United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
August 14, 2017, Plaintiffs Christopher Cruz and Donovan Maez
filed an amended complaint against Defendants City of
Albuquerque and Albuquerque Police Department Detective Jodi
Gonterman, in her individual capacity, under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 and the New Mexico Tort Claims Act, NMSA 1978 §
41-4-12. Plaintiffs brought claims for illegal and
false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution,
abuse of process, and deprivation of state and federal
constitutional rights arising from events in the aftermath of
Jaydon Chavez-Silver's murder in June 2015. See
Amended Complaint (Doc. 16). Defendants filed a motion
seeking summary judgment on all of Plaintiffs' claims on
the grounds that they are entitled to qualified immunity on
the federal claims and that immunity has not been waived
under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act. The Motion is fully
briefed. On December 17, 2018, the Court heard oral
argument on the Motion. After considering the parties'
arguments, briefs, evidence, and applicable authorities, the
Court will grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
on Plaintiffs' Counts I and II, and will remand Count
III, the state law claims, and the case to the Second
Judicial District Court, County of Bernalillo, State of New
judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “[T]he mere existence of
some alleged factual dispute between the parties
will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for
summary judgment[.]” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc. 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).
Rather, “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect
the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly
preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Id.
at 248. The movant bears the initial burden of
“show[ing] ‘that there is an absence of evidence
to support the nonmoving party's case.'”
Bacchus Indus., Inc. v. Arvin Indus., Inc., 939 F.2d
887, 891 (10th Cir. 1991) (quoting Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986)). Once the movant
meets this burden, the nonmoving party must “go beyond
the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits or by the
‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file,' designate ‘specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial, '”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56
when a defendant moves for summary judgment on the basis of a
qualified immunity defense, the analysis is modified
slightly. “Individual defendants named in a § 1983
action may raise a defense of qualified immunity, which
shields public officials…from damages actions unless
their conduct was unreasonable in light of clearly
established law.” Estate of Booker v. Gomez,
745 F.3d 405, 411 (10th Cir. 2014) (ellipsis in original)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “Put
simply, qualified immunity protects all but the plainly
incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.”
Mullenix v. Luna, U.S., 136 S.Ct. 305, 308 (2015)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
“[Q]ualified immunity is an immunity from suit rather
than a mere defense to liability[.]” Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 237 (2009) (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted).
the moving party asserts qualified immunity, the nonmoving
party has the “the burden to show: (1) that the
defendant's actions violated a federal constitutional or
statutory right, and, if so, (2) that the right was clearly
established at the time of the defendant's unlawful
conduct.” Gutierrez v. Cobos, 841 F.3d 895,
900 (10th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). If the nonmoving party fails to establish either
part of the two-part inquiry, the court must grant the moving
party qualified immunity. Medina v. Cram, 252 F.3d
1124, 1128 (10th Cir. 2001). If the nonmoving party satisfies
both elements of the qualified immunity analysis, then the
moving party assumes the normal summary judgment burden of
demonstrating that no material facts, that would defeat its
claim for qualified immunity, remain in dispute. Woodward
v. City of Worland, 977 F.2d 1392, 1396-97 (10th Cir.
1992). In analyzing a motion for summary judgment, the Court
“view[s] the facts and evidence submitted by the
parties in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party.” Christy v. Travelers Indem. Co. of
Am., 810 F.3d 1220, 1225 (10th Cir. 2016).
facts of this case, viewed in the light most favorable to the
Plaintiffs, are as follows.
Investigation and Arrest of Plaintiffs
around 10:00 p.m. on June 26, 2015, Manzano High School
student Jaydon Chavez-Silver was shot through a window while
attending a gathering at 1101 Nakomis Drive NE in
Albuquerque, New Mexico. See Mot. UMF #1; Resp. at
11. A neighborhood witness reported that around 10:05 p.m. he
heard seven or eight pops that he thought were firecrackers,
and then he saw an “older model large car” that
he stated reminded him of a “Nissan Maxima” that
“looked ‘pearlesque' or white in color”
speeding by. See Def. Ex. J, Interview w/ Todd Busby
at 3:5-10, 3:18-20, 4:2-13 (Doc. 29-11). When officers
arrived at the Nakomis house, Jaydon was lying prone on the
kitchen floor. See Mot. UMF #2, Resp. at 11. He was
transported to the hospital where he later died as a result
of the gunshot wound. See Mot. UMF #2, Resp. at 11.
