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Payne v. City of Tulsa

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

September 30, 2019

EDD TAWON PAYNE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF TULSA, TULSA POLICE OFFICER S. SULTZER, and RASHONDA BASHAM, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Gregory R. Prizzell, United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff’s amended complaint (Dkt. 4), filed September 3, 2019. For the reasons that follow, the Court dismisses the amended complaint, without prejudice, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         A. Screening and dismissal standards

          Plaintiff’s amended complaint is subject to screening under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A. In screening the amended complaint, the Court must identify any cognizable claim and dismiss any claim which is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A(b). In determining whether dismissal is appropriate, the Court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the amended complaint and liberally construe the facts in Plaintiff’s favor. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009); Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). But the Court need not “accept as true a legal conclusion couched as factual allegation.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). And, while Plaintiff does not necessarily need to include “detailed factual allegations” in the amended complaint, he is obliged to provide “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. Ultimately, the Court’s must decide whether the complaint contains “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         B. Plaintiff’s allegations and claims

          Accepting Plaintiff’s well-pleaded factual allegations as true, the Court gleans the following facts from the amended complaint. Sometime before August 18, 2017, the Tulsa Police Department released to the public surveillance video footage depicting a Tulsa bank robbery. Dkt. 4, at 4. Rashonda Basham contacted the Tulsa Police Department and identified her 17-year-old daughter, T.A., as the woman seen on the surveillance video robbing the bank. Id. Basham told police officers that Plaintiff, who was not seen in the video, was T.A.’s boyfriend, that Plaintiff bought a car, specifically, “a new grey crown vic, ” with money from the robbery, and that she had seen T.A. in that car with Plaintiff. Id. at 6. Basham also “helped the police locate [Plaintiff] and [his] vehicle and residence.” Id. at 5, 8.

         Tulsa Police Officers S. Sultzer and Helburg (or Helberg) briefly detained Plaintiff on August 18, 2017, to question him about the robbery. Dkt. 4, at 2-3, 6-7. Plaintiff denied any relationship with T.A., denied involvement in the bank robbery, admitted that he owned the car described by Basham (which, according to Plaintiff is “actually blue, ” not grey), and told officers that he bought the car with money he won at the casino. Id. at 6-10. Following a brief investigatory detention, Sultzer and Helburg arrested Plaintiff without a warrant. Id. at 6. In conjunction with Plaintiff’s arrest, “unnamed officers at the scene” seized Plaintiff’s car without a warrant. Id. at 9. According to Plaintiff, the car was parked outside his apartment. Id. Twenty to thirty minutes after Plaintiff’s arrest, law enforcement officers located and arrested T.A. Id. at 6-7. Officers transported Plaintiff and T.A. to the police station for further questioning. Id. at 7.

         T.A. admitted her involvement in the bank robbery “within 30 minutes” of her arrest. Dkt. 4, at 7. For the next five hours, officers continued to question T.A. and Plaintiff. Id. Both Plaintiff and T.A. denied that Plaintiff was involved in the bank robbery, and T.A. “said that she robbed the bank alone.” Dkt. 4, at 7. At some point, “the police brought Ms. Basham into [T.A.’s] interrogation room” “to convince [T.A.] to change her story and implicate [Plaintiff].” Id. at 7.

         On August 25, 2017, the State of Oklahoma charged Plaintiff, in the District Court of Tulsa County, No. CF-2017-4562, with conspiracy and robbery. See State v. Payne, No. CF-2017-4562, http://www.oscn.net/dockets/GetCaseInformation.aspx?db=tulsaνmber=CF-2017-4562&cmid=3079765, last visited September 30, 2019. The State dismissed both charges on December 1, 2017. Id. Four days later, the federal government filed a two-count indictment in this court charging Plaintiff with conspiracy and bank robbery. See Dkt. 26, United States v. Payne, N.D. Okla. No. 17-CR-0140-CVE (filed Dec. 5, 2017). Plaintiff ultimately pleaded guilty to both charges, and the sentencing court imposed a 46-month prison sentence for each conviction, with both sentences to be served concurrently. See Dkt. 62, United States v. Payne, N.D. Okla. No. 17-CR-0140-CVE (filed May 8, 2018).[1]

         In the amended complaint, Plaintiff purports to sue three defendants: the City of Tulsa, Tulsa Police Officer S. Sultzer, and Rashonda Basham. Dkt. 4, at 1-3. Plaintiff claims the defendants violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment by detaining him without reasonable suspicion (Count 1), arresting him without probable cause (Count 2), and seizing his vehicle without probable cause (Count 3). Id. at 2-3, 6-9. Plaintiff seeks $100, 000 in compensatory damages and $29, 000 in punitive damages “to be paid by each Defendant.” Id. at 3.

         C. Analysis

         Even accepting Plaintiff’s well-pleaded factual allegations as true, the Court finds the amended complaint fails to state any plausible § 1983 claims against the defendants. To state plausible § 1983 claims, Plaintiff must allege, at a minimum, that each defendant identified in the amended complaint acted under color of state law to deprive him of a federally protected right. Schaffer v. Salt Lake City Corp., 814 F.3d 1151, 1155 (10th Cir. 2016).

         1. City of Tulsa

          Plaintiff identifies the City of Tulsa as “policy makers” and seeks to hold the City liable for the Fourth Amendment violations alleged in Counts 1, 2, and ...


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