United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ABELARDO AVILEX CARBAJAL, ET AL.
JERRY LARPENTER et al
ORDER AND REASONS
E. FALLON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendants Dallas Bookenberger's and Joseph
Renfro's Motion to Dismiss. R. Doc. 9. Plaintiffs
Abelardo Avilex Carbajal, Santa D. Carbajal, and Max Carbajal
have filed an opposition to the Motion. R. Doc. 16.
Defendants timely reply. R. Doc. 21. Having reviewed the
parties' arguments and the applicable law, the Court now
issues this Order and Reasons.
Avilex Carbajal (“Mr. Carbajal”), Santa D.
Carbajal (“Mrs. Carbajal”), and Max Carbajal
(“Max” and together, “Plaintiffs”)
have filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim alleging injuries
sustained during an action of alleged police misconduct.
Plaintiffs claim that Defendants Jerry Larpenter, Sheriff of
Terrebonne Parish (“Larpenter”), Dallas
Bookenberger, a narcotics agent of Terrebonne Parish
Sheriff's Narcotics Strike Force
(“Bookenberger”), Travis Sanford, a narcotics
agent of Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Narcotics Strike
Force (“Sanford”), and Joseph Renfro, a narcotics
agent of Terrebonne Parish Sherriff's Narcotics Strike
Force (“Renfro” and together,
“Defendants”) violated their civil rights during
the preparation and execution of a search warrant on July 16,
2015. R. Doc. 1 at 1-4.
events in question began when agents Bookenberger, Renfro,
and Sanford allegedly conducted several “trash pulls,
” in which they emptied trashcans located in front of
the Carbajal residence. Id. at 5. The first
“trash pull, ” which occurred on July 7, 2015 at
4:31 a.m., allegedly yielded white plastic packaging wrapped
with grey duct tape that agents tested with an NIK field test
kit. The packaging tested positive for cocaine residue.
Id. at 5. The second “trash pull” was
conducted by the same three agents on July 14, 2015, and
allegedly yielded “marijuana shake” weighing .34
grams. Agents again used an NIK field test kit to test the
substance; the test showed a presumptive result of THC.
Id. at 5-6.
claim that Bookenberger, assisted by Sanford and Renfro, then
executed a 13-page affidavit for a search warrant alleging
that Mr. Abelardo Carbajal engaged in a multi-year course of
conduct involving the large scale distribution of cocaine and
marijuana in Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption Parishes.
Id. at 2. Plaintiffs claim the information in that
affidavit regarding their criminal culpability was
“untrue, wildly speculative, or made with reckless
disregard for the truth.” Id.
basis of this affidavit, Judge David Arceneaux, a State
District Court Judge of Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, signed
the search warrant dated July 15, 2016. Id. at 3. At
approximately 5:09 a.m. on July 16, 2015, thirty-three agents
from the Terrebonne Narcotics Task Force, the Terrebonne
Parish Sheriff's Office, the Department of Homeland
Security, the United States Customs Service, and the
Louisiana State Police raided Plaintiffs' residence.
Id. at 4. Plaintiffs allege that agents removed Mr.
and Mrs. Carbajal from their bed, handcuffed them, and had
them lay on the floor for the duration of the search; Mrs.
Carbajal, who was not clothed, claims a request for a blanket
was denied. Id. Agents also handcuffed Max.
Id. Plaintiffs maintain that agents removed paneling
from their walls and emptied every drawer in their home. They
further assert that the agents searched an outbuilding
occupied by another relative, and searched all of their
oyster vessels located down Bayou Dularge next to the home,
including one owned by Mr. Carbajal's daughter and
son-in-law. Id. at 4-5. Agents allegedly seized
pistols legally owned by Mr. Carbajal, ammunition, paperwork,
various cell phones, a purse, and $1, 212.50. Id. at
5. This search lasted approximately 2.5 hours. Id.
items were entered into evidence along with the items
obtained through the earlier “trash pulls, ”
though the affidavit did not detail from which trash cans
this evidence came nor how the agents determined the items
belonged to Mr. Carbajal. Id. The evidence was also
never sent to the State Police lab for confirmation of the
positive field test results. Id. at 6.
the agents' search of the Carbajal residence yielded
nothing illegal, Mr. Carbajal was nonetheless arrested on an
arrest warrant signed and executed on the basis of Agent
Bookenberger's affidavit. Id. at 6. Mr. Carbajal
was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine
and marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Id. at 6. The Government's case against Mr.
Carbajal was subsequently dismissed on October 8, 2015 by
Judge George Larke in the 32nd Judicial District Court for
Terrebonne Parish, who reportedly called the case “one
of the weakest he had ever seen.” Id. at 11.
maintain that the search warrant affidavit signed by Agent
Bookenberger was so false as to indicate bad faith and ill
intent, and upon removal of the false and speculative
content, the remainder does not set forth probable cause to
support the issuance of a search or arrest warrant.
Id. at 7. Plaintiffs allege that the bulk of the
affidavit providing justification for the search and arrest
warrant was based on information provided by purported
confidential informants, the names of whom Defendants refused
to disclose in state court. Id. at 7-12. Plaintiffs
detail the purportedly false and unsubstantiated information.
Id. Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants misled
the prosecutor into filing charges on the basis of a false
affidavit. R. Doc. 1 at 7-12.
loss includes approximately $10, 000 in damage to their home
and property, as well as the cash seized and forfeited during
the search. Id. at 6. Plaintiffs also assert other
losses such as extreme mental anguish, humiliation, physical
pain and suffering, among others. Id. at 12-14. In
total, Plaintiffs seek $1, 500, 000 in damages. Id.
11, 2017, the Court issued an order dismissing Defendants
Larpenter and Sanford, as Plaintiffs agreed their claims
against these Defendants were barred by qualified immunity.
Additionally, the Court dismissed Plaintiffs' Fifth
Amendment claims against all Defendants. See R. Doc.
pending before the Court is Defendants Bookenberger and
Renfro's Motion to Dismiss. R. Doc. 9. Plaintiffs
responded in opposition. R. Doc. 16. After reviewing the
parties motions and the applicable law, the Court instructed
Plaintiffs to submit additional briefing addressing
Defendants Bookenberger and Renfro's qualified immunity
defense. R. Doc. 24. On June 9, 2017, Plaintiff submitted a
supplemental opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss.
R. Doc. 25. The Court will discuss each in turn.
Defendants Bookenberger and Renfro's Motion to Dismiss
(R. Doc. 9-1)
Bookenberger and Renfro assert qualified immunity and argue
that Plaintiffs' Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims
must be dismissed. They contend that Plaintiffs' state
law claims must be dismissed on similar grounds, or in the
alternative, that ...