Police (“NMSP”), in his marked patrol car,
using his rear-facing radar, “clocked”
Plaintiffs' SUV at 69 miles per hour in an area with a 55
miles per hour speed limit. Affidavit of Cory
Crayton, Doc. 26-1 at ¶ 3. At approximately 7:25
a.m., Officer Crayton initiated a traffic stop of the SUV.
Id. at ¶¶ 4-6; COBAN Recording of
Traffic Stop, Doc. 28 at 1:02-1:35.
Crayton approached the passenger side of the vehicle, tapped
on the window, and waited. Id.; Doc. 28 at
1:43-1:51. Officer Crayton opened the passenger door and
introduced himself. Doc. 26-1 at ¶ 11; Doc. 28 at
1:50-1:54. According to Plaintiffs, as Officer Crayton opened
the passenger's door, Mrs. Seidel was holding the door
and trying to roll down the window. Doc. 32-1 at ¶ 5;
Affidavit of Brenda Lee Seidel, Doc. 32-2 at ¶
3. Mrs. Seidel claims she was “partially pulled”
with the door and said, “don't open the door,
” after which Officer Crayton “struck [her] with
his left hand.” Doc. 32-1 at ¶ 6; Doc. 32-2 at
¶¶ 4, 5.
instead assert that the COBAN recording of the incident
“shows that Officer Crayton had both of his arms
outside of the plaintiffs' vehicle when he was at the
passenger-side door: Crayton used his right hand to try to
open the door, while his left hand was on the vehicle
itself.” Doc. 26 at ¶ 6. Defendants claim that
Officer Crayton's arms remained outside the vehicle for
the duration of the period the passenger door was open.
Id. at .8.
COBAN recording of the incident shows that Officer Crayton
approached the SUV, tapped on the window, waited for several
seconds, and then placed his left hand or arm on the vehicle
and used his right to open the passenger side door. Doc. 28
at 1:35-1:51. Before and while opening the door several
buttons along Officer Crayton's left sleeve were visible
to the camera; however, the exact placement of his left hand
and arm was obscured by the SUV. Id. Mrs. Seidel
protested, and Officer Crayton's arm moved such that the
previously visible buttons became obscured by the vehicle,
suggesting his left arm may have moved toward Mrs. Seidel.
Id. at 1:51-1:54.
the brief moment that the door was open, Officer Crayton
looked across the front seat and recognized the driver as Dr.
Seidel. Doc. 26-1 at ¶ 12. Officer Crayton stated,
“[i]n that split-second, Mr. Seidel looked right at me
and in one sudden motion reached over and down towards his
right hip as he quickly exited the vehicle. I could see a
pistol in a holster on Mr. Seidel's right side. Given Mr.
Seidel's sudden motion towards his gun and the manner in
which he got out of the SUV to confront me, I believed Mr.
Seidel intended to use his weapon and perceived him as a
threat.” Doc. 26-1 at ¶ 13. Dr. Seidel exited his
vehicle. Doc. 32-1 at ¶ 12. Officer Crayton “fled
from [Seidel's] vehicle, pulled his gun out, pointed it
at [Dr. Seidel], and made statements that led [Dr. Seidel] to
believe that [Officer Crayton] was accusing [Dr. Seidel] of
holding a firearm in [his] hand.” Id. at
Dr. Seidel exited his car, Officer Crayton ordered him to put
his gun down; Seidel pointed his finger at Officer Crayton.
Doc. 26-1 at ¶ 17; Doc. 28 at 1:54-1:57. Officer Crayton
again ordered Dr. Seidel to put his gun down and told Dr.
Seidel that he was under arrest; however, Dr. Seidel did not
comply and reentered his vehicle. Doc. 28 at 1:57-2:02.
Officer Crayton called for backup and ordered Dr. Seidel to
get out of the vehicle with his hands in the air; however,
Dr. Seidel sat inside his vehicle with his left leg out and
left foot on the ground. Doc. 28 at 1:57-2:13. Over the next
few minutes, while Dr. Seidel sat inside of his vehicle,
Officer Crayton repeatedly told Dr. Seidel to exit the
vehicle, to put his gun down, and that he was under arrest.
Doc. 28 at 2:13-4:20; Walter Seidel's Responses to
Defendant Pete Kassetas' First Set of Requests for
Admissions, Doc. 26-2 at Request No. 7, 11. Dr. Seidel
did not comply. Doc. 28 at 4:20-5:52. Officer Crayton again
ordered Dr. Seidel to exit his vehicle without his gun and
get on the ground. Id. at 5:52-6:01. Dr. Seidel did
not comply; instead, he said something to Officer Crayton and
pointed at him. Id. at 5:56-6:02. For several more
minutes, Dr. Seidel sat in his vehicle and did not obey
Officer Crayton's prior orders. Id. at
6:03-10:01. While sitting in his car, Dr. Seidel called 911
for help in dealing with Officer Crayton. Amended
Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights, Doc. 60 at
police units began to arrive at approximately 7:34 a.m. Doc.
