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Brown v. City of Glendale

United States District Court, D. Arizona

January 9, 2019

Antonio Brown, Plaintiff,
v.
City of Glendale, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          DOMINIC W. LANZA, UNITED SLATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Antonio Brown (“Brown”) has asserted claims for malicious prosecution (both under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and under state law) following his acquittal in a state-court prosecution for sexual assault. Brown contends the charges arose because a member of the Glendale Police Department filed false police reports, lied in a search warrant affidavit and while testifying before a state grand jury, and concealed exculpatory evidence. The first trial against Brown, in 2015, resulted in an acquittal on some counts, a dismissal of some counts, and a mistrial on some counts, and the 2017 retrial resulted in an acquittal on all remaining counts.

         Now pending before the Court are two matters: (1) Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings (Doc. 23), which argues that Brown's malicious prosecution claims are time-barred in part (because he should have pursued relief after the 2015 partial verdict, instead of waiting until after the 2017 retrial) and overbroad in part (because a police officer cannot be sued in a § 1983 action for lying before the grand jury); and (2) the parties' stipulated motion to permit disclosure of grand jury transcript (Doc. 28). These matters are fully briefed and neither party has requested oral argument. As explained below, the motion for judgment on the pleadings will be granted in part and denied in part and the stipulated motion to permit disclosure of the grand jury transcript will be granted.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. The Factual Allegations In The Complaint

         The complaint was filed on April 4, 2018. (Doc. 1.) The following factual summary assumes the truth of all allegations contained therein. Chavez v. United States, 683 F.3d 1102, 1108 (9th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted) (when deciding a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c), “‘a court must determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint, taken as true, entitle the plaintiff to a legal remedy'”).

         The complaint alleges that, on April 3, 2014, Brown invited a woman to his apartment and “engaged in consensual sexual contact” with her. (Id. ¶ 14). The next day, the woman falsely accused Brown of sexual assault. (Id. ¶ 16.)

         Detective Lawrence Gonzalez of the Glendale Police Department (“Detective Gonzalez”) served as the lead investigator. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 18.) As part of his investigation, Detective Gonzalez interviewed the alleged victim. (Id. ¶ 18.) During this interview, the alleged victim made equivocal statements about whether any wrongful conduct had occurred. (Id. [“She also said, ‘She is not sure if he thought she was playing or being kinky or anything of that nature.'”].)

         On the evening on April 4, 2014, Detective Gonzalez “set up and monitored a [telephonic] confrontation call” between the alleged victim and Brown. (Id. ¶ 20.) During this call, Brown “made multiple exculpatory statements, and denied any coercive or non-consensual acts.” (Id.) Nevertheless, Detective Gonzalez filed a false police report stating Brown had made inculpatory statements during the call. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 22.)

         Detective Gonzalez also obtained a search warrant for Brown's cell phone during the investigation. (Id. ¶ 22.) In his probable cause affidavit, Detective Gonzalez “falsely claimed that on the confrontation call, [Brown] admitted to having sexual intercourse . . . without consent, ” even though “[a]bsolutely no such statements are contained in the confrontation call.” (Id.)

         Detective Gonzalez later testified before the grand jury. (Id. ¶ 23.) During this session, Detective Gonzalez “falsely testified . . . that during the confrontation call, [Brown] admitted to having sexual intercourse . . . without consent.” (Id.) Detective Gonzalez also “withheld exculpatory evidence, including that [the alleged victim] was not sure if [Brown] thought she was ‘playing or joking' or being ‘kinky.'” (Id.)

         Due to Detective Gonzalez's misconduct, the grand jury charged Brown with nine counts of felony sexual abuse. (Id. ¶ 24.) “In two trials, culminating on May 9, 2017, [Brown] was acquitted of all charges.” (Id. ¶ 28.)

         In October 2017, Brown served a notice of claim on all of the defendants. (Id. ¶ 2.) The notice-of-claim document is included as an exhibit to the complaint. (Id. at 13-21.)

         B. The Parties And Claims Identified In The Complaint

         The complaint identifies three defendants: (1) Detective Gonzalez (as well as Detective Gonzalez's wife, who is named only for purposes of preserving claims against the marital community), (2) Rick St. John, who is named in his official capacity as the Glendale Police Department's chief of police, and (3) the City of Glendale. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 4-10.) These individuals and entities will be collectively referred to as “Defendants.”

         The complaint asserts five causes of action. Each cause of action is asserted against all three Defendants. Count 1 is a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for “Malicious and Selective Prosecution, Abuse of Process, Failure to Train.” (Id. ¶¶ 29-41.) Count 2 is a claim for “Conspiracy to Commit Violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” (Id. ¶¶ 42-46.) Count 3 is a state-law claim for “Malicious Prosecution.” (Id. ¶¶ 47-50.) Count 4 is a state-law claim for “Abuse of ...


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