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Madia Law Files 4th Amendment Lawsuit Against Bloomington Police Officer Jeff Thibert

On Monday, Madia Law filed suit in United States District Court on behalf of Plaintiff Tammy Liddle against Bloomington Police Officer Jeff Thibert.  Ms. Liddle’s federal lawsuit (14-CV-431-JNE/JSM) alleges unreasonable search and seizure, unlawful arrest, and excessive force.  Ms. Liddle is also in possession of squad cam video of the subject incident.

Bloomington City Hall
Bloomington City Hall

 

Below is a copy of the Complaint, with some names redacted:

INTRODUCTION

1. This is an unreasonable search and seizure, unlawful arrest, and excessive force civil rights action for money damages pursuant to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Title 42 United States Code § 1983.

2. The ability to safely, calmly, and professionally interact with the public without rage and violence is an intrinsic and basic part of law enforcement. On the cold and rainy morning of December 15, 2012, Defendant showed a complete lack of these essential skills, a blatant disrespect for the laws of the United States, and an abhorrent disregard for the civil rights and dignity of Ms. Tammy Liddle. At approximately 9:00 am, with no reasonable suspicion, no probable cause, nor any rational basis whatsoever, Defendant performed a traffic stop of a law-abiding, peaceful, and cooperative Ms. Liddle, who is 5’ 3” and 130 lbs.; Defendant subsequently ripped Mr. Liddle out of the driver’s side of her vehicle, threw her onto the pavement, and slammed her face into the ground.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

3. Plaintiff’s claims are based on Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This Court, therefore, has federal question subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343.

4. Venue in this Court is appropriate pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 1391, as the parties are citizens of the State and District of Minnesota. Further, the unlawful practices alleged herein occurred within this State and District.

PARTIES

5. Plaintiff Tammy Liddle is a 49-year-old resident and domiciliary of Minnesota with no criminal record.

6. Upon information and belief, Defendant Jeff Thibert was and still is a police officer for the City of Bloomington, Minnesota.

7. Defendant Thibert is a “person” acting, at all times relevant to this Complaint, “under the color of state law” and in the scope of his official duties, as within the meaning of Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

8. On the morning of December 15, 2012, Plaintiff Tammy Liddle was returning home after spending some time with friends and acquaintances at a local casino. Ms. Liddle offered to drive several individuals home.

9. Ms. Liddle is a law-abiding citizen and does not consume alcohol and does not use illegal drugs.

10. Ms. Liddle was not under the influence of alcohol, narcotics (prescription or otherwise), nor any other substance that impaired her ability to drive.

11. Among those who Ms. Liddle provided a ride home were [redacted], [redacted], and [redacted].

12. Ms. Liddle first dropped off Ms. [redacted], and was on her way to drop off Ms. [redacted] and Mr. [redacted] while driving on Old Shakopee Road in Bloomington, Minnesota. The weather was cold and rainy, with freezing rain and icy road conditions. There was light-to-medium level traffic.

13. Ms. Liddle was driving a silver Ford Taurus, which had been recently purchased for her by her boyfriend.

14. Ms. Liddle was abiding by all traffic laws and was not engaged in any activity that a reasonable officer in Defendant’s position would or could consider remotely suspicious.

15. Ms. Liddle drove slightly under the speed limit and slowed upon arriving at a railroad crossing. Ms. Liddle’s driving precautions were completely ordinary, particularly in light of the weather and road conditions.

16. Defendant, acting on unprofessional, misguided, and ill-conceived judgments regarding the appearance of the car’s occupants, and with no legitimate reasonable suspicion or probable cause of any sort, proceeded to conduct a traffic stop of Ms. Liddle’s vehicle.

17. After Defendant approached Ms. Liddle’s vehicle, he asked for her identification and for the name of the owner of the vehicle. Ms. Liddle provided the Defendant with her driver’s license and explained that the owner of the vehicle was her boyfriend, who had just recently purchased the vehicle for her. Ms. Liddle also provided the Defendant with paperwork indicating that her boyfriend owned the vehicle.

18. When Defendant asked why the two passengers were sitting in the backseat, Ms. Liddle explained that they had just dropped off Ms. [redacted].

