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Denton v. Chambless

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

December 5, 2017

MIKE DENTON, Plaintiff,
v.
SCOTT CHAMBLESS, individually and in his official capacity; KEVIN LANHAM, individually and in his official capacity; CHRIS LEAMON, individually and in his official capacity; and THE CITY OF OWASSO, OKLAHOMA, a municipal corporation, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          GREGORY K. FRIZZELL, JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the court on the Motion to Dismiss [Doc. #10');">10');">10');">10] of defendants Kevin Lanham and Chris Leamon. For the reasons discussed herein, the motion is granted.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Mike Denton was employed by the City of Owasso Police Department as a police officer. On June 14, 2015, while on duty, Denton participated in the pursuit, and eventual arrest, of Cody Mathews, who was driving a stolen vehicle. The pursuit ended in Nowata County, where Mathews was arrested.

         On October 2, 2015, the Nowata County District Attorney's Office charged Denton with one count of assault and battery with a deadly weapon and one count of reckless conduct with a firearm related to Denton's conduct during the June 14 arrest of Mathews. On March 8, 2016, Denton was acquitted of both charges.[1" name="FN1" id= "FN1">1]

         On May 18, 2017, Denton initiated this lawsuit against Scott Chambless, the Police Chief of the Owasso Police Department; the City of Owasso; Chris Leamon, an agent of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (“OSBI”); and Kevin Lanham, an OSBI agent. [Doc. #1].

         Denton alleges that Leamon and Lanham conducted the OSBI's investigation of Denton's conduct during the arrest of Mathews, which included interviewing several witnesses. [Doc. #1, p. 11 ¶ 70].

         First, with respect to Leamon, Denton alleges that, during Leamon's interview with Nowata County Police Officer Cheyenne Lee, officer Lee stated as follows:

• “I told him [him being Denton], after the video, good job with the shotgun, cause when he was poking him [Mathews], he wasn't reaching for the knife.”
• “I told him. [sic] [him being Denton] I said that I was worried that he [Mathews] was going to pick up that knife and we were going to have to kill him in the truck.”
• That he feared that one of the police officers at the scene would “reach in and get stuck.” (That is, stuck with Mathews' knife).

         [Doc. #1, p. 11 ¶ 72]. However, Denton alleges that these statements were not included in a written report entitled “Interview of Cheyenne Lee, ” which became “part of the larger report that was submitted to the Nowata County District Attorney's Office” before charges were filed against Denton. [Id., p. 12');">12 ¶ 73]. Denton alleges that Leamon's report omitted these statements to intentionally give the false impression that Denton's conduct was criminal. [Id., p. 12');">12 ¶ 75].

         Second, with respect to Lanham, Denton alleges that Lanham interviewed CLEET instructor Shannon Butler, but did not inform Butler that Mathews was armed with a knife and had been driving into oncoming lanes of highway traffic at speeds exceeding ninety miles per hour. Denton asserts that Lanham “withheld the totality of circumstances” from Butler in order to secure from him an unfavorable opinion of Denton. [Id., p. 12');">12 ¶¶ 76-77]. Denton also alleges that Lanham signed the Probable Cause Affidavit filed by the State of Oklahoma in the criminal case against Denton. [Id., p. 12');">12 ¶ 79].

         Based on these allegations, Denton asserts a section 1983 malicious prosecution claim against the OSBI agents for violation of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. [Id., p. 13]. Leamon and Lanham have moved to dismiss Denton's claim against them pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12');">12(b)(6).

         II. Legal Standard

         In considering a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12');">12(b)(6), a court must determine whether the plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. A complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The plausibility requirement “does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” of the conduct necessary to make out the claim. Id. at 556. “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555 (quotations omitted). The court “must determine whether the complaint sufficiently alleges facts supporting all the elements necessary to establish an entitlement to relief under the legal theory proposed.” Lane v. Simon, 495 F.3d 1182, 1186 (10');">10');">10');">10th Cir. 2007) (quoting Forest Guardians v. Forsgren, 1149');">478 F.3d 1149, 1160 (10');">10');">10');">10th Cir. 2007)).

         III. Discussion

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the federal statute that authorizes a civil action for deprivation of civil rights, “[e]very person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .” Section 1983 “‘is not itself a source of substantive rights, but a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.'” Margheim v. Buljko, 855 F.3d 10');">10');">10');">1077, 10');">10');">10');">1084 (10');">10');">10');">10th Cir. 2017) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 137');">443 U.S. 137, 144 n. 3 (1979)). “Accordingly, ‘[t]he first inquiry in any § 1983 suit . . . is whether the plaintiff has been deprived of a right secured by the Constitution and laws.'” Id. (quoting Baker, 443 U.S. at 140).

         A. Fourteenth Amendment

         Denton alleges that Leamon and Lanham are liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating his Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from malicious prosecution. [Doc. #1, p. 2 ΒΆ 6]. Leamon and Lanham seek dismissal of Denton's Fourteenth Amendment claim because Denton has an ...


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