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Robinson v. City of Minneapolis

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

July 30, 2013

Darryl Maurice Robinson, Plaintiff,
City of Minneapolis, et al., Defendants

Craig A. Buske, David L. Shulman, Law Office of David L. Shulman PLLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Theodore D. Dooley, Ted Dooley Law Office, LLC, St. Paul, Minnesota, for Plaintiff.

Timothy S. Skarda, Kristin R. Sarff, Minneapolis City Attorney's Office, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Defendants.

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RICHARD H. KYLE, United States District Judge.


This case arises out of Plaintiff Darryl Maurice Robinson's 2008 arrest by two Minneapolis police officers, Defendants Mark Lanasa and James Archer. Robinson asserts claims under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, alleging that the officers lacked probable cause to arrest him and subjected him to excessive force. Presently before the Court is the officers' Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons that follow, their Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.


Viewed in the light most favorable to Robinson,[1] the record reveals the following facts. Robinson is Vice President of an entity known as Communities United Against Police Brutality, a group " devoted to combating and raising public awareness of police brutality." (Robinson Decl. ¶ 2.) In that capacity, from time to time he performs " cop watch," which involves " monitor[ing] an area where there have been prior reports of police harassment of civilians to document police misconduct." (Id.)

On July 20, 2008, Robinson and a friend were conducting " cop watch" near a homeless shelter in downtown Minneapolis. (Id.) At around 10:25 p.m., Lanasa and Archer drove into the area in a mobile booking van. (Lanasa Aff. ¶ ¶ 4-5.) At the time, Robinson was " sitting on a concrete barrier" that was " next to the public sidewalk," holding a video camera in one hand while speaking on his cell phone. (Robinson Decl. ¶ ¶ 4-5.) He was not obstructing the sidewalk and was not " hanging out with[] or next to any other people." (Id. ¶ 4.)

Lanasa called out to Robinson that he had to move, and Robinson responded that he was doing " cop watch." (Id. ¶ 5.) Lanasa then yelled " Come here!" , and Robinson " complied and walked toward the police van." (Id. ¶ 6.) As he did so, Lanasa exited the van, knocked the cell phone and video camera out of Robinson's hands, and told him to turn around; Lanasa then handcuffed him. (Id. ¶ 7.) According to Robinson, " both officers [then] started to beat me up. Archer punched me, and Lanasa put me in a chokehold and took me to the ground." (Id. ¶ 8.) He could not breathe and briefly went unconscious. (Id.) When he " came to," the officers were " punching and kneeing" him while he was lying on the ground. (Id.) The officers told Robinson to stand up, but he was unable to do so. (Id. ¶ 9.) Lanasa then picked him up in a chokehold and walked him to the van where, without warning, the officers pushed him in from behind, " causing [him] to fall and strike [his] face against the floor." (Id.) He was transported

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to the Hennepin County Jail and booked for obstructing a sidewalk, obstructing legal process, and failing to obey a police order. (Id. ¶ ¶ 10, 12.) All charges were later dismissed.

As a result of the officers' (alleged) conduct, Robinson claims he suffered " bruising and swelling above [his] left eye," on his forehead, and on other (unspecified) parts of his body. (Id. ¶ 11.) He also alleges that he sustained marks on his neck from being choked and marks on his wrists from the handcuffs, and that he " had trouble breathing freely for several weeks after the incident." (Id.) He points to no long-term or ongoing medical problems, however, and records from the University of Minnesota Medical Center, where he sought treatment after being released from jail, indicate that he suffered " no substantial injuries other than contusions." (Doc. No. 45, Ex. B.)

Robinson commenced this action in July 2010. His Complaint asserted a litany of state and federal claims against Lanasa, Archer, the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, and several " John Doe" Hennepin County Sherriff's Deputies. Of particular relevance here, his three federal claims alleged that (1) Lanasa used excessive force during the arrest (Count VIII), (2) Archer failed to prevent Lanasa's use of excessive force (Count IX), and (3) both officers arrested Robinson without probable cause (Count X), all in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The parties undertook discovery, and Robinson eventually dropped his claims against Hennepin County and the " John Doe" deputies, but pressed forward against Lanasa, Archer, and the City. Because these remaining Defendants did not move for summary judgment before the dispositive-motion deadline, the Court set the case for trial. In their trial submissions, however, the remaining Defendants asserted that even under Robinson's version of events, they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. To prevent a waste of time and resources, therefore, the Court granted them leave to file an untimely summary-judgment motion. (See Doc. No. 59.) Robinson later stipulated to dismiss the City and further agreed to drop all of his state-law claims against Lanasa and Archer. The ...

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