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Hensley v. The City of Nichols Hills

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

October 18, 2017

(1) KELLY A. HENSLEY, an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
(1) THE CITY OF NICHOLS HILLS, a municipal corporation; (2) MICHAEL PUCKETT, Individually (3) JORDAN CORN, Individually; and (4) STEVEN COX, in his Official Capacity Defendants.

          ORDER

          DAVID L. RUSSELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court are two Motions to Dismiss in support of Defendants City of Nichols Hills (“City”) and Steven Cox (Doc. 11), and Defendants Michael Puckett and Jordan Corn (Doc. 12). Plaintiff brings seven claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and Oklahoma law regarding her arrest and treatment by Nichols Hills Police Department for “egging” cars in violation of 21 Okla. St. § 1787, Molesting a Standing Vehicle. Defendants City and Cox's Motion is GRANTED, and Defendants Puckett and Corn's Motion is GRANTED with respect to Claims 1, 2, 3, and 5, and DENIED with respect to Claims 4 and 6.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Kelly Hensley is a Texas attorney who was arrested on May 1st, 2017, in Nichols Hills for throwing eggs at several cars (“egging”) near her parents' Oklahoma residence. Defendants are three City employees involved with the incident: Detective Lieutenant Michael Puckett, Officer Jordan Corn, and City Chief of Police Steven Cox.

         A. Investigation and Charges

         The Nichols Hills police investigation began on February 11th, 2017, when Detective Puckett and another City officer questioned Plaintiff and her parents at her parents' residence about an egging that occurred earlier that day. Doc. 1, at 4. Plaintiff denied knowledge of the egging, but voiced her concern regarding numerous parked cars in front of her parents' residence because she believed they were trespassing. Id. A few weeks later, Defendant Puckett allegedly tried to contact Plaintiff by phone multiple times to no avail-Plaintiff claims she received no such call. Id. at 5-6.

         On March 14th, Defendant Puckett submitted a probable cause affidavit to the District Attorney's Office to support an arrest warrant for Plaintiff. The affidavit cited an eyewitness who described the egging suspect as having “sandy colored shoulder length hair and wearing a white blouse and light colored pants, possibly khaki.” Doc. 1, at 5. The witness “wasn't sure if [Kelly] was the woman throwing the eggs and who he talked to at the door but was sure enough that he convinced himself that it was.” Id. He further stated, “I think she looked like the person throwing the eggs, but cannot swear to it.” Id. The affidavit also read that Plaintiff failed to return Defendant Puckett's calls. Plaintiff denies egging cars and maintains her innocence. Id. at 6. She claims that unlike the described suspect, Plaintiff has “long distinctive dark brown curly hair that is mid-back length” and was wearing “dark blue ripped jeans.” Id. at 5.

         The Oklahoma County District Attorney charged Plaintiff on April 28, 2017, with Molesting a Standing Vehicle for willfully and knowingly egging five cars without the owners' consent. See Doc. 18-2. 21 Okla. St. § 1787 makes it a crime to “deface or injure [any] automobile or motor vehicle, or to ‘molest . . . any automobile' . . . without the consent of the owner of such automobile or motor vehicle.”

         B. Arrest and Detention

         Plaintiff claims she was arrested on May 1st, 2017, in a “hostile and unprofessional” manner. Doc. 1, at 9. Defendants Corn and Puckett pulled Plaintiff mother's car over and asked her and Plaintiff to exit the vehicle. Id. at 8-9. Corn then asked Plaintiff to identify herself, handcuffed her, and read the charges aloud. Id. The handcuffs pinched Plaintiff's wrists tightly and Corn allegedly pushed her head to place her in the police vehicle. Id. As the Plaintiff sat on top of her cuffed hands in the backseat with the seatbelt restraining her neck, Corn searched through her purse. Id. at 9-10. Plaintiff claims that despite complaining of carpal tunnel pain and the tight handcuffs, Corn and Puckett refused to loosen them-Corn merely instructed her to keep her thumbs pointed upward. Id. at 10.

         Next was Plaintiff's brief stint in the Oklahoma County jail, which she alleges was especially humiliating, frightening, and dangerous. Plaintiff was un-handcuffed, frisked by a female guard, photographed, fingerprinted, and booked. Id. at 11. She then spent five to six hours in a holding cell until her attorney could bail her out. Id. at 12.

         Lastly, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Cox conducted a defamatory news interview with KFOR-TV that caused her severe “public ridicule” and “hatred.” Id. at 13. Defendant Cox's alleged false statements include that Plaintiff lives with her parents, that Plaintiff was seen on surveillance video egging cars, and implying that Plaintiff is guilty of egging: “I couldn't even imagine why someone would be upset why cars were parked on the street, on the public street, legally.” Id. at 12-13, 18.

         The District Attorney moved to recall Plaintiff's arrest warrant “in the best interest of justice” on May 9th, 2017 (Doc. 18-3), and the State immediately dismissed her case.

         C. The Complaint

         Plaintiff filed the instant complaint on August 3rd, 2017, asserting seven claims. Against the City, Puckett, and Corn:

1. Fourth Amendment illegal seizure regarding Plaintiff's unlawful arrest and detention in Oklahoma County Jail. Doc. 1, at 15.
2. Fourth Amendment excessive and/or unreasonable use of force during her arrest. Doc. 1, at 15-16.
3. Fourth Amendment malicious prosecution. Doc. 1, at 16. Against Corn:
4. Fourth Amendment illegal search of Plaintiff's purse subsequent to ...

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