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Seventh Circuit Upholds Malicious Prosecution and False Arrest Dismissal

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld the dismissal of false arrest and malicious prosecution claims of two Illinois men.

Jai Crutcher was incarcerated on Illinois offenses from 2002 to 2010. He was released in December 2010, but returned to prison for domestic battery in January 2011. He was discharged on mandatory supervised release in March 2011. After his release, Crutcher moved in with his adopted brother, Christopher Colbert.

In late March 2011, police received a tip from an informant that Crutcher possessed a 40-caliber semi-automatic handgun and a 12-gauge shotgun. Based on that information, police and parole officers raided Crutcher’s residence on March 31, 2011.

Crutcher and Colbert were handcuffed as their residence was searched. When police discovered a locked door, Colbert said was his bedroom. A parole officer then wrestled Colbert to the ground, took the keys to the room, entered and discovered a twelve-gauge shotgun, about 100 rounds of ammunition, and an empty case for a forty-caliber semiautomatic handgun. The shotgun was registered to the City of Chicago. The handgun was not recovered, but Colbert admitted that he owned both firearms.

Police arrested Crutcher and Colbert but Colbert was released later the same day and the charges against him were dismissed. Officer Russell Willingham submitted a false criminal complaint against Crutcher, claiming that Crutcher admitted that he had full knowledge the firearms were in the residence. Crutcher claims that he actually told Willingham that the shotgun was not his and he did not know that Colbert had a firearm in the house.

The trial court dismissed the complaint on April 19, 2011, finding no probable cause. In May 2011, however, a grand jury charged Crutcher with firearms possession and armed habitual criminal offenses. A jury found Crutcher not guilty on February 28, 2012.

Crutcher and Colbert then brought federal suit, alleging that the officers subjected them to malicious prosecution and false arrest under Illinois law and the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The district court granted Defendants summary judgment on all claims.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Crutcher’s malicious prosecution claim, finding that “the fact that Crutcher was indicted by a grand jury defeats his claim.”

The court found that Willingham’s false statements did not allow the claim to survive. “While Officer Willingham’s allegedly false statement constitutes a post-arrest action, there is no evidence that it influenced the prosecutor’s decision to indict, or that the prosecutor relied on it to obtain an indictment,” the court found. “And there is no evidence connecting Officer Willingham’s allegedly false report to Office Berry’s grand-jury testimony. Without more, there is no basis to infer that Officer Willingham’s allegedly false report precluded the grand-jury indictment from breaking the chain of causation between Crutcher’s arrest and prosecution.”

The Court also affirmed the dismissal of Colbert’s Fourth Amendment false arrest claims related to the search of his person and property damage police caused during the search. “Colbert did not adequately plead his claims regarding the search of his person and bedroom,” the court found. “Introducing them in his” summary judgment response “was not sufficient to survive that motion.” The court also concluded that Colbert failed to prove that any particular officer was responsible for the property damage during the search. “At summary judgment, however, Colbert must put forth evidence to support that claim,” the court explained. “He did not. Finding no genuine dispute of material fact regarding the named officers’ personal responsibility for the alleged misconduct, summary judgment on this claim was proper. 

See: Colbert v. City of Chicago, 851 F.3d 649 (7th Cir. 2017).

 

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Related legal case

Colbert v. City of Chicago

 

 

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