28 at 9:55-11:25; Affidavit of Steve Minner, Doc.
26-4 at ¶¶ 3-7. Dr. Seidel continued to disobey
Officer Crayton's orders to get out of the car. Doc. 28
at 10:01-10:06. After other officers arrived, Dr. Seidel
exited the vehicle, put his hands up, and addressed the
officers while remaining close to his car. Id. at
11:40-12:01. Officer Crayton repeatedly ordered Dr. Seidel to
get on the ground but Dr. Seidel refused to comply.
Id. After several seconds, Dr. Seidel lowered his
hands, pointed at something to the right of the camera, and
reentered his vehicle. Id. at 11:57-12:01.
Police Officer Dale Harrison then approached Dr. Seidel's
vehicle. Doc. 26-1 at ¶¶ 21-22; Doc. 28 at
12:26-12:30; Doc. 49-1 at ¶ 11; Doc. 26-4 at ¶ 10.
The two spoke for several minutes. Doc. 28 at 12:30-16:43.
Dr. Seidel then got out of his vehicle, shut the driver's
side door, and moved with Officer Harrison in the direction
of the camera and the other officers. Id. at
16:43-16:57. Officer Crayton then ordered Dr. Seidel to put
his hands on the police car. Id. at 16:57-17:00. Dr.
Seidel said “No, ” and crossed his arms across
his chest. Id.; Doc. 26-1 at ¶ 24; Doc. 26-2 at
Request No. 1. Officer Crayton then “attempted to
arrest and handcuff Walter Seidel-Seidel resisted by pulling
away from Crayton and folding his arms.” Doc. 26 at ¶
20; Doc. 26-1 at ¶ 24; Doc. 28 at 17:00-17:02.
Seidel grabbed onto the edge of the patrol car's hood and
continued to resist as Officer Crayton tried to handcuff him.
Crayton had to pry Seidel's fingers off the hood, and
another officer helped Crayton secure Seidel in handcuffs.
Crayton can be heard ordering Seidel to ‘Give me your
left hand.' Seidel did not voluntarily submit to being
handcuffed.” Doc. 26 at ¶ 21 (citations to the
record omitted); see Doc. 26-1 at ¶ 25; Doc.
26-2 at Request No. 5; Doc. 26-4 at ¶ 12; Doc. 28 at
17:06-17:08. Dr. Seidel was eventually handcuffed and
arrested. Doc. 28 at 17:25-17:35. Mrs. Seidel was allowed to
leave with the SUV. Doc. 26-1 at ¶ 26.
the arrest, Dr. Seidel was booked into the Lincoln County
Detention Facility for Speeding, Assault on a Peace Officer,
Resisting an Officer, and Unlawful Use of 911.
Booking Report, Doc. 26-5 at 1. Officer
Crayton filed a criminal complaint against Dr. Seidel for
these offenses on September 20, 2013. Criminal
Complaint, Doc. 26-6 at 1. Officer Crayton prepared a
Probable Cause Statement and discussed the criminal charges
with Assistant District Attorney (“ADA”)
Elizabeth Williams from the Twelfth Judicial District
Attorney's Office, who approved the
charges. Doc. 26-1 at ¶ 27; see also
Doc. 26-6 at 2. On May 11, 2015 the District Attorney's
Office filed an Amended Complaint against Dr. Seidel dropping
the Assault and Unlawful Use of 911 Charges but retaining the
Speeding and the Resisting, Evading or Obstructing an Officer
Charges. Doc. 26-7 at 1-2.
August 19, 2015, Dr. Seidel entered into a Plea and
Disposition Agreement with the State of New Mexico, wherein
he pleaded no contest to the Speeding charge and the
remaining charges were dismissed. Plea and Disposition
Agreement, Doc. 26-8 at 1-2. On September 16, 2015, the
Twelfth Judicial District Court for the State of New Mexico
adjudicated Dr. Seidel guilty of Speeding. Judgment and
Sentence, Doc. 26-9 at 1-3.
Dr. Seidel nor Mrs. Seidel sought or received any medical
treatment as a result of the incident on September 10, 2013.
Walter Seidel's Responses to Cory Crayton's First
Set of Requests for Admissions, Doc. 26-10 at Request
No. 1; Brenda Seidel's Responses to Cory
Crayton's First Set of Requests for Admissions, Doc.