Albuquerque Police Department Detective Jodi Gonterman was
assigned to investigate the murder. See Mot. UMF #4,
Resp. at 11.
of the investigation, Detective Gonterman and other officers
conducted a series of interviews with witnesses who were
present at the Nakomis residence at the time of the shooting.
Detectives learned from more than one witness that there had
been a fight at the Nakomis residence during a gathering that
took place approximately one month prior to the shooting.
See Mot. UMF #12; Resp. at 11-12; Def. Ex. I,
Interview w/ Isaiah Curley, 06/27/15 at 19:1-4 (Doc. 29-10);
Mot. UMF #7, Resp. at 11. At that gathering, an individual
named Marcus Purdue beat up another male guest. See
Mot. UMF #7, Resp. at 11. One witness stated that a male
individual known as “Runner” pulled a gun out
during the altercation, and that “these people said
that they're going to drive by on us…”
See Mot. UMF #7, Resp. at 11; Def. Ex. E, Interview
with Matthew Day at 35:1-12, 36:1-3 (Doc. 29-6). Another
witness confirmed that “Runner” was at the
Nakomis house the night of the fight and that a gun was
pulled. See UMF #11; Resp. at 11; Def. Ex. I,
Interview w/ Isaiah Curley, 06/27/15 at 19:1-7, 19-20 (Doc.
29-10). Marcus Purdue, who resided at 1101 Nakomis, confirmed
with detectives that he had been in a fight at the house a
month ago with someone he guessed was named
“Runner.” See Mot. UMF # 8, Resp. at 11;
Def. Ex. F, Interview with Marcus Purdue at 4:15-23; 5:17-25
(Doc. 29-7). And on June 28, 2015, Detective Gonterman
received a tip that Marcus Purdue was the target of the
shooting. See Mot. UMF #14; Resp. at 12; Def. Ex. K,
Recorded Call w/ James King at 3:14-17 (Doc. 29-12).
Miller was also living at 1101 Nakomis Drive NE and was at
the house when Jaydon was killed. Miller told detectives that
he thought “David Zamora, Donovan Maez, Chris Marley
[a.k.a. Christopher Cruz], all of those kids” were
involved in the shooting because there had previously been a
brawl at the house and one of their friends was beaten badly
- possibly by Marcus. See Mot. UMF #15; Resp. at 12;
Def. Ex. L, Interview w/ Bernie Miller at 14:23-15:17 (Doc.
Gonterman also received three additional tips that she later
included in her affidavit. See Def. Ex. C, Maez
Criminal Complaint (Doc. 29-4); Def. Ex. B, Cruz Arrest
Warrant (Doc. 29-2). One of those tips came from Mariah
Madrid who alerted Defendant Gonterman to a Facebook post.
Ms. Madrid indicated that she did not personally know Chris
Cruz and Donovan Maez, but she had been watching their
Facebook accounts because they had allegedly been robbing her
friends. Consequently, she noticed a Facebook post after the
shooting. See Pl. Ex. 28, Gonterman Depo. at
33:3-17; 34:19-20 (41-16); Pl. Ex. 46, Suppl. Rpt. Mariah
Madrid Interview (Doc. 41-33). Defendant Gonterman reviewed
Facebook posts by David Zamora (a.k.a. Runner) and
Christopher Cruz. See Mot. UMF #16, Resp. at 13. On
June 26, 2015, David Zamora posted “Who needs the
addy” to which there were responses asking if it was
the Chelwood or Western Skies party. See Def. Ex. C,
Maez Criminal Complaint (Doc. 29-4); Def. Ex. B, Cruz Arrest
Warrant (Doc. 29-2). At 9:35 p.m. also on June 26, 2015,
Christopher Cruz posted a picture that displayed a
person's lap holding ten rounds of ammunition with the
statement “Cooling in my section.” Id. A
few hours later at 2:17 a.m., now on June 27, 2015, Cruz
posted “Smoking This Fat Ass Joint Tryna Finish bottle
of Ciroc Cuzz Nobody Likes a Quitter Lol Kinda Worried About
the Brothers tho Hmi Asap #Raw Papers # Fuck the Feds.”
Id. This post was followed by several responses from
other individuals. Defendant Gonterman included portions of
these Facebook posts in her warrant affidavit for Plaintiff
Cruz and her criminal complaint for Plaintiff Maez.
See Def. Ex. C, Maez Criminal Complaint (Doc. 29-4);
Def. Ex. B, Cruz Arrest Warrant (Doc. 29-2); Mot. UMF #17.