19. Defendant then returned to his squad car and conducted a license and warrant check on Ms. Liddle. The Defendant’s learned that Ms. Liddle’s license status was valid and that her National Crime Information Center (“NCIC”) status was clear.

20. Defendant next checked the Vehicle Identification Number (“VIN”) from the vehicle purchase contract and the buyer’s guide, which Ms. Liddle had provided. Although nearly identical, the VIN on each piece of paper was different by one character.

21. During this time, another officer arrived at the scene. Defendant exited his vehicle, approached the other officer and began stating “these fucking people…” before stopping to suggest to the other officer that he and Defendant shut their microphones off, which both officers subsequently did. This action demonstrates that Defendant clearly had the intent to suppress evidence to cover up his illegal conduct.

22. Defendant returned to Ms. Liddle’s vehicle and informed Ms. Liddle that the VIN did not match on the two pieces of paper.

23. Ms. Liddle offered to call the dealer to verify that the car had been legally purchased, or in the alternative, indicated that the Defendant could do the same.

24. Defendant did not acknowledge Ms. Liddle’s suggestion; he instead opened the back door of the vehicle and asked Mr. [redacted] for his identification, despite having no legitimate reason for doing so.

25. Mr. [redacted] provided Defendant with his identification, which he explained was an expired copy but that his identification was indeed current and he had simply lost the current copy with his wallet.

26. Defendant then asked Mr. [redacted] whether he had been arrested before. Mr. [redacted] stated that he had not.

27. In an obvious attempt to harass and intimidate Mr. [redacted] and the car occupants, Defendant inexcusably and without any reasonable suspicion, asked Mr. [redacted] when the last time that he had used meth (methamphetamine) was. Mr. [redacted] responded that he had never used meth.

28. Defendant continued to harass Mr. [redacted] by making accusatory statements that effectively implied that Defendant believed Mr. [redacted] used illegal drugs.

29. Despite Mr. [redacted] repeatedly stating that he did not use drugs, Defendant opened the door and instructed Mr. [redacted] to get out of the vehicle. Defendant then performed a pat-down search of Mr. [redacted], finding no drugs or any drug-related paraphernalia on him.

30. Defendant returned to the driver side of Ms. Liddle’s vehicle and proceeded to ask her whether there were any narcotics in the vehicle. Ms. Liddle informed Defendant that she was not aware of any. Defendant refused to accept that he had no evidence of illegal drug use and/or possession and again accused Mr. [redacted] of using illegal drugs.

31. Defendant then turned his harassing, intimidating, and illegal behavior back to Ms. Liddle by saying that he was going to search the vehicle and would find narcotics. Ms. Liddled again informed Defendant that she did not use drugs.

32. Defendant, showing a complete lack of respect for his profession, the laws of the United States, and for Ms. Liddle, ignored Ms. Liddle’s statements and continued harassing her and stating that he would search the vehicle and would find narcotics.

33. Defendant stated to Ms. Liddle that he still had to check the VIN, so Ms. Liddle began to sit back down in the driver’s seat—using the door to support her as she sat down.

34. As Ms. Liddle sat down, the Defendant angrily shouted “WHAT?!” at her while yanking the door wide open.

35. Ms. Liddle, completely unaware of what Defendant was about to do, began to respond that Defendant could go ahead and check the VIN.

36. In a horrific and shocking display of violence, Defendant reached into the vehicle and dragged Ms. Liddle out. As Ms. Liddle began to scream, Defendant then threw her to the ground and shoved her head into the pavement, causing Ms. Liddle to suffer brutal facial lacerations and chipping her teeth.

37. The Defendant then shouted that Ms Liddle had tried to slam the door shut on him—a statement that is clearly controverted by video evidence.

38. When Ms. Liddle cried out that she hadn’t done anything wrong, Defendant repeated his false statements, alleging that she had tried to slam the door on him, and declared that she was going to jail.

39. Defendant then handcuffed Ms. Liddle and placed her in the squad car.

40. When Defendant returned to the squad car, he continued his attempts to rationalize his unjustifiable use of force against Ms. Liddle. Defendant further, and absurdly, accused Ms. Liddle of grinding her teeth at him.

