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




         Plaintiff Haji Osman Salad 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 Salad'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. 40. 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. 43.

         The investigation at the core of Salad'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”). Salad 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 Salad'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. Salad is represented by the same attorneys as Osman, and their attorneys filed consolidated opposition papers to the motions. See Osman Pls.' Opp. to St. Paul Mot., Dkt. No. 52; Osman Pls.' Opp. to DOJ Mot. to Dismiss (“Osman DOJ Opp.”), Dkt. No. 58.

         The Court held a hearing on the motions on May 3, 2017, and now grants both motions.[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) (citation omitted); 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 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 Salad's First Amended Complaint and other facts gleaned from the Tennessee Case record.

         In 2008, Salad met Jane Doe Two, who eventually became a witness and alleged victim of sex trafficking in the Tennessee Case. FAC ¶ 10. The two struck up a relationship that was occasionally physical. See FAC ¶ 11. Salad has always understood Jane Doe Two to be “approximately the same age, ” see FAC ¶ 14.

         In April 2009, Salad, Jane Doe Two, and others travelled to Nashville, Tennessee, and during the trip, Jane Doe Two “engaged in consensual sex with men (i.e., alleged co-conspirators) other than Salad, apparently because she was angry that Salad was ignoring her.” FAC ¶¶ 17-18. “Salad is not aware of any of his alleged co-conspirators paying a fee or providing anything of value in exchange for engaging in sex acts with Jane Doe Two, and to the best of Salad's knowledge such exchange never occurred.” FAC ¶ 19. During the trip, Jane Doe Two was reported as a runaway; the Nashville police took Jane Doe Two, Salad, and others into custody; and Salad was charged in Tennessee state court with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, but the state charges against Salad were dismissed in April 2010. FAC ¶¶ 21-22, 26. When the Nashville police questioned Jane Doe Two, she initially said that she had engaged in consensual sex, “initially [saying] nothing to the officers about engaging in sex acts in exchange for payment, nor about going anywhere against her will, ” and wrote out a statement to that effect, FAC ¶ 23, but when Jane Doe Two spoke on the phone with Weyker-who was the lead investigator on the case, FAC ¶ 36-Jane Doe Two “changed her version of events to claim that her sex acts over the past few days had been prostitution and sex trafficking, ” FAC ¶ 25 (quoting United States v. Fahra, 643 Fed.Appx. 480, 485 (6th Cir. 2016)).

         Even after the state charges were dismissed, Weyker remained intent “on pursuing charges against Salad, in part because he declined to become a witness and provide false evidence supporting Weyker's phony sex-trafficking conspiracy.” FAC ¶ 27. “In fact, Weyker knew that Salad had never entered any such conspiracy, and so she set about manufacturing evidence to try to prove otherwise.” Id. “Despite the dismissal of the [state] charges, Weyker made the April 2009 trip a cornerstone of her fabricated sex-trafficking conspiracy.” FAC ¶ 28. “Weyker used the false and manufactured statements she solicited from Jane Doe Two to support allegations in the Indictment that Salad and others kidnapped and transported Jane Doe Two from Minneapolis to Nashville for the purpose of causing Jane Doe Two to engage in commercial sex acts.” Id.

         On October 20, 2010, Salad was indicted in the Tennessee Case. FAC ¶ 29. He was charged in nine counts. See Indictment (“Ind't”), United States v. Salad, No. 3:10cr260, Dkt. No. 3 (M.D. Tenn. Oct. 20, 2010);[2] see also FAC ¶ 29. 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). Two counts, Counts 3 and 4, alleged obstruction of justice. Count 16 alleged that Salad conspired to transport a stolen vehicle in interstate commerce in February 2010. Ind't ¶107. Count 17 alleged that in February 2010 through September 2010, Salad conspired to use a false identification in connection with stealing and transporting a vehicle. Ind't ¶¶ 113-15. Finally, Count 18 alleged that from 2007 through September 2010, Salad conspired to commit credit card fraud. E.g., Ind't ¶¶ 117, 120-23.[3]

         The indictment's allegation that Jane Doe Two was a minor was false. “Weyker portrayed Jane Doe Two as a minor despite knowing-and it being obvious-that Jane Doe Two was older than her alleged age, and, as a result, the U.S. Government alleged” in its indictment that Jane Doe Two was a minor. FAC ¶ 12. Weyker also know the allegations in the indictment about the April 2009 trip to Nashville with Jane Doe Two to be false; she had “manipulated, coerced, and pressured Jane Doe Two into fabricating evidence and testimony that her visit to Nashville with Salad and others was for the purpose of commercial sex, ” which was untrue. FAC ¶ 44. Similarly, “Weyker also fabricated evidence that Salad had entered an agreement with some or all of the other co-defendants to sex-traffic minors and adults for financial gain, when Weyker knew that Salad had never entered into any such agreement regarding sex-trafficking of anyone for any reason.” FAC ¶ 45.

         Salad was arrested based on the indictment, and because of the alleged violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1591, he “was subject to presumptive detention and was ordered detained pending trial.” FAC ¶ 32. For some period while he was awaiting trial, Salad was released to home monitoring, but he was held in custody for a total of about four years. FAC ¶ 62.

         Nine of Salad's co-defendants went to trial in Spring 2012, and the jury rendered its verdict in early May 2012. FAC ¶¶ 48-49; United States v. Adan, 913 F.Supp.2d 555, 560 (M.D. Tenn. 2012). Salad was originally set to stand trial with these co-defendants, but elected to be tried later with some other co-defendants. Adan, 913 F.Supp.2d at 559. The jury acquitted six of the defendants of 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 ¶ 49. In March 2016, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order affirming the district court's Rule 29 order. United States v. Fahra, 643 Fed.Appx. 480 (6th Cir. 2016); see FAC ¶ 51. The federal charges against Salad were then dismissed. FAC ¶ 60.

         Like Osman, Salad alleges that the charges of a widespread sex-trafficking conspiracy were baseless and that Weyker fabricated “the overwhelming majority of the critical evidence supporting the indictments in this alleged conspiracy, ” FAC ¶¶ 34-35; that Weyker manipulated and coerced Jane Doe witnesses, including Jane Doe Two, into lying, FAC ¶¶ 42-44; 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 ¶ 46; and that indications of Weyker's fabrication included her rough notes, questions surrounding Jane Doe Two's age and her trip to Nashville ...

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