She noted that “[t]he social media messages are
consistent with the timeframe of the shooting, people
involved and associates and indicate to me based on my
training and experience that they are discreetly talking
about the shooting and no one giving anyone
were several other individuals involved with the Facebook
posts. On June 29, 2015, Defendant Gonterman interviewed
William Pagan, one of the individuals who had commented on
the posts. See Resp. at 14; Pl. Ex. 8, Suppl. Rpt.
William Pagan (Doc. 41-5). Pagan told Defendant Gonterman
that he didn't know what the posts were talking about and
then added, “They're probably talking about getting
into some type of trouble, but they're not shooting
nobody[.] Id; Pl. Ex. 28, Gonterman Depo, 64:10-20
(Doc. 41-16). The following day Defendant Gonterman
interviewed Devin Griego who also had responded to the
Facebook posts. See Pl. Ex. 7, Suppl. Rpt. Devin
Griego (Doc. 41-4). Referencing the chain of Facebook posts
beginning with Plaintiff Cruz's post, Defendant Gonterman
told Griego that she understood the post to indicate that
everyone was talking about the “shooting at
Jaydon's, retaliation from the fight.” Id.
Griego responded, “That's a whole different thing
probably, like honestly. I mean, you can try to say it's
related to that but it's not.” Id.
Defendant Gonterman did not interview Allen Moya who had also
commented on the Facebook posts. See Pl. Exhibit 28,
Gonterman Depo. at 68:21-69:1 (Doc. 41-16).
second “tipster” Defendant Gonterman referred to
in her affidavit was Nicholas Glenn, Donovan Maez's
friend. On August 11, 2015, Defendant Gonterman interviewed
Glenn. See Def. Ex. M, Transcript of Glenn Interview
(Doc. 29-14); Def. Ex. M-1, Audio Recording of Glenn
Interview. Glenn reported to Defendant Gonterman that he
overheard a conversation that Donovan Maez had with another
individual about the Jaydon Chavez-Silver case. See
Pl. Ex. 28, Gonterman Depo. at 79:13-21; Def. Ex. M-1, Audio
Recording of Glenn Interview. Glenn told Defendant Gonterman
that Glenn was at the 1101 Nakomis Drive residence when the
shooting occurred. See Mot. UMF 20, Resp. ¶ 20,
Def. Ex. M, Transcript of Glenn Interview at 6:5-8 (Doc.
29-14). Defendant Gonterman asked Glenn if he knew the
identity of the shooter, who was there, and what type of car
the shooter was in. See Def. Exhibit M, Transcript
of Glenn Interview at 8:11-8:13 (Doc. 29-14). Glenn responded
“I don't know cars. I don't know shooters. I
know - I know Donovan, Donovan Maez, Maez,
whatever…Fucking kid. He was involved somehow. I
don't know.” See Id. at 8:14-19. Glenn
proceeded to explain that he had gone to his friend
Armand's house, walked in on Armand and Donovan talking,
and overheard Donovan “saying he was freaking out
because they'd ‘shotten' at a house.”
Id. at 8:19-9:1. Glenn stated that he asked Armand
about the conversation. According to Glenn, Armand responded
that Donovan knows who did it. Id. at 9:2-5. Glenn
continued, “But I'm not sure if that's implying
Donovan did it, because I heard Donovan say he was in the
car.” Id. at 9:6-8. Later in the conversation
Glenn reiterated, “He just said he was in the
car…I'm not sure if that's implying he was in
the car at the shot, because I never-I didn't talk to him
about it…I just heard him say that he was in the car
and shit started going down and that they were trying to hit
Curley.” Id. at 23:11-21. When asked if
Donovan said anything about his bullet being the one that
killed Jaydon, Glenn answered: “I don't know.
He's -I'm pretty - he's freaked - that's what
he was freaking out about, is that he was scared that his
bullet's the one that hit Jaydon[.]” See
Mot. UMF #23; Response at 20; Def. Exhibit M, Transcript of
Glenn Interview at 26:21-27:2 (Doc. 29-14). Defendant
Gonterman never interviewed Armand. Resp. ¶ 22; Reply at
6-7. Defendant Gonterman included information from her
interview with Glenn in the criminal complaints for both
Plaintiffs, referring to Glenn as Concerned Citizen #1 or
“CC.” See Def. Ex. C, Maez Criminal
Complaint (Doc. 29-4); Def. Ex. B, Cruz Arrest Warrant (Doc.
