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Thurman v. Steidley

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

May 5, 2017

JUSTIN THURMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
JANICE STEIDLEY; LARRY STEIDLEY; and OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR DISTRICT 12, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          TERENCE KERN, United States District Judge

         Before the Court are the Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim of Defendant Office of the District Attorney for District 12 (Doc. 9); and the Joint Motion to Dismiss of Larry Steidley and Janice Steidley for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction and Failure to State a Claim (Docs. 22, 23).

         I. Complaint

         In his Complaint (Doc. 1-1), Plaintiff Justin Thurman (“Thurman”) alleges the following facts. On April 14, 2014, Thurman was arrested and jailed in the Rogers County Detention Center (“Jail”). After pleading guilty, he was enrolled in the Rogers County Drug Court Program (“Drug Court Program”). After suffering a relapse that resulted in a new arrest, Thurman was again detained in the Jail.

         Following a May 2014 hearing regarding Thurman's new criminal charges, an unidentified woman claiming to work for Defendant Janice Steidley, who was then the Rogers County District Attorney (“DA Steidley”), contacted Thurman's mother, Diana Thurman (“Ms. Thurman”). This woman told Ms. Thurman she had reservations about the conduct of the police in Thurman's case and asked if Ms. Thurman was interested in discussing the matter further. Ms. Thurman agreed and was instructed to meet at the office of DA Steidley's husband, Larry Steidely (“Mr. Steidley”), who is also an attorney. Mr. Steidley and the unidentified woman reviewed Thurman's file with Ms. Thurman and indicated that DA Steidley “wanted to help her son.” (Compl. ¶ 9.)

         A few days later, Ms. Thurman drove to Claremore Lake for a meeting with DA Steidley and Mr. Steidley (the “Steidleys”). The Steidleys and the unidentified woman were seated in the backseat of a black vehicle. The driver of the vehicle got out and instructed Ms. Thurman to get into the backseat. The Steidleys told Ms. Thurman they wanted to help her son, but they also needed something from her. According to the Complaint, the Steidleys revealed their plan to “set up” the Sheriff of Rogers County (“Sheriff”). The Sheriff had led a petition against DA Steidley that resulted in a grand jury investigation and a 74-page report critical of DA Steidley.

         The Steidleys' alleged plan was for Ms. Thurman to dress provocatively, entice the Sheriff to consume alcohol, and elicit “embarrassing or humiliating statements” from him. (Id. ¶ 14.) At the end of this meeting at Claremore Lake, DA Steidley allegedly told Ms. Thurman not to tell anyone about their meeting and also stated that jail can be a dangerous place. The unidentified woman told Ms. Thurman that she needed to help them because people died in jail all the time, and it would be a shame to find her son hanging in his cell. As a result of these perceived threats, Ms. Thurman participated in the scheme over the next several months, meeting with the Sheriff at various places and reporting back to Mr. Steidley, who would give her further instructions and suggestions. At one point during the scheme, the Steidleys also convinced Ms. Thurman to write a false narrative stating that she abused her son in order to help him obtain a better plea deal.

         Thurman alleges that DA Steidley and/or the Office of the District Attorney for District 12 (“DA's Office”) allowed Thurman into the Drug Court Program but then “repeatedly frustrated [his] ability to leave the jail or start any treatment program.” (Id. ¶ 20.) DA Steidley and the DA's Office allegedly rejected treatment programs proposed by Thurman and his attorney as a “pretext” to keep Thurman detained in order to maintain leverage over Ms. Thurman. Thurman claims that he “continued to languish in the Rogers County Jail until his release on December 3, 2014.” (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.) Thurman alleges that the Steidleys caused Thurman to “remain in the Rogers County Jail much longer than any reasonable detention under these circumstances” for their own personal gain in an intentional, willful, and reckless manner that shocks the conscience. (Id. ¶ 26.) He further alleges that DA Steidley exercised authority over Thurman as the top law enforcement official in Rogers County.

         At some point after Steidley lost the primary in the next election, Ms. Thurman contacted the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations (“OSBI”) and informed it of the Steidleys' scheme against the Sheriff. OSBI urged Ms. Thurman to continue participating in the scheme so that OSBI could use her as an informant to gather evidence against the Steidleys. In January 2015, DA Steidley left office.

         In his Complaint, Thurman asserts the following claims: (1) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against the Steidleys premised on deprivation of his Fourteenth Amendment right to procedural due process; (2) Bosh claim[1] against the Steidleys and the DA's Office premised on deprivation of his procedural due process rights set forth in article 2, section 7 of the Oklahoma Constitution; (3) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against the Steidleys premised on their deprivation of his Fourteenth Amendment right to substantive due process; (4) Bosh claim against the Steidleys and the DA's Office premised on deprivation of his substantive due process rights set forth in article 2, section 7 of the Oklahoma Constitution; and (5) negligence claim against the DA's Office for negligently administering the Drug Court Program in a manner that allowed for manipulation by the Steidleys.

         II. Additional Facts Derived from State Court Criminal Records (“State Court Records”)

         The Steidleys relied upon state court judicial records - namely, Thurman's criminal record dating back to January 18, 2007 - in support of their motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Thurman did not object to the Court's consideration of the records, dispute the records, argue that the records constituted evidence outside the pleadings, request discovery to respond to the records, or discuss the records in any manner in his response brief.

         The State Court Records reflect the following sequence of events. On April 17, 2007, Thurman pled guilty to five charges in CF-2007-294, Tulsa County, Oklahoma. (Steidleys' Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. 1.) On August 26, 2008, Thurman pled guilty to five different charges in CF-2007-5659, Tulsa County, Oklahoma. (Id., Ex. 2.) On October 23, 2013, Thurman pled guilty and was convicted of driving under the influence (“DUI”) and transporting an open container of liquor in CF-2013-259 (“2013-259”), Rogers County, Oklahoma, for which Thurman received an eight-year suspended sentence. (Id., Ex. 3.)

         On December 3, 2013, Tulsa County District Community Corrections officials filed a “Violation Report” alleging Thurman violated two conditions of his probation in 2013-259, after he was in a one-vehicle accident that occurred on October 28, 2013. The report states:

Although Thurman continued to use alcohol after being sentenced four days prior on his Rogers County case, this officer feels that be has not had time to get treatment for his addiction. Thurman is scheduled to attend intensive inpatient treatment at the House of Hope in Grove, Oklahoma on December 10, 2013. This officer believes if Thurman abstains from any alcohol consumption, he will be a productive citizen in society. Therefore, this officer respectfully requests Thurman be court-ordered to participate in the SCRAM program for the remainder of his probation and be ordered to complete DUI Court in Rogers County.

(Id., Ex. 4.) As a result of this accident, new criminal charges were filed in CF-2013-00440 (“2013-440”), Mayes County, Oklahoma, for DUI and transporting an open container of liquor. Thurman was admitted into the Drug Court Program on January 7, 2014. On March 10, 2014, Defendant pled guilty and was convicted of DUI and transporting an open container of liquor in 2013-440, for which Defendant received a ...


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