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Watkins v. Eschete

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 13, 2015

GLENN WATKINS, ET AL.,
v.
TOMMY ESCHETE, ET AL., Section

ORDER AND REASONS

IVAN L.R. LEMELLE, District Judge.

I. NATURE OF MOTION AND RELIEF SOUGHT

Before the Court are Defendants' 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (Rec. Doc. 5) and Plaintiffs' Response thereto (Rec. Doc. 11).

IT IS ORDERED that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, as explained fully below.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND FACTS OF THE CASE

Plaintiffs, Glenn and Jonathan Watkins, bring this action for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants, Tommy Eschete, the Mayor of Thibodaux, Louisiana (individually and in his official capacity); Thibodaux Police officers Jamey Fontenot, Ricky Ross, Varick Taylor, Jr. (individually and in their official capacities); Scott Silverii, the Chief of the Thibodaux Police Department (individually and in his official capacity); and the City of Thibodaux.[1] Plaintiffs' claims arise out of their arrest in connection with an investigation into the slashing of the tires of a number of vehicles owned by the Thibodaux Police Department (the "Police Department") on two occasions, in May and June of 2011. (See Rec. Doc. 1 at 3-4). The Police Department enlisted the aid of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office (the "Sheriff's Office") to investigate the incident. (Rec. Doc. 5-1 at 1). According to Plaintiffs, during the course of the investigation, Defendants Silverii, Fontenot, and/or Ross colluded with Shontell Clark, an individual incarcerated at the Lafourche Parish Detention Center on unrelated charges and alleged to be a confidential informant, to assist him in fabricating a story that would implicate Plaintiffs in the tire-slashing incident. (Rec. Doc. 1 at 5-6). Clark's participation was allegedly solicited in return for the dismissal of certain charges pending against him. (Rec. Doc. 1 at 5-6). Although the Complaint sets out the facts rather disjointedly, the ostensible motivation for the alleged collusion was for Defendant Silverii to implicate non-party Police Captain, Calvin Cooks, in the tire-slashing incident for political reasons. (See Rec. Doc. 1 at 5).[2] To this end, according to Plaintiffs, Defendants directed Clark to notify Sheriff's Office investigators he had been informed that Captain Cooks paid Plaintiffs to slash the tires of the police vehicles. (Rec. Doc. 1 at 6). The facts indicate that at some point prior to Clark's communication with investigators, he and Plaintiff, Jonathan Watkins, were held in the same housing unit of the Lafourche Parish Detention Center. (Rec. Doc. 1 at 5-6, Rec. Doc. 5-1 at 3). Neither party addresses the significance of this fact. The implication, however, is that the period of concurrent incarceration would have afforded Clark opportunity to learn about the tire-slashing plot from Plaintiff Jonathan Watkins.[3]

Based on the information provided by Clark to investigators, Plaintiff, Jonathan Watkins, was approached on August 16, 2011 and, after waiving his rights, confessed to the tire slashing while also implicating Plaintiff, Glenn Watkins. (Rec. Doc. 5-1 at 5). An arrest warrant was issued for Glenn Watkins on August 16, 2011 and he was arrested on August 19, 2011. Id. at 6. Although he appears to have initially contested his involvement, Glenn Watkins ultimately confessed on October 17, 2011. Id. at 7. For reasons that are not explained, the charges against both Plaintiffs were later dismissed by the Lafourche Parish District Attorney on or about February 7, 2013. (Rec. Doc. 1 at 10).

Plaintiffs' Complaint seeks damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in connection with alleged violations of their constitutional rights "to freedom from illegal seizure of their person, freedom from unlawful arrest, and freedom from illegal detention and imprisonment, " as well as Defendants' knowing pursuit of "false arrests and unjust prosecutions." (Rec. Doc. 1 at 7-8). Finally, Plaintiffs invoke this Court's pendent jurisdiction "to entertain claims arising under state law." (Rec. Doc. 1 at 2).

III. CONTENTIONS OF MOVANTS

Defendants move for dismissal on two primary grounds. First, they argue any causes of action arising out of the alleged acts of Defendants were prescribed by the time of the filing of the instant suit on February 5, 2014, under the one-year prescriptive period of La. Civ. Code art. 3492 for delictual actions, made applicable under pertinent federal case law. See, e.g., Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276-80, 105 S.Ct. 1983, 1947-1950, 85 L.Ed.2d 254 (1985). Defendants characterize Plaintiffs' claims as ones for involuntary confession, wrongful arrest, and wrongful prosecution. (See Rec. Doc. 5-1 at 5-8). They argue that a separate prescriptive period runs for each claim, and as to each Plaintiff respectively, as follows:[4]

Plaintiff Jonathan Watkins

(1) Involuntary Confession: Jonathan Watkins confessed to his involvement in the tire-slashing incident on August 16, 2011. Any claims relating to his confession prescribed on August 16, 2012.
(2) Wrongful Arrest: Jonathan Watkins was arrested in connection with the incident on August 19, 2011. His claim should have prescribed on August 19, 2012, one-year from the date of his knowledge of his arrest.[5]
(3) Wrongful Prosecution: Jonathan Watkins pled guilty to eleven counts of property damage on March 26, 2012. As such, his claim for wrongful prosecution prescribed on March 26, 2013, or at the latest, on February 8, 2014 (the apparent date of his release).[6]

Plaintiff Glenn Watkins

(1) Involuntary Confession: Glenn Watkins confessed to his involvement in the incident on October 17, 2011; his claims relating thereto prescribed on October 17, 2012.
(2) Wrongful Arrest: Glenn Watkins' claims relating to his arrest prescribed on August 19, 2012, one year from the date of his arrest.
(3) Wrongful Prosecution: Charges were dropped by the District Attorney prior to trial, so any claims by Glenn Watkins relating to wrongful prosecution are moot.

Defendants' second basis for moving to dismiss is that they are not properly made parties to Plaintiffs' causes of action. According to Defendants, the acts of which Plaintiffs complain were committed by members of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office, who conducted the investigation and arrests leading up to the subsequent prosecution by the Lafourche Parish District Attorney's Office. Defendants, various members of the ...


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