29-2); Mot. UMF #24.
August 14, 2015, Defendant Gonterman interviewed Drew Dugger,
another of Donovan Maez's friends, at the Albuquerque
Police Department. See Mot. UMF #25, 28; Resp.
¶¶ 25, 28; Def. Ex. N, Dugger Interview Transcript
(Doc. 29-15); Pl. Ex. 4, Dugger Interview Transcript (Doc.
41-3). At the time of his interview, Dugger was in custody on
an unrelated arrest warrant. See Mot. UMF #29; Resp.
¶ 29. After receiving Miranda warnings, Dugger
initially denied knowing anything about Jaydon
Chavez-Silver's shooting and Plaintiffs' alleged
involvement with the incident. See Mot. UMF #33;
Resp. ¶ 33; Pl. Ex. 4, Dugger Interview Transcript at
13:17-20 (Doc.41-3); Pl. Ex. 28, Gonterman Depo, at
200:24-201:2 (41-16). At one point during the interview
Defendant Gonterman said to Dugger, “Look at me.
I'm not messing around today. I'm not going to let
you lie to me. I'm not going to have it. Because I will
just…you know, we'll end this and you can go to
jail.” See Mot. UMF #31, Resp. ¶ 31; Def.
Ex. N, Dugger Interview Transcript at 27:24-28:3 (Doc.
after Defendant Gonterman's statement, Dugger recounted
that Maez told him that Maez was driving around on the night
of Jaydon Chavez-Silver's death with Cruz testing out the
new TEC-9 or .40 Glock. See Mot. UMF # 36, Resp.
¶ 36. Dugger stated, “They told me - they told me
they were - they were just shooting, and Jaydon got hit. They
weren't - they weren't trying to hit him. They
weren't trying to shoot him.” See Mot. UMF
#37, Resp. ¶ 37, Def. Ex. N, Dugger Interview Transcript
at 61:25-62:3 (Doc. 29-15). Dugger also claimed that Cruz
called someone at the Nakomis party and then “slid on
him.” See Mot. UMF #39, Resp. ¶
39; Def. Ex. N, Dugger Interview Transcript at 66:23-67:10.
When questioned about motive, Dugger first offered, “I
- they - from what they told me, they were just driving down
the street shooting, just shooting the new gun. There
wasn't really no motive, or anything.” See
Resp. ¶ 33; Pl. Ex. 4, Dugger Interview Transcript at
33:112-16 (Doc. 41-3). Much later in the interview when
pressed again about motive, Dugger revealed that he thought
Bernie Miller or another individual owed Cruz money.
See Mot. UMF #34, Resp. ¶ 34, Def. Ex. N,
133:12-20 (Doc. 41-3). As the result of a search warrant,
Defendant Gonterman discovered a text message on Bernie
Miller's phone indicating that he owed someone money, but
that person was not identified in the text message.
See Mot. UMF #35, Resp. ¶ 35, Def. Ex. P - Cell
Phone Extraction Report (Doc. 29-17). Dugger told Defendant
Gonterman that Cruz had a light tan Nissan, and Dugger later
accompanied Albuquerque Police Department Detective David Nix
to the apartment complex where Cruz was staying. At that
location Detective Nix observed in the parking lot a light
tan Nissan Maxima registered to Christopher Cruz's
brother Anthony. See Mot. UMF #41, 42; Resp.
¶¶ 41-42; Def. Ex. N., Dugger Interview Transcript,
75:10-76:22 (Doc. 29-15); Def. Ex. Z, Affidavit of Jodi
Gonterman (Doc. 29-26). Defendant Gonterman included
information from her interview with Dugger in the criminal
complaints as to both Plaintiffs, referring to Dugger as
Concerned Citizen (CC) #2. See Def. Ex. B, Cruz
Arrest Warrant (Doc. 29-2); Def. Ex. C, Maez Criminal
Complaint (Doc. 29-4); Mot. UMF #43; Resp. ¶ 43.
August 14, 2015, Defendant Gonterman interviewed Plaintiff
Donovan Maez at the Albuquerque Police Department. Maez was
in police custody on an outstanding warrant for auto
burglary. See Mot. UMF #44, Resp. ¶ 44; Def.
Ex. R, Warrant for Arrest (Doc. 29-19). Plaintiff Maez told
Defendant Gonterman that around 10:00 or 10:30 p.m. on the
night of Jaydon's shooting, he, Cruz, and ten others were
“pregaming” at their friend's house.
