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Stonefield v. Lopez

United States District Court, D. Colorado

July 29, 2019

LEIGH ANN STONEFIELD, Plaintiff,
v.
CHIEF EVAN LOPEZ, SERGEANT EDUARDO RODRIGUEZ, OFFICER ROBERT PINO, and THE CITY OF MONTE VISTA, COLORADO, Defendants.

          ORDER

          LEWIS T. BABCOCK, JUDGE

         Plaintiff alleged that her ex-husband violated protections orders. She was charged with false reporting to authorities related to her allegations. She sued, alleging that Defendants violated certain Constitution rights surrounding her charge. This matter is before me on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 13. I have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. After considering the parties' arguments and exhibits, I grant Defendants' Motion.

         I. Background

         Initially, Plaintiff disputes Defendants' use of two police reports that Defendants attached to their Motion. ECF No. 13 at 2 n.1 & 3 n.2; Pl.'s Resp., ECF No. 20 at 2 n.1. “A district court may consider documents (1) referenced in a complaint that are (2) central to a plaintiff's claims, and (3) indisputably authentic when resolving a motion to dismiss without converting the motion to one for summary judgment.” Thomas v. Kaven, 765 F.3d 1183, 1197 (10th Cir. 2014). Defendants' exhibits are referenced in the Amended Complaint and are central to Plaintiff's claims. E.g., Am. Compl., ECF No. 12 at ¶¶ 18-30.

         Plaintiff claims that she did dispute the truthfulness of the reports in her Amended Complaint. ECF No. 20 at 2 n.1. However, while she claimed that the reports may have been created to support alleged retaliatory conduct, she did not in fact allege in the Amended Complaint that the reports were indeed false or inauthentic. As such, I consider Defendants' attached exhibits without converting the Motion into one for summary judgment. GFF Corp. v. Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc., 130 F.3d 1381, 1385 (10th Cir. 1997) (document not attached to complaint was properly considered when plaintiff frequently referred to the document and did not dispute its authenticity).

         Plaintiff obtained two criminal protection orders and one permanent civil protection order against her ex-husband Fred Chambers which prohibited him from contact with Plaintiff or her children. ECF No. 12 at ¶ 12. The criminal protection orders were issued in Rio Grande County on November 3, 2015 and June 7, 2016, and the civil protection order was issued in Alamosa County on July 24, 2017. Id. On December 31, 2016, and other occasions, Plaintiff claimed that Fred Chambers violated the protection orders. Id. at ¶ 13. Plaintiff sought assistance from the Monte Vista Police Department to enforce the civil protection order five times: March 21, 2016; June 7, 2016; December 8, 2016; December 31, 2016; and January 5, 2017. Id. at ¶ 14. Fred Chambers was prosecuted for violating the restraining orders and for felony stalking regarding the alleged June 7 violation. Id. at ¶¶ 14, 41.

         Plaintiff alleged that the Defendants-who handled investigations surrounding her claims-had strong social relationships with Fred Chambers' mother. Id. at ¶ 16. Plaintiff added that as a result of these relationships, the individual Defendants were disposed positively to Fred Chambers and negatively disposed to her. Id. at ¶ 17.

         On December 31, 2016, Defendant Officer Robert Pino was dispatched and wrote an incident report. Ex. A to Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 13-1. Plaintiff's daughter noted to Officer Pino by phone that Plaintiff's son saw Fred Chambers driving his brown Dodge pickup truck by their house. Id. at 1. Shortly after Officer Pino ended his conversation with Plaintiff's daughter, Plaintiff called him and said that something needed to be done because she was in fear for her and her children's lives. Id. Officer Pino visited the residence and spoke with Plaintiff's son. Id. at 2. Officer Pino wrote that Plaintiff's son “stated that he was outside when he noticed Fred's truck . . . driving really slow . . . [but] stated that he did not see Fred in the truck.” Id.

         On January 5, 2017, Plaintiff followed up with the Monte Vista Police Department and spoke with Defendant Sergeant Eduardo Rodriguez to follow up on the incident on December 31. ECF No. 12 at ¶ 18. Less than an hour after speaking with Sergeant Rodriguez, Plaintiff called 911 to report that she saw Fred Chambers in the alley behind her house. Id. at ¶ 19; Ex. B to Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 13-2. Sergeant Rodriguez was dispatched and wrote an incident report. ECF No. 12 at ¶¶ 20, 21. Plaintiff reported to Sergeant Rodriguez that she saw Fred Chambers wearing a blue vest and ball cap entering a white Ford truck that eventually sped away. Id. Sergeant Rodriguez wrote that he did not see acceleration marks where Plaintiff stated Fred Chambers drove away. ECF No. 13-2 at 3. She pointed out the parked truck to Sergeant Rodriguez as they were in the alley. ECF No. 12 at ¶ 21. She stated that Fred Chambers' father James had returned driving the truck and parked it in the alley. Id.

