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Jama v. Weyker

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 9, 2017

ABDIFATAH BASHIR JAMA, Plaintiff,
v.
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; ROBERT ROES 1-3, in their individual and official capacities as supervisory members of the St. Paul Police Department; and THE CITY OF ST. PAUL, Defendants.

          ORDER

          JOAN N. ERICKSEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Abdifatah Bashir Jama alleges violations of his constitutional rights in an investigation that led to his indictment by a federal grand jury and his subsequent arrest. 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; Robert Roes 1-3, who are allegedly supervisory St. Paul police officers; and the City of St. Paul (“St. Paul”). Weyker and Bandemer move to dismiss Jama'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. 39. St. Paul moves on behalf of the City of St. Paul and Robert Roes 1-3 for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c). Dkt. No. 45.

         The investigation at the core of Jama'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”). Jama alleges that Weyker 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 Jama'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. Jama is represented by the same attorneys as the plaintiff in that case, and their attorneys filed consolidated opposition papers to the Defendants' motions. See Osman Pls.' Opp. to St. Paul Mot., Dkt. No. 50; Osman Pls.' Opp. to DOJ Mot. to Dismiss (“Osman DOJ Opp.”), Dkt. No. 56.

         The Court held a hearing on Defendants' motions on May 3, 2017, and now grants both motions.[1]

         II. APPLICABLE STANDARDS

         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.

         III. ALLEGATIONS

         Most of the salient 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 Jama's First Amended Complaint and other facts gleaned from the Tennessee Case record.

         In 2008, Jama lived in Nashville, Tennessee. FAC ¶ 10. That year, Weyker “approached Jama and tried to pressure him to implicate members of the Somali community in various alleged crimes.” FAC ¶ 12. “When Jama declined, Weyker threatened to have him prosecuted for the same alleged crimes, some of the most serious involving Jane Does One and Two.” Id. Jama did not know Jane Doe One or Jane Doe Two. FAC ¶¶ 11, 16.

         A First Superseding Indictment (“FSI”) was filed in the Tennessee Case on November 3, 2010, naming 29 defendants.[2] United States v. Jama, No. 3:10cr260, Dkt. No. 36 (M.D. Tenn. Nov. 3, 2010) (submitted in this civil case as Ex. V in support of Weyker and Bandemer's Reply). The indictment alleged that Jama was an associate of members of two related Minneapolis-based gangs. FSI ¶ 1(f). It charged Jama with four counts: two counts of participation in a sex-trafficking conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1591(a) and 1594 (Counts 1 and 2); knowingly recruiting a minor under the age of 14 (Jane Doe One) for sex trafficking (Count 11); and conspiring to transport stolen goods in interstate commerce (Count 15). More specifically, the indictment in Count 1 charged that from October 2006 through June 2007, Jane Doe One, who was 14 or 15 years old, was transported from Minnesota to Columbus, Ohio, where Jama and others caused her to engage in commercial sex acts, FSI ¶ 9; and that sometime between April 1 and June 2, 2008, Jama and another “directed” Jane Doe One to a residence in Seattle, Washington, where she was sexually assaulted, FSI ¶ 10. Count 15 alleged that on May 22, 2006, Jama and three other co-defendants stole approximately $120, 000 in cash, among other things, from a Nashville business and that the next day, one of the co-defendants transported the stolen cash to Minnesota, FSI ¶¶ 102-03; and on September 13 and 15, 2006, after Jama and others traveled to Columbus “for the purpose of burglarizing businesses to obtain money and merchandise, ” members of the group stole over $8, 000 worth of cash and phone cards and entered without permission another business to steal money, FSI ¶¶ 104-06.

         The “crux” of the “several conspiracy counts under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2; 371; 1591(a)(1), and 2314” was that Jama “was engaged in a conspiracy to recruit and transport minors for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts.” FAC ¶ 24. “No such conspiracy existed, and Defendants knew it.” Id.

         On November 8, 2010, Jama was arrested. FAC ¶ 25. As with Osman, because the indictment charged Jama with sex-trafficking-related offenses, he was subject to a rebuttable presumption of pretrial detention. FAC ¶ 27. He was ordered detained pending trial. Id.

         Weyker was the lead investigator on the case. FAC ¶ 34. Weyker “manipulated, coerced and pressured Jane Doe One into fabricating evidence and testimony that Jama and others were forcing her [to] have sex in exchange for money in December of 2005.” FAC ¶ 42. Jane Doe One never appeared at trial, “refus[ing] to give the coerced, false testimony at trial.” FAC ¶¶ 30, 47. “Weyker also manipulated and coerced two Somali males, whose identities are known to Plaintiff, into falsely implicating Jama in the conspiracy allegations.” FAC ¶ 28.

         A trial of some defendants on some counts began in Spring 2012. Jama alleges that the “charges surrounding” the allegation that he “caused Jane Doe One to engage in commercial sex acts for which [Jama and others] received things of value” were “dismissed during jury selection.” FAC ¶ 30. This allegation appears to be corroborated on the Tennessee Case record. See United States v. Jama, No. 3:10cr260, Dkt. No. 2432 (M.D. Tenn. Apr. 26, 2012). Earlier, the district court had ordered the severance of Count 15 and other counts for a separate trial. Id., Dkt. No. 1395 (Feb. 16, 2012 order).

         The jury reached a verdict in the Spring 2012 trial in early May, acquitting six defendants but convicting three defendants on some counts. On May 18, 2012, Jama was released from custody on bond, subject to continuing pretrial restraints. FAC ¶ 49.

         The district court in December 2012 issued an order granting the three convicted defendants' Federal Criminal Rule of Procedure 29 motions for judgments of acquittal on the basis of a variance. The government appealed that order.

         Even after Jama was released on conditions, “Weyker's harassment was relentless;” she pressured him to “provide false evidence against” the co-defendants. FAC ¶ 50. Jama refused, and he “was ultimately arrested again” in August 2014. Id. He was then held in custody pending trial, which was stayed pending the appeals stemming from the Spring 2012 ...


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