See Mot. UMF #45-46; Resp. ¶¶ 45-46; Def.
Ex. Q, Donovan Maez Interview Transcript at 14:1-4, 19:16-23
(Doc. 29-18). At the end of the interview, Defendant
Gonterman stepped out of the interview room and later
returned to tell Maez that she spoke with the District
Attorney and had enough to book him for Jaydon's murder.
See Def. Ex. Q, Maez Interview Transcript at
39:17-25 (Doc. 29-18). Defendant Gonterman drafted a criminal
complaint for Maez's arrest charging him with an open
count of murder, among other criminal offenses. See
Mot. UMF # 49; Resp. ¶ 49. Maez was arrested on the
outstanding auto burglary warrant and then charged with
Jaydon's murder in accordance with the criminal
complaint. See Mot. UMF #55, Resp. ¶ 54.
Gonterman also drafted an affidavit requesting an arrest
warrant for Christopher Cruz. See Mot. UMF # 51,
Resp. ¶ 51. Assistant District Attorney Sarah Coffey
first reviewed the warrant affidavit. Coffey initially
determined that there was insufficient evidence to support
probable cause. See Pl. Ex. 30, Depo. of Sarah
Coffey at 36:2-9 (Doc. 41-18). However, ADA Coffey approved
the warrant affidavit when Detective Gonterman disclosed that
witnesses had seen a “white car of some kind” and
that “one of the individuals owned a similar white car
to the witness statement…that tipped it in favor of
having probable cause.” See Pl. Ex. 30, Depo
of Sarah Coffey at 36:14-24. Judge Linda Rogers then also
reviewed the warrant application and approved the issuance of
an arrest warrant for Christopher Cruz. See Mot. UMF
#52-53, Resp. ¶¶ 52-53. On August 17, 2015,
Christopher Cruz turned himself in on the arrest warrant.
See Mot. UMF #55, Resp. ¶ 55.
August 19, 2015, Defendant Gonterman conducted a brief
telephone interview with Plaintiffs' friend David Garcia.
See Resp. AMF # EE, FF; Pl. Ex. 22, Garcia Suppl.
(Doc. 41-14). Garcia corroborated Maez's claim that he
and Cruz were with Garcia at the time of Jaydon's murder,
that the group first “pregamed” at Garcia's
house, and then went to a party on Western Skies.
See Resp. AMF #GG; Pl. Ex. 22, Garcia Suppl. (Doc.
41-14). Garcia stated that he was with Cruz and Maez until
around 1:00 a.m. when shots were fired into the air at the
Western Skies location. Id. Garcia also informed
Defendant Gonterman that Cruz was driving a red car that
night. See Resp. AMF # HH, Pl. Ex. 22, Garcia Suppl.
(Doc. 41-14). Defendant Gonterman believed Garcia was lying.
See Resp. AMF #OO, Pl. Ex. 28, Gonterman Depo at
212:7-8 (Doc. 41-6).
August 20, 2015, Defendant Gonterman again interviewed
Nicholas Glenn, Concerned Citizen #1, after he reached out to
Defendant Gonterman indicating that he wanted to speak with
her. See Pl. Ex. 15, 08/20/15 Glenn Interview
Transcript at 1:20-23 (Doc. 41-7); Resp. ¶ 20; Reply at
6. Glenn admitted that he had lied during the first interview
and said that he never made it to the Nakomis house party on
the night Jaydon was shot. See Resp. ¶ 20;
Reply at 6; Pl. Ex. 15, 08/20/15 Glenn Interview Transcript
at 3:7-10 (Doc. 41-7). Glenn stated that he was at a
friend's house “partying” and they were about
to leave when they heard about what had happened to Jaydon.
See Pl. Ex. 15, 08/20/15 Glenn Interview Transcript
at 3:10-23. Glenn reported that it was the day after the
incident that he went to Armand's house and heard Maez
say that he was freaking out. See Id. at 3:25-4:1.
Glenn reiterated what he had disclosed during the first
interview with Defendant Gonterman, that he had walked into
his friend Armand's house and had overheard a
conversation Maez was having with Armand. See Id. at
14:2-9. Glenn stated, “I just heard Donovan like
freaking out, saying that he didn't know what hit what,
and that he was just freaking about it.” See
Id. at 8-13. When Glenn asked Maez what he was talking
about, Maez confirmed he was talking about the
“drive-by.” See id.
August 21, 2015, four days after Plaintiff Cruz was arrested,
his mother Yolanda Gutierrez called Defendant Gonterman
regarding the Nissan. See Resp. ¶¶ 41, Pl.