         Sergeant Rodriguez spoke with a witness who told him that she noticed the same white truck frequently parked across the street from Plaintiff's house and other times parked down the street. Id. at ¶ 22. The witness continued that she did not see who was in the truck that day, but that she saw the truck driven around the house frequently, sometimes with an older male driving and sometimes a middle-aged male driving. Id.

         Additionally, Sergeant Rodriguez spoke with other neighbors who had a security camera at their house. Id. at ¶ 23. Sergeant Rodriguez wrote that the camera footage showed James Chambers in the white truck around the time that Plaintiff called to report that she saw Fred Chambers violating the protection order. Id. The footage showed Plaintiff entering her home from her car and then the white truck slowly backing out of the alley and driving away. Id. The neighbors noted that they saw the white truck frequently driven by James Chambers “because he usually goes to his son's house located next to [Plaintiff's] residence . . . to make sure it has heat.” ECF No. 13-2 at 3, 4. The neighbors said that they had not seen Fred Chambers around the house in a long period of time. ECF No. 12 at ¶ 24. They added that there was another truck with a similar make and model to Fred's truck that they saw blocks from Plaintiff's residence. Id. James Chambers stated that he visited the nearby residence several times a day to ensure that the home is being warmed by a fire to in order to avoid high heating bills. Id. at ¶ 27.

         On January 7, another officer obtained a statement from Fred Chambers' co-worker who stated that Fred was at his shop the morning of January 5 and worked there for most of the day. Id. at ¶ 26. James Chambers stated that Fred never used the truck that day. Id. at ¶ 27. Sergeant Rodriguez provided a supplemental narrative to his report. ECF No. 13-2 at 5. Dorothy Chambers shared a photo with him of a truck similar to Fred's truck that was seen blocks from Plaintiff's residence. ECF No. 12 at ¶¶ 25, 28. However, Plaintiff alleged that “[o]n information and belief, Ms. Dorothy Chambers provided a picture of the look-a-like truck that was a brown Dodge . . . [s]he did not provide any information related to the white Ford Mr. Chambers was driving that day.” Id. at ¶ 29.

         Sergeant Rodriguez added that Dorothy was given a copy of camera footage of Fred at the shop during the time Plaintiff alleged to have seen him near her house. ECF No. 13-2 at 5. Sergeant Rodriguez viewed the footage. Id. He noted that cameras from the shop showed Fred's brown Dodge truck in the parking lot and Fred working in the shop wearing a t-shirt and ball cap. Id. Sergeant Rodriguez wrote that he requested the District Attorney's Office to review his report for possible charges against Plaintiff for false reporting to authorities. Id. at 6; ECF No. 12 at ¶ 30.

         On January 17, the criminal protection order against Fred Chambers was vacated and the charges against him for violating the restraining orders and for felony stalking related to the June 7 allegation were dismissed. ECF No. 12 at ¶ 42. Plaintiff alleged that these actions occurred based on Sergeant Rodriguez's incident report. Id.

         The District Attorney in Rio Grande County chose not to file the misdemeanor charge of false reporting against Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 43. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Chief Evan Lopez determined that the charge be filed in Monte Vista Municipal Court. Id. at ¶¶ 31, 44. After Plaintiff expressed disbelief of the charges, Chief Lopez told her by phone that he would support his officers. Id. at ¶ 39.

         On February 11, 2017, Ms. Stonefield was served with a Summons and Complaint signed by Sergeant Rodriguez referencing a violation date of January 5, 2017, charging her with false reporting to authorities in violation of Monte Vista City Code § 8-2-60(a)(2). Id. at ¶¶ 31, 32. Two officers of the Monte Vista Police Department called for Plaintiff and brought the summons to her house, requiring her to sign the summons prior to leaving. Id. at ¶¶ 54, 55. Plaintiff alleged that she “felt that she would be arrested if she did not sign the summons and was certainly not free to leave during the time that the officers waited for her to sign the summons.” Id. at ¶ 56.

         On May 9, 2017, the attorney for the City of Monte Vista moved to dismiss the case against Plaintiff due to a lack of evidence, namely the failure to produce videos showing Fred Chambers working in a shop during the time Plaintiff alleged to have seen him near her house. Id. at ¶ 46. Since she was charged, Plaintiff alleged that she has “restrained from reporting [Fred] Chambers' repeated violations of his protection order for fear of retaliation by the Monte Vista Police Department and the named Defendants, including most recently on December 14, 2018.” Id. at ¶ 50.

         Plaintiff brought suit in January 2019, alleging three claims of relief in her Amended Complaint: (1) deprivation of her First Amendment right to petition the government for a redress of grievances in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all Defendants; (2) deprivation of her Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the laws in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (3) deprivation of her Fourteenth Amendment right to procedural due process in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF No. 12 ¶¶ 65-86. Defendants move to dismiss the Amended Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). ECF No. 13.

         II. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

         I accept the “well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and must construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Alvarado v. KOB-TV, L.L.C., 493 F.3d 1210, 1215 (10th Cir. 2007). To avoid dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain enough allegations of fact, taken as true, ‘to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1190 (10th Cir. 2012) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that enables the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Two ...


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