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Jeffries v. Ayoub

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 23, 2019

CHRISTOPHER JEFFRIES, Plaintiff,
v.
MAHIR AYOUB, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Mahir Ayoub's partial motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 32. The motion is fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the following reasons, the Defendant's motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. Background

         On January 16, 2016, Plaintiff Christopher Jeffries was working a night shift as a food delivery driver for an online service called Zoomer. Pl. Ex. 3 at 29-30 (Jeffries Dep.).[1] Jeffries drove down Route 1 from College Park towards Hyattsville to make a delivery on Lawrence Street. Id. at 34. As Jeffries was exiting at 47th Street to get on Kenilworth Avenue southbound, he noticed a police car behind him. Id. at 35-38. Ayoub, a Bladensburg Police Officer, was driving the police vehicle. Ayoub activated his emergency lights and moved closer to Jeffries's vehicle. Id. at 38. Jeffries saw the police lights but expected the police car to pass his vehicle because the officer had not signaled for Jeffries to pull over. Id. at 42. Eventually, Jeffries realized that the police intended to pull him over, and did so in a well-lit area that was, in Jeffries' view, the “first safe place” to stop. Id. at 43. By Ayoub's estimation, Jeffries stopped his vehicle about a half mile away from the point Ayoub first activated his emergency lights. Pl. Ex. 2 at 83 (Ayoub Dep.). Ayoub further estimates that Jeffries drove for about thirty to forty-five seconds from activation of the police lights to Jeffries stopping the car. Jeffries maintains, and Ayoub agrees, that during the half-mile drive, Jeffries did not speed and in fact was decreasing his speed and was traveling only 10 or 15 miles per hour. Pl. Ex. 3 at 53-54 (Jeffries Dep.); Pl. Ex. 2 at 49 (Ayoub Dep.).[2]

         Once Jeffries' vehicle was stopped, Ayoub approached the car with his gun unholstered and pointing toward the vehicle in a downward trajectory. Pl. Ex. 2 at 95 (Ayoub Dep.). Ayoub was yelling orders, the precise content of which Jeffries could not decipher. Pl. Ex. 3 at 45-47 (Jeffries Dep.). Jeffries started to video record the encounter on his cell phone.[3] Id. at 45. The recording captures Ayoub shouting at Jeffries to put his phone down and to completely roll down the window, adding that it would go from “bad to real bad” if Jeffries did not comply. ECF No. 32-2 (Video). Jeffries rolled down his window further, handed Ayoub his license and told the officer he did not have his registration. Id. Jeffries told Ayoub that he was scared that Ayoub would kill him. Ayoub repeatedly ordered Jeffries to get out of the car and yelled, “I'm going to pull you out of the car.” Id. Ayoub's back-up, Officer Jaime Amaya, also ordered Jeffries out of the car. Id. Jeffries remained in the driver's seat and questioned the officers' orders to get out of the vehicle, at which point the video recording ends. Id.

         Notably, where the video stops, the parties' versions of events diverge. According to Jeffries, the encounter turned violent. One of the officers pulled Jeffries out of the car, and Ayoub threw him to the ground and “rubbed [his] face in the concrete.” Pl. Ex. 3 at 77 (Jeffries Dep.).[4] While face down into the concrete, Jeffries was handcuffed and had something driven between his shoulder blades, which felt like “a knee . . . or the barrel of a gun.” Id. at 77-78. The officers then picked up Jeffries and leaned him face down against the trunk of his car. Id. at 82. At some point, a third officer loosened the handcuffs, and then Ayoub threw Jeffries in the back of his police vehicle, and punched Jeffries repeatedly in the stomach while Jeffries was cuffed. Id. at 83, 85-86. Ayoub eventually transported Jeffries to the police station and charged him with an array of criminal offenses, including second degree assault of a police officer, resisting a lawful arrest, and eluding an officer. Id. at 100-01; see also Pl. Ex. 8. On July 11, 2016, all criminal charges against Jeffries were nolle prossed. See Pl. Ex. 8.

         According to Officers Ayoub and Amaya, while Jeffries was still sitting in his car, Ayoub stuck his hand in the car through the window to unlock the door. Pl. Ex. 2 at 125 (Ayoub Dep.). Jeffries “smacked [his] hand.” Id. Ayoub then opened the unlocked door and Jeffries exited the vehicle on his own. Id. at 127-28. Officers Ayoub and Amaya told Jeffries as he was getting out of the car that he was under arrest and ordered him to place his hands on his head or behind his back. Id. at 128. Jeffries did not present his hands for cuffing but rather held them to his chest and clenched his fists in “a fighting stance.” Id. Amaya and Ayoub took Jeffries to the ground and handcuffed him. Pl. Ex. 5 at 34 (Amaya Dep.). Ayoub searched Jeffries' vehicle “for weapons or contraband.” ECF No. 41-2 at 61. Ayoub denies using any kind of force against Jeffries after arresting him and placing him in the police car. Id. at 59.

         Jeffries filed this suit against Ayoub in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County on June 13, 2017, asserting claims for unlawful arrest and excessive force under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, [5] as well as common law claims for assault and battery, malicious prosecution, false arrest, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. ECF No. 2 ¶¶ 26-61. Ayoub timely removed the action to this Court, and now moves for partial summary judgment as to certain of Jeffries' excessive force counts, and the assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims. ECF No. 33 at 9 n.6, 13.

         II. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the Court, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, finds no genuine disputed issue of material fact, entitling the movant to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Emmett v. Johnson, 532 F.3d 291, 297 (4th Cir. 2008). “A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings,' but rather must ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting former Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). “A mere scintilla of proof . . . will not suffice to prevent summary judgment.” Peters v. Jenney, 327 F.3d 307, 314 (4th Cir. 2003).

         Importantly, “a court should not grant summary judgment ‘unless the entire record shows a right to judgment with such clarity as to leave no room for controversy and establishes affirmatively that the adverse party cannot prevail under any circumstances.'” Campbell v. Hewitt, Coleman & Assocs., Inc., 21 F.3d 52, 55 (4th Cir. 1994) (quoting Phoenix Sav. & Loan, Inc. v. Aetna Casualty & Sur. Co., 381 F.2d 245, 249 (4th Cir. 1967)). Where the party bearing the burden of proving a claim or defense “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial, ” summary judgment against that party is likewise warranted. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

         III. Discussion

         A. Evidentiary Issues

         As a threshold matter, Ayoub argues that this Court should not consider certain evidence when deciding the summary judgment motion. Ayoub urges the Court to ignore Jeffries' exhibits because they were not filed properly and to strike Jeffries' affidavit (Pl. Ex. 4) to the extent it contradicts Jeffries' deposition testimony. Ayoub raised these arguments for the first time in his reply, which ordinarily this Court will not consider. Clawson v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc., 451 F.Supp.2d 731, 734 (D. Md. 2006) (citation omitted). That said, the Court, in its discretion, may reach the arguments in “appropriate circumstances, ” ...


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