Ex. 21, Gutierrez Supp. (Doc. 41-13). Ms. Gutierrez informed
Defendant Gonterman that the car Detective Nix had observed
in the apartment complex parking lot was registered to an
Anthony Garcia, not Cruz's brother Anthony Cruz.
Id. Ms. Gutierrez informed Defendant Gonterman that
her older son Anthony lived with his girlfriend and the white
Nissan belonged to the girlfriend and had not run in months -
a fact the neighbors could confirm. See Resp. ¶
41; Pl. Ex. 21, Gutierrez Suppl.
August 27, 2015, Defendant Gonterman testified before a grand
jury. See Pl. Ex. 32, Grand Jury Transcript (Doc.
41-20). She indicated that she took Donovan Maez into custody
because she had information at the time from a
“credible, reliable source who had given other specific
details in the case.” See Pl. Ex. 32, Grand
Jury Transcript at 32:23-33:2 (Doc. 41-20). The grand jury
returned indictments charging Donovan Maez, Christopher Cruz,
and Nicholas Gonzales. See Id. at 65:1-23. Prior to
Plaintiffs' arrest, Defendant Gonterman had received a
tip that Nicholas Gonzales was the shooter. See
Resp. AMF # G; Pl. Ex. 35, CC#4 Suppl. (Doc. 41-23).
Defendant Gonterman further learned that Gonzales had removed
his GPS ankle monitor at 3:00 p.m. on the day Jaydon was
killed. See Resp. AMF # J; Pl. Ex. 28, Gonterman
Depo. at 171:13-24 (Doc. 41-16). Defendant Gonterman also had
information that Gonzales was arrested sixteen days after
Jaydon's murder while driving his mother's bronze
Nissan Maxima, at which time he was in the unlawful
possession of a firearm. See Resp. AMF #I; Pl. Ex.
16, Rio Rancho Police Report (Doc. 41-8); Pl. Ex. 28,
Gonterman Depo. at 172:17-173:11 (Doc. 41-16).
2, 2016, the District Attorney's office dismissed the
charges against Plaintiffs Maez and Cruz related to Jaydon
Chavez-Silver's murder. See Mot. ¶¶
56-57; Resp. ¶¶ 56; Def. Ex. U, Cruz Nolle Prosequi
(Doc. 29-22); Def. Ex. V, Maez Nolle Prosequi (Doc. 29-23).
Nicholas Gonzales ultimately pleaded guilty to shooting at an
occupied dwelling resulting in great bodily harm and
conspiracy to commit shooting at a dwelling. See Pl.
Ex. 41, Gonzales Judgment & Sentence (Doc. 41-29).
filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging
violations of their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights
and several intentional torts under the New Mexico Tort
Claims Act, NMSA 1978, § 41-4-12. See Amended
Complaint at 1 (Doc. 16). Count I alleges that Defendant
Gonterman seized, arrested, and detained both Plaintiffs
absent probable cause to believe each had committed a crime.
Id. at ¶¶ 319-328. Count II alleges that
Defendant Gonterman committed malicious prosecution by
manufacturing evidence which she knew was false or for which
she was deliberately indifferent to the truth and by making
material omissions leading to Plaintiffs' prosecutions
absent probable cause. Id. at ¶¶ 329-344.
Count III alleges state law tort claims against both
Defendant Gonterman and Defendant City of Albuquerque.
Id. at ¶¶ 345-351. In Defendants'
Motion they rely on qualified immunity as an affirmative
defense against Counts I and II and assert that immunity is
not waived under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act as to Count
Defendants have asserted qualified immunity as to
Plaintiffs' federal claims, the burden shifts to
Plaintiffs to (1) assert facts that, if true, would
constitute a violation of their constitutional rights, and
(2) demonstrate that the right violated was clearly
established at the time such that Defendants would have known
their conduct violated Plaintiffs' rights. See Wilson
v. Falk, 877 F.3d 1204, 1209 (10th Cir. 2017).
“When determining whether qualified immunity applies,
[the Court] may choose which of the two prongs of the
qualified immunity analysis should be addressed first.”
Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on
Plaintiffs' Section 1983 Claim for
Illegal Seizure and Arrest (Count I)
1983 provides that “[e]very person who, under color of
any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or
usage…subjects, or causes to be subjected, any
citizen…or any other person…to the deprivation
of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party
injured[.]” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Fourth Amendment
of the United States Constitution protects “[t]he right
of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,
and effects, against unreasonable searches and
seizures[.]” Both Plaintiffs claim that Defendant
Gonterman violated their Fourth Amendment rights by seizing,
arresting, and detaining them for the murder of Jaydon
Chavez-Silver without probable cause. See Amended
Complaint at 36-39 (Doc. 16).
qualified immunity context, the probable cause evaluation is
a question of law for the Court to resolve. See Hunter v.
Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 227-28 (1991) (overturning a
circuit court decision that left probable cause to the trier
of fact in an immunity context and reaffirming that immunity
ordinarily should be decided by the court long before trial
because qualified immunity is an entitlement to immunity from
suit rather than a defense to liability). “[A]n arrest
is valid and does not violate the Fourth Amendment if the
warrant underlying it was supported by probable cause at that
time of its issuance; this holds true even if later events
establish that the target of the warrant should not have been
arrested.” Beard v. City of Northglenn, Colo.,
24 F.3d 110, 114 (10th Cir. 1994). “Probable cause for
an arrest warrant is established by demonstrating a
substantial probability that a crime has been committed and
that a specific individual committed the crime.”
Wolford v. Lasater, 78 F.3d 484, 489 (10th Cir.
a neutral magistrate judge's issuance of a warrant
“is the clearest indication that the officers acted in
an objectively reasonable manner or…in objective good
faith.” Messerschmidt v. Millender, __ U.S.__,
132 S.Ct. 1235, 1245 (2012) (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted). However, a court will not grant qualified
immunity “where the warrant was based on an affidavit
so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official
belief in its existence entirely unreasonable.”
Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Moreover, a
warrant will not protect an officer who
“knowingly…, or with reckless disregard for the
truth” includes false statements in the affidavit,
Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 155-56 (1978), or
who “knowingly or recklessly omit[s] from an arrest
affidavit information which, if included, would have vitiated
probable cause, ” Stewart v. Donges, 915 F.2d
572, 582-83 (10th Cir. 1990). “The burden is on the
plaintiff to make a substantial showing of deliberate
falsehood and reckless disregard for the truth by the officer
seeking the warrant.” Stonecipher v. Valles,
759 F.3d 1134, 1142 (10th Cir. 2014). The test is objective,
allowing the Court to determine, as a matter of law, whether
a reasonable officer could have found probable cause where
there is no dispute over material facts. See Id. The
Court will address the arrests of each Plaintiff separately.
Probable Cause to Arrest Donovan Maez
Court begins by asking whether Defendant Gonterman had
probable cause to arrest Donovan Maez. The parties do not
dispute that Defendant Gonterman had knowledge of and
arrested Plaintiff Maez on an outstanding warrant for auto
burglary in violation of NMSA 1978, § 30-16-3B and that
he was afterwards charged with Jaydon Chavez-Silver's
murder. Nor have Plaintiffs challenged the probable cause
underlying that outstanding auto burglary warrant. Auto
burglary under New Mexico statute is a fourth-degree felony
with a potential penalty of eighteen months of imprisonment.
See NMSA 1978, § 31-18-15 (A)(13). On May 24,
2017, Maez pleaded no contest to the charge and received a
suspended sentence of eighteen months with 244 days of
presentence confinement credit for the time he was
incarcerated. See Def. Ex. X, Plea and Disposition
Agreement; Def. Ex. Y, Maez State Court Judgment. Defendants
argue that because Detective Gonterman had, from an objective
standpoint, independent probable cause to arrest Plaintiff
Maez on the outstanding warrant for auto burglary, his
Section 1983 claim for illegal seizure and arrest (Count I)
and his claim of malicious prosecution (Count II) must fail.
Plaintiffs counter that while Plaintiff Maez was initially
arrested on a valid warrant, he was held continuously without
legal process on the murder charge for which there was no
Court will address the malicious prosecution claim below, but
finds, as a matter of law, that Defendant Gonterman had
probable cause to seize, arrest, and detain Plaintiff Maez on
the outstanding warrant even though the auto burglary charge
was unrelated to the later murder charge. In Devenpeck v.
Alford, 543 U.S. 146, 152-53 (2004), the United States
Supreme Court clarified that an arrest is lawful under the
Fourth Amendment so long as probable cause existed as to any
offense that could be charged. “[A]n arresting
officer's state of mind (except for the facts that he
knows) is irrelevant to the existence of probable cause. That
is to say, his subjective reason for making the arrest need
not be the criminal offense as to which the known facts
provide probable cause.” Devenpeck, 543 U.S.
at 153 (citations omitted); see also Apodaca v. City of
Albuquerque, 443 F.3d 1286, 1289 (10th Cir. 2006)
(“All that matters is whether [the law enforcement
official] possessed knowledge of evidence that would provide
probable cause to arrest her on some ground.”
