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Ali v. Weyker

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 9, 2017

MUSSE AHMED ALI, 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 Musse Ahmed Ali 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 Ali'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. 37. 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. 46.

         The investigation at the core of Ali'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”). Ali 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 Ali'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. Ali 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. 51; Osman Pls.' Opp. to DOJ Mot. to Dismiss (“Osman DOJ Opp.”), Dkt. No. 57.

         The Court held a hearing on the 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 Ali's First Amended Complaint and other facts gleaned from the Tennessee Case record.

         In 2009, Ali lived in Nashville, Tennessee. FAC ¶ 10. That year, he “had a phone conversation with one or more of his future, alleged co-conspirators, in which the other person(s) on the call talked about a young woman they had met recently in rather lewd terms, ” but not in a way that could possibly serve as “evidence of the commercial sex-trafficking of minors.” FAC ¶ 11. Yet Weyker, who was the lead investigator on the case, FAC ¶ 33, “made that phone call the central hook for alleging that Ali had engaged in a conspiracy to commercially sex-traffic” Jane Doe Two “and other alleged minors, ” FAC ¶ 12.

         A First Superseding Indictment was filed in the Tennessee Case on November 3, 2010, naming 29 defendants.[2] The indictment alleged that Ali was an associate of members of two related Minneapolis-based gangs. FSI ¶¶ 1(a)-(b), 1(e) & 1(f). It charged Ali in three counts. Counts 1 and 2 alleged his participation in a sex-trafficking conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a). Count 18 charged Ali with conspiring to commit credit card fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1029(a)(1), 1029(a)(2), and 1029(a)(3). See First Superseding Indictment (“FSI”), United States v. Ali, No. 3:10cr260, Dkt. No. 36 (M.D. Tenn. Nov. 3, 2010) (submitted as Ex. V in support of Weyker and Bandemer's Reply in this civil case).

         As to Counts 1 and 2, the indictment alleged that during a trip from Minneapolis to Nashville by co-defendant Haji Osman Salad, Jane Doe Two, and others in April 2009, Salad “was to provide Jane Doe Two” to Ali “for him to ‘enjoy, '” and that Ali “was to assist in causing Jane Doe Two to engage in commercial sex acts.” FSI ¶ 48. In addition, the indictment alleged that around August 23, 2009, Ali had a conversation with co-defendant Liban Sharif Omar in which L. Omar told him “that in Tennessee a ‘little teenager girl came up and she is hot' and was giving the ‘whole block' oral sex.” FSI ¶ 64. Speaking with a different person that same day, Ali allegedly recounted to that person what L. Omar had told him about the girl. FSI ¶ 65.

         The fraud charge in Count 18 alleged a conspiracy between 2007 through September 2010. FSI ¶ 117. The First Superseding Indictment alleged that on August 23, 2009, Ali asked L. Omar “how many cards and numbers” he had, and L. Omar responded that he had “just got this one from Haji, ” which may have been a reference to Salad. FSI ¶ 129.

         Ali alleges that the sex-trafficking conspiracy charges were the “core claims” against him. FAC ¶ 26. “No such conspiracy existed, and Defendants knew it.” Id. He has never met Jane Doe Two. FAC ¶ 13. He “had no intention, desire or expectation that Jane Doe Two or anyone else engage[] in the exchange of sex for money.” FAC ¶ 41. He never entered into any agreement to sex-traffic persons, and Weyker knew it. FAC ¶ 43. “Weyker used falsified extensive documentary evidence of Ali's involvement, and used a phone call that did not incriminate Ali to attempt to rope him into the conspiracy.” FAC ¶ 42.

         On November 8, 2010, Ali was arrested. FAC ¶ 27. As with Osman, because the indictment charged Ali with sex-trafficking-related offenses, he was subject to a rebuttable presumption of pretrial detention and was ordered detained pending trial. FAC ¶ 28.

         Like Osman, Ali alleges that the charges of a widespread sex-trafficking conspiracy were baseless and that Weyker fabricated “[t]he overwhelming majority of the critical evidence supporting the indictments in this alleged conspiracy, ” FAC ¶¶ 31-32; that Weyker manipulated and coerced Jane Doe witnesses into lying, FAC ¶¶ 39-41; that Weyker was motivated to falsify evidence by a desire for glory, FAC ¶ 1; that Weyker “worked with almost no supervision by her employer and principal” the St. Paul Police Department, FAC ¶ 44; and that indications of Weyker's fabrication included her rough notes, questions surrounding Jane Doe Two's age and her trip to Nashville in April 2009, the acquittals of nine co-defendants who went to trial, and remarks about Weyker by the district and appellate courts in the Tennessee Case, FAC ¶¶ 14-15, 36-37, 39-40, 48-51, 53.

         Nine of Ali's co-defendants went to trial in Spring 2012, and the jury rendered its verdict in early May 2012. See FAC ¶ 48; United States v. Adan, 913 F.Supp.2d 555, 560 (M.D. Tenn. 2012). On May 4, 2012, Ali was released on home monitoring. FAC ¶ 56. The jury acquitted six defendants on all charges, and in December 2012, the district court granted Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 motions for acquittal by the other three defendants on the basis of a variance. Adan, 913 F.Supp.2d at 560, 579; see also FAC ΒΆ 49. In March 2016, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order affirming the district ...


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