41. Defendant returned to Ms. Liddle’s vehicle and removed Mr. [redacted] and Ms. [redacted] from the vehicle.

42. Defendant then began to search Ms. Liddle’s vehicle. Defendant had not obtained consent, nor had Defendant found any other reason to justify a search of the vehicle. Defendant had no reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause that any crime had been committed by anyone; nor did Defendant conducted a lawful arrest or any have other reason that would allow him to search the vehicle.

43. Defendant searched throughout the vehicle, including the trunk, removing several computer bags and searching through those as well. The only property Defendant found

were computers and USB-devices, which are used to conveniently store and transport information.

44. Despite the ordinary nature of these pieces of property, and despite the fact that Defendant had no reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause relating to them, Defendant confiscated the items from the vehicle.

45. Once Defendant returned to the police station, Defendant began searching through information saved on the USB-devices, despite having no consent, no reasonable suspicion, no probable cause, no warrant, and no other reason that would legally justify such a search.

46. Defendant booked Ms. Liddle in jail, where as a result of her detention, Ms. Liddle lost her job and eventually her house.

47. Defendant’s conduct throughout this matter was deplorable, demonstrating a complete lack of respect for the laws of the United States and the duties and responsibilities of police officers. Defendant violated the constitutional rights of Ms. Liddle and the occupants of her vehicle by performing unauthorized searches and seizures without reasonable suspicion, probable cause, consent, warrant, and/or any other justifiable basis. Further, Defendant violated Ms. Liddle’s constitutional rights by unlawfully arresting her without any probable cause. And, Defendant’s brutal excessive use of force on Ms. Liddle was appalling and unconstitutional.

48. In a blatant attempt to account for his illegal conduct, Defendant concocted a false story and then desperately sought to find any shred of incriminating evidence he could, though not one bit of such evidence existed.

49. At the time of these events, Ms. Liddle was not charged with any crime. Months later, however, Defendant learned that Ms. Liddle had retained an attorney and had the intent to sue. In yet another attempt to legitimize Defendant’s conduct, Ms. Liddle was then charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing legal process. The timeliness of these charges, which were intended to rationalize Defendant’s conduct, instead show a continued effort by Defendant to fabricate his story.

50. Upon information and belief, for reasons unknown to Ms. Liddle, no disciplinary actions or criminal charges have been levied against Defendant for his illegal and abhorrent actions relating to these events.

51. As a result of Defendant Thibert’s illegal conduct, Ms. Liddle has suffered numerous injuries and damages. In addition to severe pain, Ms. Liddle has suffered physical, emotional, and economic injury, including but not limited to: damage to her teeth, physical pain, garden-variety emotional distress, fear, humiliation, embarrassment, anxiety, apprehension, sleeplessness, a generally diminished sense of personal and family safety, outrage, medical fees, loss of employment and income, loss of housing, attorneys’ fees, the costs of bringing suit, and other damages to be further determined at trial.

COUNT 1:

UNLAWFUL ARREST

THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUITON – TITLE 42 U.S.C. § 1983

52. Ms. Liddle incorporates the allegations set forth in each of the preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.

53. Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 prohibits, inter alia, state actors from depriving persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the United States Constitution, including the right to be free from unlawful arrest secured by the Fourth Amendment and incorporated through the Fourteenth Amendment. This right was clearly established at all times relevant to this complaint.

54. In violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Defendant, acting under the color of state law, deprived Ms. Liddle of her constitutionally protected rights by arresting her without probable cause that any crime had been committed.

55. Defendant’s actions were not objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment or for purposes of qualified immunity under the totality of circumstances.

56. As a direct and proximate result of Defendant’s actions, Ms. Liddle has been injured by being deprived of her liberty, as well as suffering physical, emotional, and economic injury, including but not limited to: damage to her teeth, physical pain, garden-variety emotional distress, fear, humiliation, embarrassment, anxiety, apprehension, sleeplessness, a generally diminished sense of personal and family safety, outrage, medical fees, loss of employment and income, loss of housing, attorneys’ fees, the costs of bringing suit, and other damages to be further determined at trial.

57. Defendant, as a result of his outrageous and illegal behavior, is liable to Ms. Liddle for the aforementioned injuries, as well as for punitive damages.