(emphasis original)); Kilgore v. City of Stroud, 158
Fed.Appx. 944 (10th Cir. 2005) (“Probable cause need
only exist as to any offense that could be charged under the
circumstances.” (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted)). Because Plaintiffs have not met their burden to
establish that probable cause did not exist to arrest
Plaintiff Maez, the Court does not reach the clearly
established law prong of the qualified immunity analysis. The
Court will grant summary judgment in Defendants' favor as
to Plaintiff Maez's claim of illegal seizure and arrest
in Count I of the Amended Complaint.
Arrest of Plaintiff Christopher Cruz
overcome the validity of an arrest warrant, Plaintiff Cruz
must prevent evidence either that Defendant Gonterman knew
that the information in the arrest warrant affidavit was
false or that she “in fact entertained serious doubts
as to the truth of [her] allegations” but still sought
the warrant in reckless disregard for the truth. Beard v.
City of Northglenn, 24 F.3d 110, 114, 116 (10th Cir.
1994). Reckless disregard for the truth may be inferred
“from circumstances evincing obvious reasons to doubt
the veracity of the allegations.” Id.
Plaintiff Cruz alleges in part under Franks v.
Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978) that probable cause did
not support the arrest warrant because Defendant
Gonterman's warrant affidavit contained material
misstatements and omissions. Plaintiff Cruz specifically
contends that Defendant Gonterman: (1) failed to conduct a
competent pre-arrest investigation; (2) relied on coerced
false statements from Drew Dugger and Nicholas Glenn and a
tip from Mariah Madrid about a Facebook post, though Ms.
Madrid had no firsthand knowledge of the incident; and (3)
withheld material facts from the assistant district attorney
and the judge.
Failure to Conduct a “Minimally Competent
Cruz first contends that Defendant Gonterman's
investigation of Jaydon Chavez-Silver's murder
“failed even the most basic tests for a minimally
competent police investigation” necessary to develop
probable cause that Plaintiffs killed Jaydon by shooting into
the Nakomis house. (Doc. 41 at 50). Specifically, Plaintiff
Cruz argues that: Defendant Gonterman failed to interview
Allen Moya, a third individual who commented on the Facebook
posts the night Jaydon was killed; failed to interview
Plaintiffs' alibi witnesses; failed to interview Nicholas
Gonzales' alleged alibi witness; failed to interview
Armand VanDyke to verify information Nicholas Glenn shared
regarding VanDyke's conversation with Plaintiff Maez;
failed to corroborate Devin Griego's alleged alibi;
failed to investigate an alleged “shots fired”
incident at the Western Skies party; and failed to
investigate Plaintiffs' alibi and verify their locations
at the time of Jaydon's shooting through cellphone
records or cell phone tower data. Plaintiffs also maintain
that Defendant Gonterman failed to properly investigate
Nicholas Gonzales' possible involvement in Jaydon's
murder, including the facts surrounding Gonzales' arrest
in Rio Rancho.
Defendant Gonterman could have done more, “[b]ut for
purposes of qualified immunity, [Defendants] needed merely to
show arguable probable cause to satisfy the Fourth
Amendment's reasonableness requirement.” Harte
v. Bd. of Comm'rs of Cnty. of Johnson, Kansas, 864
F.3d 1154, 1178 (10th Cir. 2017); see also
Stonecipher, 759 F.3d at 1141 (“Arguable probable
cause is another way of saying that the officers'
conclusions rest on an objectively reasonable, even if
mistaken, belief that probable cause exists.”). And
“[t]he failure to investigate a matter fully, to
exhaust every possible lead, interview all potential
witnesses, and accumulate overwhelming corroborative evidence
rarely suggests a knowing or reckless disregard for the
truth.” Beard, 24 F.3d at 116 (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). “To the
contrary, it is generally considered to betoken negligence
at most.” Id. (emphasis in original).
The probable cause standard also does not require officers to
correctly resolve conflicting evidence or to make accurate
credibility determinations. See Wright v. City of
Philadelphia,409 F.3d 595, 603 (3d Cir.2005)
(“The officers did not believe Wright's explanation
for her entry [into the residence]. Although they may have
made a ...