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Peters v. City of Mount Rainier

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

March 24, 2016

CITY OF MOUNT RAINIER, et al., Defendants.



This is a civil rights action brought by Plaintiff Montelis Peters against the City of Mount Rainier and Corporal Rob Caplan for purported violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights arising from Peters's arrest on January 7, 2012. This Memorandum and accompanying Order address Caplan's Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 36, Peters's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 37, Caplan's Motion to Strike, ECF No. 40, and Peters's Motion to Strike, ECF No. 43. A hearing is unnecessary. Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons stated below, Caplan's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted. The remaining motions are denied.


On January 7, 2012, police officers were dispatched to the 4300 block of 28th Place "in response to two calls by unidentified citizens, one for 'unknown trouble, ' and the second for a robbery in progress." ECF No. 36-3 at 4.[2] The male caller, who reported "unknown trouble, " described a woman screaming. Id. The female caller told the dispatcher that there appeared to be a "Muslim lady" with a scarf being robbed by a short, "Spanish" man, possibly at gunpoint. ECF No. 36-5 at 16-17; ECF No. 36-4. The female caller also mentioned that two vehicles were involved and she stayed on the phone with the dispatcher until the police arrived. ECF No. 36-5 at 17-21; ECF No. 36-4.

Sergeant Andre Williams stated that he was the first officer on the scene, ECF No. 36-5 at 24-25, arriving within minutes of the dispatch, ECF No. 36-3 at 4. When Williams arrived, he observed a man matching the description of a short, "Spanish" male and a woman wearing a headscarf. ECF No. 36-5 at 25-26. The couple told Williams that two African-American men attempted to rob them at knife-point and ran away when the couple began screaming. ECF No. 36-3 at 4. The male said that the men were wearing jackets, one light and one dark, and he pointed Williams toward Arundel Road to indicate the direction the men had fled. Id.

Williams drove toward Arundel Road, encountering Plaintiff Montelis Peters and his acquaintance, Darren Carlos Etheredge, just two blocks from the scene of the attempted robbery. ECF No. 36-4; ECF No. 36-3 at 5. Peters and Etherege are both African-American. Based upon images taken by a surveillance video that day, Peters and Caplan were wearing what appear to be heavy sweatshirts with hoods, one light and one dark. ECF No. 37-4 at 2-4. According to Defendant Corporal Rob Caplan, who testified to hearing the radio dispatch live, ECF No. 36-6 at 15, Caplan joined Williams after Williams stopped the two men, ECF No. 36-5 at 38; ECF No. 36-6 at 11. Both Peters and Etherege were stopped at gunpoint, ordered to the ground and searched. ECF No. 12 ¶ 8; ECF No. 36-3 at 5. Officer Caplan recovered a folding knife with a four-inch blade, black and silver in color, from Peters's pocket. ECF No. 36-3 at 5. Peters had just come from cashing his paycheck, ECF No. 37-3 at 2; ECF No. 37-1 at 5, and had his paystub on his person at the time, ECF No. 37-4 at 1. The officers told Peters and Etheredge that they fit the description of robbery suspects. ECF No. 37-3 at 2. The victims, who were transported to the scene of the arrest by Officer Paul Corridean, identified Peters, Etherege, and the knife used in the attempted robbery. ECF No. 36-3 at 5.

After Peters and Etheredge were taken into custody, Caplan prepared, signed, and presented to a Commissioner of the District Court of Maryland for Prince George's County a Statement of Probable Cause. ECF No. 36-10. The Statement of Probable Cause, unedited and read in full, states:

On January 7th 2012 at approximately 2147 hours officers responded to 4300-blk of 28th place, Mount Rainier Prince Georges County Maryland for a report of an armed robbery in progress. Upon arrival PFC Corridean encountered the caller. Velasquez, Carmon (VI) pointed toward Arundel Road advising PFC Corridean that the subject went that way Maltes, Jaime(V2) advised PFC Corridean that two subjects attempted to rob them with a knife. A lookout was broad cast to other officers and two subjects matching the description were stopped by myself and Sergeant Williams at 2401 Arundel Road. The Subjects were identified as (Al) Etheredge, Darren Carlos 9/06/1980 and (A2) Peters, Montelis Anthony 3/28/1978.
Both victims were transported to the location and positively identified the subjects as the same persons who just attempted to rob them, and also described the knife that was later found on (S2). The victims were then transported to the Mount Rainier Police Statement and completed written statements regarding the events that transpired. All events occurred in Mount Rainier, Prince Georges County Maryland.

ECF No. 36-10. The Statement of Probable Cause resulted in Peters being charged with attempted robbery with a deadly weapon and assault. ECF No. 12-1 ¶ 10. The information reported in the Statement of Probable Cause was later used to procure a nine-count indictment charging Peters with various crimes. Id. ¶11. Officer Caplan has acknowledged that he did not know "the exact chain of events" at the time he wrote the Statement of Probable Cause. ECF No. 36-6 at 48.

On January 8, 2012, Etherege provided a written statement to the police. In that statement, he said that he "accidentally bumped into this Spanish couple and [Peters] pulled out his knife trying to get there [sic] money." ECF No. 36-16 at 1. According to Etherege, prior to approaching them, Peters said he was going to "come get this money from these bitches." ECF No. 36-16 at 2. Peters also provided a written statement. In his statement, Peters denied any interaction with the Hispanic couple, however, he acknowledged smoking PCP that night and, when asked when he had smoked the PCP, he responded "about 20 min B4 the robery [sic] attempt." ECF No. 36-14 at 1-2. Later, Peters issued an apology letter, which stated in part, "I have no recollection of an altercation[.] I was under the influence of a substance and ask that you forgive me for my actions." ECF No. 36-17.

Following his arrest, Peters was held in the Prince George's County Detention Center for approximately one month before being placed on house arrest for six months. ECF No. 12-1 ¶ 14. During that time, Peters could not leave his home for any purpose without the prior express approval of his case manager. Id. ¶ 15.

Caplan believes the officers attempted to get the victims to come to court and they declined. ECF No. 36-6 at 41-42. Eventually, prosecutors for the State of Maryland asked the court to enter a nolle prosequi as to all counts in Peters's criminal case, id. ¶ 16, and a "final order" was issued in his Maryland criminal proceeding on August 10, 2012, id.

On February 3, 2014, Peters filed suit in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County raising various causes of action, including purported violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. See ECF No. 1 ¶ 1. On March 27, 2014, Defendants removed the action to this Court based on federal question jurisdiction. See ECF No. 1; see also 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Peters filed his First Amended Complaint on April 29, 2014. See ECF No. 12.

Defendants moved to dismiss the majority of Peters's claims. ECF No. 14. However, Defendants did not move to dismiss Count II, the ยง 1983 claim against Caplan, or Count III, the Maryland Declaration of Rights claim against Caplan. ECF No. 25 at 6 n.2. The Court converted Defendants' motion to a motion for summary judgment as to Counts III, IV, and V because Defendants attached to their joint motion to dismiss materials outside the pleadings that the Court did not exclude. ...

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