26-11 at Request No. 1. Dr. Seidel did not seek any
psychological or mental health treatment as a result of the
incident and does not contend that he suffered physical,
bodily, or psychological injury, or any other medical damages
in this lawsuit as a result of the incident. Doc. 26-10 at
Request No. 2; Walter Seidel's Supplemental
Responses to Cory Crayton's First Set of
Interrogatories, Doc. 26-12 at Interrogatory No. 22.
bring suit with six counts against Defendants. Count I is a
claim of Battery asserted against Officer Crayton under the
New Mexico Tort Claims Act. Amended Complaint for
Violation of Civil Rights, Doc. 60 at 5-6. Count II is a
claim of Malicious Prosecution asserted by Dr. Seidel against
Officer Crayton under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act.
Id. at 6. Count III is an excessive force claim
under Article II, Section 10 of the Constitution of the State
of New Mexico asserted against Officer Crayton under the New
Mexico Tort Claims Act. Id. at 6-7. Count IV is a
claim of Negligence asserted against Chief Kassetas and Does
for failing to supervise, train, and control Officer Crayton.
Id. at 7. Count V is a claim of a violation of the
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution right to
be free from excessive force and to be free from arrest and
prosecution for crimes without probable cause asserted
against Officer Crayton under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Id. at 7-8. Count VI is a claim of Failure to Train,
Supervise, and Control asserted against Chief Kassetas and
Does under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. at 8-9.
seek summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity for
all claims. The Court will grant the motion in part by
granting Summary Judgment for Defendants on Plaintiffs'
federal law claims and will decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state law claims.
defendant invokes the protection of qualified immunity the
plaintiff bears the “heavy two-part burden” of
establishing that “the defendant's actions violated
a [federal] constitutional or statutory right” and that
the right in question “was clearly established at the
time of the defendant's unlawful conduct.”
Medina v. Cram, 252 F.3d 1124, 1128 (10th Cir. 2001)
(internal quotation marks omitted). The Court may elect
“which of the two prongs of the qualified immunity
analysis should be addressed first in light of the
circumstances in the particular case.” Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236 (2009). If the plaintiff
meets his burden under this framework, the Court then
proceeds with its ordinary summary judgment analysis and the
burden reverts to the defendant to demonstrate that no
genuine dispute of material fact exists that would defeat its
claim for qualified immunity. See, e.g., Woodward v. City
of Worland, 977 F.2d 1392, 1396-97 (10th Cir. 1992)
qualified immunity analysis for unlawful arrest consists of
two prongs: (1) whether the officers had probable cause to
arrest the § 1983 plaintiff, and (2) if probable cause
is lacking, the court determines whether the § 1983
plaintiff's rights were clearly established by asking
whether the officers “arguably had probable
cause.” Kaufman v. Higgs, 697 F.3d. 1297, 1300
(10th Cir. 2012). Where arrest itself is undisputed
and there was no warrant, a violation of the Fourth Amendment
occurs if the arrest is not supported by probable cause.
See Fogarty v. Gallegos, 523 F.3d 1147, 1156 (10th
first prong, whether the officer had probable cause, is
assessed “under an objective standard of
reasonableness.” Quinn v. Young, 780 F.3d 998,
1006 (10th Cir. 2015). The Court asks “whether
‘the facts and circumstances within the officers'
knowledge, and of which they have reasonably trustworthy
information, are sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of
reasonable caution in the belief that an offense has been or
is being committed.'” Fogarty, 523 F.3d at
1156 (quoting United States v. Edwards, 242 F.3d
928, 933. (10th Cir. 2001)). The “officer's
subjective reason for arrest is irrelevant, and it does not
matter whether the arrestee was later charged with a
crime.” Id. Under Tenth Circuit precedent,
“[p]robable cause exists if facts and circumstances
within the arresting officer's knowledge and of which he
or she has reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient
to lead a prudent person to believe that the arrestee has
committed or is committing an offense.” Romero v.
Fay, 45 F.3d 1472, 1476 (10th Cir. 1995).
the second prong of qualified immunity, a § 1983
plaintiff bears the burden of showing the law was clearly
established by showing that “it would have been clear
to a reasonable officer that probable cause was lacking under
the circumstances.” Kaufman, 697 F.3d at 1300
(quoting Koch v. City of Del City, 690 F.3d 1228,
1241 (10th Cir. 2011)). If there was “arguable probable
cause” for the arrest, the defendant is entitled to
qualified immunity. Id. (citing Cortez v.
McCauly, 478 F.3d 1108, 1121 (10th Cir. 2007) (en
Probable Cause to ...