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Matusiewicz v. Florence County Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

July 29, 2019

Timothy Matusiewicz Plaintiff,
v.
Florence County Sheriff's Office; William Kenney Boone; Mark E. Fuleihan; Anderson J. Beane; and Brooks A. Urquhart, in their respective individual capacities, Defendants. Tyler Matusiewicz, Plaintiff,
v.
Florence County Sheriffs Office; William Kenney Boone; Mark E. Fuleihan; Anderson J. Beane; and Brooks A. Urquhart, in their respective individual capacities, Defendants. Ronald Basile, Plaintiff,
v.
Florence County Sheriff's Office; William Kenney Boone; Mark E. Fuleihan; Anderson J. Beane; and Brooks A. Urquhart, in their respective individual capacities, Defendants. Diane Basile, Plaintiff,
v.
Florence County Sheriff's Office; William Kenney Boone; Mark E. Fuleihan; Anderson J. Beane; and Brooks A. Urquhart, in their respective individual capacities, Defendants.

          ORDER

          DONALD C. COGGINS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.[1]ECF No. 117.[2] Plaintiffs filed a response in opposition. ECF Nos. 125, 128. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), (D.S.C.), this matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West for pre-trial proceedings and a Report and Recommendation (“Report”). On May 30, 2019, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report recommending that the Motion for Summary Judgment be granted in part and denied in part. ECF No. 137. The Magistrate Judge advised the parties of the procedures and requirements for filing objections to the Report and the serious consequences if they failed to do so. All parties have filed objections and replies. ECF Nos. 141, 143, 145.

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of any portion of the Report of the Magistrate Judge to which a specific objection is made. The Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation made by the Magistrate Judge or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). The Court will review the Report only for clear error in the absence of an objection. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (stating that “in the absence of timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.” (citation omitted)).

         The Magistrate Judge provided a thorough recitation of the procedural history, facts, and applicable law in the case, which the Court incorporates by reference. Based on the numerous claims and the lengthy record of this case, the Court will follow the structure of the discussion used in the Report to rule on the parties' objections.

         Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment Claims for Unreasonable Search and Seizure Under § 1983

         Tyler's § 1983 Claim for Unlawful Seizure

         The Magistrate Judge determined that there was probable cause to arrest Tyler, and recommends that the motion for summary judgment be granted with respect to this claim. In making her recommendation, the Magistrate Judge considered that some of Fuleihan's statements to the state court magistrate judge were misleading but ultimately determined that they were not material. Accordingly, considering the affidavit without the misleading statements, she found that it established probable cause that Tyler's conduct violated the disorderly conduct statute. Plaintiffs object and argue that the warrant presents only conclusory statements and is devoid of a substantial basis to find probable cause.[3]

         While the Court does not condone Fuleihan's exaggeration that Tyler fled the scene, the Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge's discussion of the existence of probable cause after that statement is omitted from the affidavit. The affidavit's statements that Tyler “was observed by a Law Enforcement Officer to use loud and profane language to the victim . . . [and] was further observed to act in the same loud and boisterous manner using extreme vulgar language inside the LEC until such time a Lake City Police Officer asked the defendant to leave the location” are sufficient to establish probable cause that Tyler violated the disorderly conduct statute. Accordingly, the Court agrees with the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge and overrules Plaintiffs' objection.

         Timothy's § 1983 Claim for Unlawful Seizure

         The Magistrate Judge found that Timothy's claim is barred by the Supreme Court's ruling in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 447 (1984). Specifically, she determined that Timothy was convicted of “Breach/Breach of Peace, non-Aggravated Nature, ” that his conviction has not been overturned, and that a finding that he was unlawfully seized would implicitly invalidate his conviction. Accordingly, she recommends granting Defendants' motion with respect to his § 1983 claim for money damages for unlawful seizure.

         Plaintiffs object and contend that Defendants Fuleihan, Beane, and Urquhart (“the Individual Defendants”) did not have any legal justification to be inside Timothy's home where he was arrested. They state that Timothy was arrested for exercising his First Amendment rights to object to their unlawful entry. Therefore, they argue that this claim is not barred by Heck.

         Heck provides that a § 1983 claim cannot be pursued based on allegations of unlawful circumstances surrounding a criminal prosecution until the conviction has been set aside or the charges have been dismissed without the possibility of revival. Here, as discussed by the Magistrate Judge, a favorable determination on the merits of Timothy's § 1983 claim would implicitly invalidate his criminal conviction; accordingly, his claim is barred under Heck. Plaintiffs' objection is overruled, and summary judgment is granted with respect to this claim.

         Mrs. Basile's § 1983 Claim for Unlawful Seizure

         The Magistrate Judge determined that there is a genuine issue of material fact with respect to whether there was probable cause to seize Mrs. Basile for allegedly assaulting Fuleihan. Accordingly, she recommends denying summary judgment with respect to this claim.

         Defendants object and argue that there is nothing in the record to support Mrs. Basile's version of events. They further contend that she was not arrested, taken into custody, or handcuffed.

         In her Report, the Magistrate Judge lays out the different versions of events offered by Mrs. Basile and Fuleihan, which the Court specifically incorporates into this Order. See ECF No. 137 at 15. Upon de novo review of the record and the pleadings in this case and viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the Court agrees that there is a genuine issue of material fact with respect to whether there was probable cause to seize Mrs. Basile. Accordingly, summary judgment is denied with respect to this claim.[4]

         Mr. Basile's Claim for Unlawful Seizure

         The Magistrate Judge determined that Defendants were entitled to summary judgment with respect to this claim because there was no indication that he was ever under arrest. Neither party has objected to this recommendation. Upon review of the record, applicable law, and Report for clear error, the Court agrees with the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge. Defendants' motion is granted with respect to this claim.

         Plaintiffs' 1983 Fourth Amendment Claims for Unlawful Search

         The Magistrate Judge recommends that Defendants' motion be denied as to all Plaintiffs regarding this claim. She states that the issue to be decided is whether the Individual Defendants had reason to believe that Tyler was inside the house when they entered the home without a warrant. She concludes that there is a genuine issue of material fact with respect to whether the Individual Defendants knew the difference between the twins such that they knew that they had the correct brother in custody and entered the home anyway.

         Defendants object and contend that there is undisputed evidence that clearly reflects that they did not know they had Tyler in custody. Accordingly, pursuant to Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573 (1980), they assert the Individual Defendants had authority to enter the home to confirm that they had the correct twin in custody.

         Here, there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether the Individual Defendants knew that they had Tyler in custody. Tyler testified that he identified himself and one of the officers stated, “yeah, that's him because he's the broader one.”[5] ECF No. 125-9 at 2. Because there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the Individual Defendants knew they had Tyler in custody, at this procedural posture they may not rely on Payton to justify their entrance into the house. Accordingly, summary judgment is denied with respect to this claim.

         Plaintiffs' ยง 1983 ...


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