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Fahra v. Weyker

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 9, 2017

HEATHER WEYKER, in her individual capacity as a St. Paul Police Officer; JOHN BANDEMER, in his individual and official capacities as a St. Paul Police Sergeant; JOHN DOES 3-4, in their individual and official capacities as supervisory members of the St. Paul Police Department; and THE CITY OF ST. PAUL, Defendants.




         Plaintiff Idris Ibrahim Fahra alleges violations of his constitutional rights in an investigation that led to his indictment by a federal grand jury and his subsequent arrest, a trial on some of the counts in which he was charged, his conviction on two counts, and the setting aside of the conviction on those counts. He sues Defendants Heather Weyker, a police officer for the St. Paul Police Department in Minnesota; John Bandemer, a St. Paul Police Department sergeant who is alleged to have been Weyker's supervisor; John Does 3-4, who are allegedly supervisory St. Paul police officers; and the City of St. Paul (“St. Paul”). Weyker and Bandemer move to dismiss Fahra's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim and on absolute and qualified immunity grounds. Dkt. No. 41. St. Paul moves on behalf of the City of St. Paul and John Does 3-4 for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c). Dkt. No. 47.

         The investigation at the core of Fahra's civil complaint targeted a suspected venture involving the sex-trafficking of minor girls across Minnesota, Tennessee, and Ohio. The investigation resulted in the criminal indictment of thirty people, mostly Somali, in the Middle District of Tennessee in 2010-2011 (“Tennessee Case”). Fahra alleges that Weyker and Bandemer fabricated evidence about him and others throughout the investigation, resulting in a tainted indictment that was further corrupted by Weyker's continuing deception, and causing his arrest and detention without probable cause.

         Nineteen of Fahra's co-defendants in the Tennessee Case bring separate suits similarly alleging constitutional violations, and a twenty-first person brings another related civil suit. The parties agreed to coordinated briefing on the Defendants' motions. The Court assumes familiarity with its fuller opinion in one of the related cases, Osman v. Weyker, et al., No. 16cv908 (“Osman Opinion”) (filed simultaneously herewith), and will not repeat that opinion's discussion verbatim here, given the overlap in allegations and arguments. Fahra, coordinating with the other plaintiffs represented by his counsel, opposed the motions. See GBBS Pls.' Opp. to St. Paul Mot., Dkt. No. 52; GBBS Pls.' Opp. to DOJ Mot. to Dismiss, Dkt. No. 55.

         The Court held a hearing on Defendants' motions on May 3, 2017, and now grants in part and denies in part Weyker and Bandemer's motion and grants St. Paul's motion.[1]


         A motion to dismiss or a motion for judgment on the pleadings is appropriately granted “only when there is no dispute as to any material facts and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a [m]atter of law.” Greenman v. Jessen, 787 F.3d 882, 887 (8th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). To survive a Rule 12 motion, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); Haney v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC, 837 F.3d 918, 924 (8th Cir. 2016), as amended (Dec. 27, 2016). See also Osman Op. 3-4.


         Most of the allegations are similar to those alleged by Osman and summarized and analyzed in the Court's order in that case. See, e.g., Osman Op. 4-8. The Court briefly recounts some allegations in Fahra's Second Amended Complaint and some facts gleaned from the Tennessee Case record.[2]

         On November 3, 2010, Fahra was indicted in a First Superseding Indictment (“FSI”) in the Tennessee Case. SAC ¶ 16. He was charged in four counts. See FSI, United States v. Fahra, No. 3:10cr260, Dkt. No. 36 (M.D. Tenn. Nov. 3, 2010); see also SAC ¶ 16. Two counts alleged participation in a sex-trafficking conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a) (Counts 1 and 2). Two counts alleged recruitment or attempted recruitment of a minor under the age of 14 (Jane Doe Two) for sex trafficking (Counts 12 and 13). A Second Superseding Indictment was later filed that included the same charges against Fahra. See SAC ¶ 17; United States v. Fahra, No. 3:10cr260, Dkt. No. 591 (M.D. Tenn. May 4, 2011).

         Fahra was arrested on November 8, 2010. SAC ¶ 11.

         The counts as against Fahra, which all related to the alleged sex trafficking conspiracy, exclusively involved the supposed witness-victim Jane Doe Two. SAC ¶¶ 18, 20. “Jane Doe Two was the centerpiece of Weyker's and Bandemer's fabricated case against Fahra . . . .” SAC ¶ 21. Weyker was the lead investigator on the case, and Bandemer was her supervisor in the St. Paul Police Department. SAC ¶ 15. The indictment alleged, in the only paragraph to include specific allegations about Fahra, that in December 2006, on several occasions, Fahra and others charged men to have sex with Jane Doe Two in Fahra's apartment in St. Paul, Minnesota. See SAC ¶ 20; FSI ¶ 13. “There was never any such conspiracy and Fahra never engaged in any attempt to have Jane Doe Two engage in commercial sex.” SAC ¶ 22. “Fabricated evidence formed the basis of this false allegation against Fahra.” Id.; see also SAC ¶ 25.

         Weyker, by forming “a deep and manipulative relationship with Jane Doe Two and the other Jane Doe witnesses who[m] she referred to as ‘My girls' in a news interview about the vice unit's biggest indictment, ” manipulated and coerced Jane Doe Two and other witnesses into giving false testimony. See SAC ¶¶ 26, 29, 42. In a Sixth Circuit opinion, the court made several remarks about interactions between Weyker and Jane Doe Two, including that “meetings [between them] also produced a story in which Jane Doe 2 was not a troubled runaway or juvenile delinquent, but was instead an innocent child taken in by a Somali gang who used her for sex” and that “Jane Doe 2 furthered the district court's suspicion when she testified on cross examination that Weyker had misstated facts in the reports, adding to and omitting things from her statements.” SAC ¶ 33 (quoting United States v. Fahra, 643 Fed.Appx. 480, 482 (6th Cir. Mar. 2, 2016)).

         In March 2012, a criminal trial began in which Fahra was tried on the four sex-trafficking-related counts in which he was charged. SAC ¶¶ 36-37. At the trial, Weyker “was not even called as a witness” because her “credibility was so eviscerated” by that point. SAC ¶ 35. After the jury selection process began, the government belatedly produced thousands of pages of documents, causing the Court to delay the start of trial to April. See SAC ¶ 41; United States v. Adan, 913 F.Supp.2d 555, 559-60 (M.D. Tenn. 2012). Among the belatedly produced documents were some of Weyker's rough notes, “with one page containing references about Jane Doe Two's statements about finding guys ‘to have sex for money.'” SAC ¶ 41 (quoting Adan, 913 F.3d 2d at 588-89). “Weyker kept thousands of pages of rough notes. But only one page contained any reference to commercial sex.” SAC ¶ 42.

         The jury acquitted Fahra on Counts 2 and 13, but found him guilty on Counts 1 and 12. SAC ¶ 37; Adan, 913 F.Supp.2d at 560. Fahra “would never have been indicted for sex-trafficking, ” nor detained, nor convicted on Counts 1 and 12, “had Weyker and Bandemer not fabricated evidence, cultivated and manipulated Jane Doe Two, manufactured testimony and misled federal authorities.” SAC ¶¶ 38-40.

         On December 19, 2012, “the district court granted Fahra's motion for judgment of acquittal on his sex-trafficking conviction and conditionally granted a new trial on Jane Doe Two's age issue and the Government's violation of ...

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