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Date: 06-03-2002

Case Style: Mark S. Fridley; Denise R. Fridley v. Walter Horrighs, Investigator, et al.

Case Number: 00-4148

Judge: Ryan

Court: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Plaintiff's Attorney: Konrad Kuczak, Dayton, Ohio, for Appellants.

Defendant's Attorney: Mary E. Welsh, STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL OFFICE, Chicago, Illinois, for Appellees.

Description: Mark S. Fridley appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment, dismissing his 42 U.S.C. 1983 action. Fridley brought suit against officers of the Illinois State Police and the Illinois Secretary of State Department of Police in their individual capacities. His wife, Denise R. Fridley, sued the officers for loss of consortium. Fridley alleges that when the officers placed him under arrest for unlawfully selling vehicle identification number (VIN) tags that had been removed from motor vehicle parts, they lacked probable cause because they should have known that he was protected from criminal liability by an affirmative defense. In granting the defendants' summary judgment motion, the district court held that at the time of Fridley's arrest, the defendants had no knowledge of any facts establishing an affirmative defense to the offense for which Fridley was arrested. For the reasons set forth below, we will affirm the judgment of the district court.

Fridley, a resident of Ohio and a collector of vintage Corvette automobiles, placed an advertisement in a national automotive publication offering to sell two of his Corvettes. After seeing the advertisement, Donald Gluzsek, an informant for the Illinois Secretary of State Department of Police, contacted Fridley and learned that he also had Corvette parts for sale. Gluzsek learned that several of Fridley's Corvette parts had detached VIN tags. Fridley claims that one of the VIN tags had fallen off naturally, while others were detached when he obtained them or he detached them himself. Gluzsek made more than 10 telephone calls and a $500 cash advance to Fridley in an effort to arrange a purchase of the parts and their accompanying VIN tags. Although Fridley was originally reticent to assume the expense and trouble of traveling to Illinois to complete the sale, after repeated negotiations over the phone and Gluzsek's agreement to pay $1,000 for Fridley's expenses, with $500 in advance, the two arranged to meet in a parking lot in Springfield, Illinois, to complete the transaction.

On the morning of the sale, Gluzsek was accompanied by Walter Horrighs and Fred Brown, undercover officers with the Illinois Secretary of State Department of Police and defendants in the present action. Horrighs was the officer with primary responsibility for dealing with Gluzsek, and the remaining defendants--Duane Hill, Dave Poeschel, and Frank Wallace--either supervised Horrighs or played some supervisory role in the investigation. At the sale, Fridley offered three Corvette parts from which VIN tags had been detached. For each part, Fridley had the VIN tags in a separate envelope, as well as valid certificates of title. There is no dispute that Fridley was the lawful owner of the parts.

Upon conclusion of the sale, the police placed Fridley under arrest for violation of 625 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/4-103(a)(5), which criminalizes the possession and sale of VIN tags that have been removed from a vehicle.

Prior to Fridley's arrest, none of the police officers had monitored or supervised any part of Gluzsek's conversations with Fridley. Neither Horrighs nor his superiors had attempted to verify any of the information Gluzsek provided, nor had they investigated Gluzsek's prior history. No effort had been made to gather information regarding Fridley, including his predisposition to commit the act for which he was arrested. Gluzsek, who had earlier been arrested for his role in an automobile theft ring and was hoping that his effort to gather information about stolen Corvette parts would earn him leniency from the authorities, had contacted Fridley unbidden by the police.

At Fridley's preliminary hearing following the arrest, an Illinois court held that there was probable cause to find that Fridley violated section 4-103(a)(5). Subsequently, however, the prosecutor moved to dismiss the charges, and they were dismissed. Fridley's property, other than the VIN tags, was released to him some time later. Almost a year following his arrest, the VIN tags were returned to Fridley, but only upon court order. Fridley later filed this lawsuit.

Fridley's original action, heard by a magistrate judge, alleged a variety of constitutional violations, including a deprivation of Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Fridley also pled a number of Illinois common law violations, which claims were ultimately dismissed.

The magistrate judge first reviewed Fridley's 1983 claims concerning probable cause and recommended that the district court grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment. The magistrate judge relied on Seventh Circuit authority, about which more below, reasoning that its holdings on probable cause control because the arrest occurred in Illinois. The magistrate judge concluded that once a police officer determines that facts providing probable cause exist, the officer has no further duty to investigate exculpatory evidence. Moreover, he found that under Sixth Circuit authority, the result would be the same because the police did not "know" that they had entrapped Fridley. The district court accepted the magistrate judge's recommendation, except the conclusion that Seventh Circuit authority was binding. Applying Sixth Circuit law, the district court held that upon Fridley's arrest, the defendants did not have knowledge of exculpatory facts, and thus had probable cause to make the arrest.

* * *

Click the case caption above for the full text of the Court's opinion.

Outcome: Affirmed

Plaintiff's Experts: Unavailable

Defendant's Experts: Unavailable

Comments: None

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