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Bell v. City of Los Angeles

December 20, 2011

BELL
v.
CITY OF LOS ANGELES, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Present: The Honorable A. Howard Matz, U.S. District Judge

CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

S. Eagle Not Reported Deputy Clerk Court Reporter / Recorder Tape No.

Attorneys NOT Present for Plaintiffs: Attorneys NOT Present for Defendants:

Proceedings: IN CHAMBERS (No Proceedings Held)

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Robert Bell brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants City of Los Angeles, Detective Dennis Derr, and Officer Cynthia Torres for false arrest, unlawful search of his vehicle, malicious prosecution, and unlawful detention.*fn1 Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment.*fn2

Defendants seek summary judgment on all claims with respect to the City of Los Angeles. With regard to the individual defendants, Defendants seek summary adjudication on all claims except for the unlawful detention claim. The individual defendants assert that they did not violate Plaintiff's constitutional rights and, in the alternative, that they are entitled to qualified immunity.

For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion on all claims against the City of Los Angeles. In addition, with respect to the individual Defendants, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion as to the false arrest and malicious prosecution claims, but DENIES the motion as to the unlawful search claim.

Also before the Court is Plaintiff's request to present newly obtained evidence in opposition to the defense's motion for summary judgment.*fn3 For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's request, but finds that the new evidence does not affect Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment.

FACTS*fn4

On May 6, 2008, Los Angeles Police Department officers Abraham Estrada and Kevin Stephan received a call to investigate an attempted kidnapping. Defendants' Statement of Uncontroverted Facts (SUF) ¶ 1. The officers subsequently met Nicole Holtmann, a high school student, and her father Stephen Holtmann. SUF ¶¶ 2, 19.

A. Nicole Holtmann's First Interview

Nicole Holtmann gave the officers the following account. At 3:45 pm that day, while she was walking in the area of Victory and Balboa Boulevards in Van Nuys, she noticed a black Mercedes Benz following her. SUF ¶ 3. The Mercedes had dark tinted windows and made her afraid to return home. SUF ¶ 4. Ms. Holtmann boarded the Orange Line bus and took it to Sepulveda Boulevard and Busway. SUF ¶ 5. After she alighted, Ms. Holtmann began walking south on Sepulveda. SUF ¶ 6. She noticed that the black Mercedes was still following her. SUF ¶ 7.

The black Mercedes pulled into a parking lot and the driver rolled down his window. SUF ¶ 8. He asked Ms. Holtmann where she was going, if he could give her a ride, and for her name and telephone number. SUF ¶¶9, 10. Ms. Holtmann gave the driver a false name, turned around, and began walking north on Sepulveda. SUF ¶ 10. The driver then drove through the parking lot, pulled in front of Ms. Holtmann, and blocked her path. SUF ¶ 11. He exited the vehicle and then used his right hand to grab her left arm. SUF ¶ 12. Ms. Holtmann panicked, pulled away, and ran north on Sepulveda. SUF ¶ 13. After telling officer Estrada and Stephan what happened, Ms. Holtmann described the driver. SUF ¶ 16, 17.

B. Nicole Holtmann's Second Interview

As the police soon discovered, Ms. Holtmann's account of the incident was not entirely accurate. Another LAPD officer, Detective Eum, read Officer Estrada's report and decided to conduct another interview with Ms. Holtmann. SUF ¶ 19. On May, 7, 2008, the day after Ms. Holtmann had first spoken to the police, Detectives Eum and Derr interviewed Ms. Holtmann at her high school. Ana Martinez, a high school counselor, was initially present at this interview. SUF ¶ 20. During the interview, Ms. Holtmann gave the same account as she had given previously. SUF ¶ 21. But upon noticing some discrepancies related to the location of the incident, Detective Eum confronted Ms. Holtmann with the inconsistencies in her story. SUF ¶ 22--24. Ms. Holtmann then asked her counselor, Ms. Martinez, to leave the room. SUF ¶ 24.

After the counselor had left the room, Ms. Holtmann explained the discrepancies in her story. SUF ¶ 27. In her previous story Ms. Holtmann had stated that she first saw the black Mercedes near the intersection of Victory and Balboa boulevards-close to her school. SUF ¶ 3. In fact, Ms. Holtmann admitted, she had cut school that day and gone to her boyfriend's house. SUF ¶ 30. She first noticed the black Mercedes as she was walking north on Sepulveda towards the busway. SUF ¶ 31.

As she was walking north on Sepulveda, the driver of the Mercedes pulled up next to Ms. Holtmann and asked her for name and telephone number, and he offered to give her a ride. SUF ¶ 33. She kept walking north and ignored the driver. SUF ¶ 34. The driver then pulled into a driveway and parked his car in front of her, blocking her path. SUF ¶ 35. In her previous story, Ms. Holtmann had said that the driver exited the car. This time, she explained to the Detectives that the driver remained in the car and reached across the front seat to open the front passenger-side door. SUF ¶ 37. The driver asked for Ms. Holtmann's name and number a second time. SUF ¶ 38. Next, the driver attempted to grab Ms. Holtmann's arm to try to pull her into the car, but was only able to get her sleeve. SUF ¶ 40. Ms. Holtmann ran across Sepulveda Boulevard to a bus stop on the opposite side of the street, where she noticed her friend Denis Semendyayev.

C. Other Interviews

The detectives interviewed Semendyayev. SUF ¶ 59. He confirmed that he was standing at the Sepulveda bus stop when Ms. Holtmann ran up to him. SUF ¶ 62. She was panicked, and she told him that a man was following her and asking for her telephone number. SUF ¶ 63. She kept looking back to see if the person was still following her. SUF ¶ 63.

The detectives also interviewed Ms. Holtmann's boyfriend, Daniel Ridgeley. SUF ¶ 6. He confirmed that Ms. Holtmann skipped school and went to his house on the morning of the incident. SUF ¶ 44. She left his house at 3:30 pm, and he received a call from her twenty minutes later. SUF ¶ 47. Ms. Holtmann told Ridgeley that a man was following her and that he had called her "hot" and asked her to get in his car. SUF ¶ 50 She also gave him license plate numbers to write down. SUF ¶ 51. Ridgeley gave the license plate numbers to the detectives. SUF ¶ 52.

In addition, the detectives interviewed Daniel Ridgeley's mother, Adrian Ridgeley. SUF ¶ 56. She confirmed that she spoke with Ms. Holtmann directly after the incident, and that Ms. Holtmann told her that "some guy" in a black Mercedes asked for her phone number and tried to get her in his car. SUF ¶ 56.

D. The Police Locate Bell

The detectives ran various combinations of the license plate numbers provided by Daniel Ridgeley. SUF ¶ 53. One of the license plate combinations was a close match to Plaintiff Robert Bell. SUF ¶ 54. Bell matched the general description provided by Ms. Holtmann, lived in the Van Nuys area, and had previous arrests for prostitution. SUF ¶

At the behest of the detectives, Ms. Holtmann worked with a composite artist to create a drawing of the driver. SUF ¶ 57. When the drawing was complete, Detective Eum noticed that it was similar to Bell's driver's license photograph. SUF ¶ 57. Afterwards, Ms. Holtmann reviewed a photographic ...


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