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Craft v. City Of Hobbs Police Department

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

September 26, 2018

AL-RASHAAD R. CRAFT, Plaintiff,
v.
CHAD WRIGHT, in his official and individual capacity, and AHMAD WHITE, in his official and individual capacity, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint [Doc. 39]. The Court has reviewed the motion as well as Plaintiff's response [Doc. 41] and Defendants' reply [Doc. 42]. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion will be denied.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         In its review of the complaint, the Court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. SEC v. Shields, 744 F.3d 633, 640 (10th Cir. 2014). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). A claim is plausible when the plaintiff “pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. A pleading that offers only “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” does not meet this standard. Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). See Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007) (“[O]nly if a reasonable person could not draw . . . an inference [of plausibility] from the alleged facts would the defendant prevail on a motion to dismiss.”).

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In his Fourth Amended Complaint [Doc. 38], Plaintiff Al-Rashaad R. Craft (“Craft”) alleges that on April 18, 2015, he was standing in the public square in Hobbs, New Mexico, preaching a religious sermon, recording himself while doing so. Doc. 38 at ¶¶ 6-10. Craft alleges that at approximately 12:00 p.m., a white woman and man approached him. Id. at ¶ 10. The woman, Susan Stone, began yelling at him, using obscenities, and waving a lighter only inches from Craft's face and in front of the camera that Craft had set up to record his sermon. Id. at ¶ 10-11. Craft ignored the woman, but when he started to read from his Bible, Stone struck Craft in the face with his Bible. Id. at ¶ 12. In response, Craft pushed the woman away, and she lost her balance and fell. Id. at ¶ 13. Stone got up and continued to shout obscenities at Craft, walking in circles around him, smoking, and waving her lighter; she appeared intoxicated, which Craft later reported to the police. Id. at ¶ 14. Craft continued preaching. However, the unidentified white male then yelled profanity and pushed himself to within inches of Craft, taunting Craft and telling him to hit him; Craft ignored the man. Id. at ¶ 15.

         A short time later, members of the Hobbs Police Department arrived and took statements from all parties. Id. at ¶ 17. Craft informed the police that the entire incident was on video. Id. at ¶ 16. One of the responding officers, Officer Ellis, determined that there was no probable cause for an arrest and that if they wanted to pursue charges they needed to contact the Hobbs City Attorney. Id. at ¶ 19. However, Defendant Chad Wright (“Wright”), an officer with the City of Hobbs, Id. at ¶¶ 3, contacted Ellis and stated that Ellis needed to find a reason to arrest Craft. Id. at ¶ 18. When Officer Ellis returned to the Hobbs Police Department, he was taken off the case and advised that Craft should have been arrested and charged with a hate crime. Id. at ¶ 20.

         Defendant Ahmad White (“White”) of the Hobbs Police Department was assigned to the case and, according to the Fourth Amended Complaint, made several misrepresentations to obtain an arrest warrant. Id. at ¶¶ 3, 21. Among those were inaccurate assertions that Craft had made racially offensive comments, used profanity, that Craft pushed Stone without prior physical contact initiated by Stone, and that Stone and Craft were arguing. Id. at ¶ 21. Craft alleges that the video of the event demonstrates the falseness of these assertions, and that White either had the video or had easy access to it, but despite that White made the false assertions in the arrest warrant. Id. at ¶ 23.

         One week later at approximately the same time, Craft went to the same public space in Hobbs to preach. Id. at ¶ 25. As he began setting up his video camera, several Hobbs police officers arrested him. Id. According to the Criminal Complaint, White charged Craft with a third degree felony, Aggravated Battery-Great Bodily Harm, as well as Disorderly Conduct, which is a misdemeanor. Warrant for Arrest, Doc. 39-1 at 3 of 8.[1] The police report also states that Craft was arrested for aggravated battery and disorderly conduct. Id. at ¶ 27. According to the Fourth Amended Complaint, this charge required an $11, 000 cash-only bond. Doc. 38 at ¶ 26. Craft spent 17 days in the Lea County Detention Center and later lost his job with the Department of Energy as a result. Id. at ¶ 28, 30. The Lea County District Attorney's Office dismissed the charges based on lack of evidence. Id. at ¶ 29. It is undisputed that no charges were brought against Stone arising from this incident.

         Craft alleges that Wright and White knew that there was no probable cause to arrest Craft or were reckless in fabricating such “probable cause.” Id. at ¶ 32. He asserts four claims of violation of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: (1) violation of his right to free speech under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, (2) violation of his right to free exercise of religion under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, (3) false arrest and violation of his right to be free from unlawful seizure under the Fourth Amendment, and (4) malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth Amendment. He also asks for injunctive relief in the form of an injunction ordering the expungement of Craft's arrest and incarceration.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Claims Against Defendant White

         Invoking Rule 12(b)(6), Defendants argue that Craft fails to state any constitutional claim against White under §1983 because his allegations fail to show that White obtained an arrest warrant without probable cause. Doc. 39 at 3-5. White's argument does not distinguish between Craft's First and Fourth Amendment claims in this regard.

         A. Fourth Amendment Claims

         1. Legal Standard ...


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