58. Total damages suffered by Ms. Liddle as a result of Defendant’s conduct are in excess of $75,000.00, to be further determined at trial.

COUNT 2:

UNREASONABLE SEARCH AND SEIZURE

THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUITON – TITLE 42 U.S.C. § 1983

59. Ms. Liddle incorporates the allegations set forth in each of the preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.

60. Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 prohibits state actors from depriving persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the United States Constitution, including the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment and incorporated through the Fourteenth Amendment. This right was clearly established at all times relevant to this Complaint.

61. In violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Defendant, acting under the color of state law, deprived Ms. Liddle of her constitutionally protected rights by unreasonably searching and seizing her property without reasonable suspicion or probable cause, without her consent, without a warrant, and without any other legitimate reason for doing so.

62. Defendant’s actions were not objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment or for purposes of qualified immunity under the totality of circumstances.

63. As a direct and proximate result of Defendant’s actions, Ms. Liddle has been injured by being deprived of her privacy, as well as suffering physical, emotional, and economic injury, including but not limited to: damage to her teeth, physical pain, garden-variety emotional distress, fear, humiliation, embarrassment, anxiety, apprehension, sleeplessness, a generally diminished sense of personal and family safety, outrage, medical fees, loss of employment and income, loss of housing, attorneys’ fees, the costs of bringing suit, and other damages to be further determined at trial.

64. Defendant, as a result of his outrageous and illegal behavior, is liable to Ms. Liddle for the aforementioned injuries as well as punitive damages.

65. Total damages suffered by Ms. Liddle as a result of Defendant’s conduct are in excess of $75,000.00, to be further determined at trial.

COUNT 3:

EXCESSIVE FORCE

THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUITON – TITLE 42 U.S.C. § 1983

66. Ms. Liddle incorporates the allegations set forth in each of the preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.

67. Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 prohibits state actors from depriving persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the United States Constitution, including the right to be free from excessive force as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment and incorporated through the Fourteenth Amendment. This right was clearly established at all times relevant to this Complaint.

68. In violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Defendant, acting under the color of state law, deprived Ms. Liddle of her constitutionally protected right to be free from the use of excessive force when Defendant, in a fit of unjustifiable rage, pulled Ms. Liddle from her vehicle and slammed her to the pavement, shoving her head into the ground.

69. Defendant’s actions were not objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment or for purposes of qualified immunity under the totality of circumstances.

70. As a direct and proximate result of Defendant’s actions, Ms. Liddle has been injured by being deprived of her right to be free from excessive force, as well as suffering physical, emotional, and economic injury, including but not limited to: damage to her teeth, physical pain, garden-variety emotional distress, fear, humiliation, embarrassment, anxiety, apprehension, sleeplessness, a generally diminished sense of personal and family safety, outrage, medical fees, loss of employment and income, loss of housing, attorneys’ fees, the costs of bringing suit, and other damages to be further determined at trial.

71. Defendant, as a result of his outrageous and illegal behavior, is liable to Ms. Liddle for the aforementioned injuries as well as punitive damages.

72. Total damages suffered by Ms. Liddle as a result of Defendant’s conduct are in excess of $75,000.00, to be further determined at trial.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff requests that this Court:

Enter a judgment in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendant as follows:

A. An order granting Plaintiff judgment against Defendant;

B. An order granting Plaintiff compensatory damages in such amount as a jury may determine but not less than $75,000.00;

C. An order granting Plaintiff punitive damages in such amount as a jury may determine but not less than $75,000.00;

D. An order granting Plaintiff injunctive and declaratory relief against Defendant, whereby Defendant is temporarily and permanently enjoined and restrained from any further unlawful behavior, harassment, discrimination, and retaliation of the Plaintiff;

E. An order for Defendant to pay Plaintiff’s costs, interest, and attorneys’ fees, as allowed under Title 42 U.S.C. § 1988;

F. An order for Defendant to pay any and all further relief available, such as any relief this Court may consider equitable or appropriate.

Plaintiff demands a jury trial.

Dated: February 17, 2014

MADIA LAW LLC

s/Joshua A. Newville                     
Joshua A. Newville, MN #395221
J. Ashwin Madia, MN #321187
ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFF