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Perez v. John and Jane Does 1-10

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

July 23, 2019

Irma Perez; John Espino; Joshua Espino; Jeremy Espino; Manuel Espino Plaintiffs - Appellants
v.
John and Jane Does 1-10, All of Whom Are Named Defendants in Their Individual Capacity; Rick Schmidt, All of Whom Are Named Defendants In Their Individual Capacity; Raelee Van Winkle, All of Whom Are Named Defendants In Their Individual Capacity; Jerry Esch, All of Whom Are Named Defendants In Their Individual Capacity; Michael Doremus, All of Whom Are Named Defendants In Their Individual Capacity; Kelly Scarlett, All of Whom Are Named Defendants In Their Individual Capacity; Allen Sedlak, All of Whom Are Named Defendants In Their Individual Capacity Defendants - Appellees

          Submitted: June 11, 2019

          Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Nebraska - Lincoln

          Before LOKEN, KELLY, and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.

          ERICKSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Irma Perez, John Espino, Joshua Espino, Jeremy Espino, and Manuel Espino (collectively "Plaintiffs") are Hispanic residents of Hastings, Nebraska. They were arrested in December 2011 on charges of conspiracy and witness tampering for their alleged actions in the aftermath of a domestic disturbance in Hastings. All charges were eventually dismissed. On April 7, 2016, Plaintiffs filed suit in Adams County (Nebraska) District Court, alleging a variety of state and federal claims against various city and county employees, the State of Nebraska, Adams County, and the City of Hastings.

         At issue in this appeal is Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint, which was filed in the Adams County District Court, alleging only federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Rick Schmidt, Raelee Van Winkle, Jerry Esch, Michael Doremus, Kelly Scarlett, and Allen Sedlak (collectively the "Officer Defendants") and John and Jane Does 1-10 (collectively the "Doe Defendants"). The Second Amended Complaint alleges that the investigation, arrest, confinement, and prosecutions were racially motivated and violated the First, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The Officer Defendants removed the case to the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska and moved to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

         On April 9, 2018, the district court[1] granted the motion to dismiss, concluding that the § 1983 claims were time-barred and that Plaintiffs failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. On June 12, 2018, the district court denied Plaintiffs' motion to alter or amend the judgment. Plaintiffs now appeal, arguing that the district court erred by (1) granting the motion to dismiss and (2) denying the motion to alter or amend the judgment. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm.

          I. Background

         A. Allegations in the Second Amended Complaint

         In this appeal from a grant of a motion to dismiss, we accept as true the allegations in the Second Amended Complaint. Varga v. U.S. Bank Nat'l Ass'n, 764 F.3d 833, 836 (8th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted).

         During the early morning hours of August 13, 2011, a disturbance occurred at the 1200 block of North Lexington Street in Hastings involving several family members, friends, and acquaintances of Plaintiffs. The Officer Defendants, each of whom is employed by the Hastings Police Department, responded to the scene. Upon arrival the officers separated the involved parties and began to take witness statements. Meanwhile, Perez called Alma Rosa Infante and asked her to help settle the disturbance. When Infante arrived, she and her daughter spoke with several of the individuals involved to "determine what had caused the [d]isturbance, and what, exactly, had occurred" and to ensure that "the underlying complaint against their family member be fairly and fully investigated." Plaintiffs and Infante did not intend to interfere with the Officer Defendants or their investigation. Based on their investigation, the Officer Defendants arrested Juan Anthony Espino, who was later charged with five counts, including domestic assault.

         Plaintiffs observed the interviews conducted by the Officer Defendants at the scene and believed that the officers were "more interested in coaching witnesses in order to build a criminal case against them or their family members, than they were interested in getting to the truth about the [d]isturbance." The following day, the Officer Defendants "expanded their investigations in an attempt to make out cases of criminal conspiracy and witness tampering against the Plaintiffs and other of their family members . . . [without] a factual basis for doing so." On August 15, 2011, Officer Doremus spoke to Shawn Parks, a cooperating witness or confidential informant who was involved in some form in the disturbance. Officer Doremus told Parks, "Maybe if we put pressure on them and you put enough pressure on them, they'll get the hell out of this neighborhood."

         On December 29, 2011, Plaintiffs were arrested by unnamed "law enforcement officers" pursuant to arrest warrants that were based upon "false and misleading information" that was more than ninety days old. Plaintiffs were held the next five days in maximum-security confinement and charged in county court with conspiracy and witness tampering. On December 19, 2011, or January 19, 2012, each of the Officer Defendants prepared an affidavit in cooperation with Adams County Attorney Alyson Keiser Roudebush to use in the prosecution.

         On January 19, 2012, Plaintiffs appeared for their preliminary hearings, which were conducted on affidavit evidence alone over the objections of defense counsel. The cases were bound over to the Adams County District Court "in clear violation of their rights to due process and in violation of the Confrontation Clause." The first case proceeded to a jury trial and resulted in one of the Plaintiffs being acquitted. The other Plaintiffs filed pleas in abatement to contest the validity of their preliminary hearings. In October 2012, the state district court sustained their pleas and dismissed the charges, finding that there was "no evidence in the record to substantiate or bind over" and "no basis in statute or case law for preliminary hearings to proceed forward on ...


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