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Spencer v. Huron County

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 24, 2017

HURON COUNTY, et al., Defendants.


          MARK A. GOLDSMITH United States District Judge

         In this civil-rights case, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff Anthony Spencer challenges the lawfulness of his arrest and subsequent prosecution for drug trafficking by officers of the Huron County Sheriff's Office. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 41), arguing, in part, that they did not violate Spencer's constitutional rights because the doctrine of collateral estoppel prevents Spencer from relitigating the issue of probable cause.[1] As discussed below, the Court agrees with Defendants and grants, in part, their motion for summary judgment.[2]

         I. BACKGROUND

         In July 2012, Defendant Ryan Swartz, a Huron County deputy sheriff, was assigned to county-wide drug investigations. See Defs. Statement of Material Facts (“SMF”) ¶ 4 (Dkt. 41). Shortly thereafter, Swartz received tips that Spencer was involved in trafficking heroin. Id.

         Later, in March 2013, Tracey Champagne, an inmate at the Huron County jail, sent an internal jail communication to Defendant Daryl Ford, a Huron County detective, offering her services as a confidential informant for drug investigations. Id. ¶ 6. Champagne had worked as a confidential informant for Ford in the past. Id. Ford then informed Swartz of Champagne's offer, and the two of them interviewed Champagne. Id. ¶ 7. Following that interview, Swartz sought and received permission from the Huron County Prosecutor for Champagne to serve as a confidential informant in Swartz's drug investigations. Id. ¶ 8. As a confidential informant for Swartz, Champagne participated in numerous controlled drug buys. Id. ¶ 11. Before each controlled buy, Champagne was searched and provided “buy money” to use during the drug transaction. Id. ¶¶ 14, 15.

         Champagne claims that Spencer either arranged for her to buy heroin or directly sold heroin to her on at least three occasions near the end of May 2013. Id. ¶ 13. For these particular incidents, Champagne entered the car of Spencer's cousin, Rollie Smith, to consummate the drug buys. Id. ¶ 14; Pl. Resp. at 15 (Dkt. 48). For at least two of these controlled buys, Champagne told Swartz that Spencer was in the car, handed her a bag of suspected heroin, and took the buy money in return. Defs. SMF ¶ 16.

         On June 26, 2013, Spencer's best friend, Jeff Hatch, was arrested following the discovery of approximately 22 grams of heroin located in Hatch's bedroom. See id. ¶¶ 12, 17; Spencer Dep. at 43 (Dkt. 41-9). The following day, Champagne informed Swartz that Spencer was aware of Hatch's arrest and that Spencer intended to flee because he thought there was a warrant issued for his arrest. Defs. SMF ¶ 17. Upon learning of this information, Swartz contacted Defendant Ryan Neumann, a Huron County sergeant, and asked him to detain Spencer at a location provided by Champagne. Id. ¶ 18. Neumann arrived at that location and detained Spencer until Swartz arrived. Id. ¶ 19. Spencer was then transported to the Huron County jail and lodged overnight. Id. Arrest warrants were issued the following morning. Id. ¶ 20.

         In September 2013, two preliminary examination hearings were held in state court. Id. After those hearings, the state-court judge determined that there was probable cause to bind Spencer over to trial on all of the felony charges. Id. However, six months following Spencer's arrest, Smith informed Swartz and Tom Evans, a chief assistant prosecutor, that Spencer was not involved in any of the drug sales that took place at the end of May 2013. Id. ¶ 21. After Spencer took and passed a polygraph examination, all of the charges against him were dismissed, on the prosecutor's motion. Id. ¶ 23.


         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, a court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). When evaluating a summary judgment motion,

credibility judgments and weighing of the evidence are prohibited. Rather, the evidence should be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Thus, the facts and any inferences that can be drawn from those facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

Biegas v. Quickway Carriers, Inc., 573 F.3d 365, 374 (6th Cir. 2009).

         The party moving for summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “To withstand summary judgment, the nonmoving party must present sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact.” Humenny v. Genex Corp., 390 F.3d 901, 904 (6th Cir. 2004). The nonmoving party “may not ‘rely on the hope that the trier of fact will disbelieve the movant's denial of a disputed fact' but must make an affirmative showing with proper evidence in order to defeat the motion.” Alexander v. CareSource, 576 F.3d 551, 558 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479 (6th Cir. 1989)). A mere scintilla of evidence is insufficient; rather, “there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [nonmovant].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         III. ...

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