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Farah v. Weyker

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 9, 2017

YASIN AHMED FARAH, Plaintiff,
v.
HEATHER WEYKER, in her individual capacity as a St. Paul Police Officer; JOHN DOES 1-5, in their individual capacities as St. Paul Police Officers; THE CITY OF ST. PAUL; and RICHARD ROES 1-5, in their individual capacities as federal law enforcement officers, Defendants.

          ORDER

          JOAN N. ERICKSEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Yasin Ahmed Farah 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 Does 1-5, who are allegedly St. Paul police officers who either supervised or worked with Weyker on the investigation; Richard Roes 1-5, who are allegedly federal law enforcement officers who supervised or worked with Weyker on a child sex-trafficking “task force” to which she was assigned; and the City of St. Paul (“St. Paul”). Weyker moves to dismiss Farah'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. 28. St. Paul moves on behalf of the City of St. Paul and John Does 1-5 for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c). Dkt. No. 34.

         The investigation at the core of Farah's civil complaint primarily 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”). Farah alleges that Weyker fabricated evidence about him and others throughout the investigation, resulting in a tainted indictment that was corrupted by Weyker's continuing deception, and causing his unlawful arrest and detention.

         Nineteen of Farah'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. Farah opposed the motions. See Opp. to Weyker Mot. to Dismiss (“Fed. Opp.”), Dkt. No. 39; Opp. to St. Paul Mot. (“City Opp.”), Dkt. No. 42.

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

         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

         Many 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 Farah's Amended Complaint and some facts gleaned from the Tennessee Case record.[1]

         In the summer and fall of 2009, Farah, “who was then 18 years old, living at home with his parents and had no juvenile or criminal record, visited MySpace.com on the Internet, including the MySpace page of” Jane Doe Two. Compl. ¶ 9. Farah “found Jane Doe 2 attractive and became interested in meeting her in the hope of forming a social relationship with her.” Compl. ¶ 10. “To that end, ” during this time frame, Farah emailed Jane Doe Two more than once through MySpace “suggesting that they get together and ‘hang out.'” Id. Apparently not having success in catching her attention, “[t]o try to elicit Jane Doe 2's interest in him, Farah told her in one of the e-mail messages he sent to Jane Doe 2 on November 4, 2009 that he had a ‘good mission' for her . . . .” Compl. ¶ 11. In a message he sent on November 9, 2009, Farah wrote that he “did not wish to describe” the “mission” on MySpace “and that she would find out about the ‘mission' when she met him.” Id. Jane Doe Two never accepted Farah's proposal to get together, and the two never met in person. Compl. ¶ 13.

         “When Farah sent his November 4 and 9, 2009 e-mails to Jane Doe 2, it was a common idiom among young Somalis to describe the purpose or agenda of any informal social gathering or meeting as the ‘mission' for that occasion.” Compl. ¶ 12.

         In November 2009, Weyker visited Farah and interviewed him. See Compl. ¶¶ 14-15. She “asked if he was friends or acquainted with a number of other young Somali men from Minneapolis (who later became other defendants in the [Tennessee Case]), ” and he acknowledged that he was acquainted with a number of the identified individuals through school or the tight-knit Somali community in Minneapolis. Compl. ¶ 14. He truthfully informed her that he did not consider any of these individuals to be close friends and that he had spent “almost no time socializing with any of them.” Id. Weyker also asked Farah what he had meant in his earlier emails to Jane Doe Two by the term “mission.” Compl. ¶ 15. “Farah truthfully told Weyker that it merely meant that he wanted to get together with Jane Doe 2 and ‘hang out.'” Id.

         In January 2010, Farah was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in Nashville, Tennessee, and he complied. Compl. ¶ 16. He testified truthfully, providing substantially the same answers to questions that were substantially the same as Weyker's questions to him in November 2009. Id.

         Farah was arrested on November 8, 2010, pursuant to a First Superseding Indictment (“FSI”) in the Tennessee Case. See Compl. ¶ 17; FSI, United States v. Farah, No. 3:10cr260, Dkt. No. 36 (M.D. Tenn. Nov. 3, 2010). That indictment charged him with obstruction of justice in three counts. See Compl. ¶ 1. Count 5 alleged that in his January 27, 2010, testimony before the grand jury, Farah:

knowingly did make a false material declaration, that is to say: “To see her, you know.” and “It is like, ‘let's hang out.' If you ask me, to me, that is equivalent of ‘let's hang out[.]'[”]

FSI ¶ 83. It alleged that the grand jury was investigating whether a sex-trafficking conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591 had occurred, and that “[i]t was material to said investigation that the grand jury ascertain the meaning of the word ‘mission' as used by [Farah].” FSI ¶ 84. Count 5 concludes that Farah's testimony was false in that he “knew that the word ‘mission' as used with the recipient of his message did not mean ‘let's hang out'.” FSI ¶ 86. Count 6 also alleges obstruction of justice by Farah based on his January 27, 2010, testimony before the grand jury, and Count 7 similarly alleges obstruction of the enforcement of 18 U.S.C. § 1591 based on the same conduct. The indictment also alleged that Farah was an “associate” of certain Minneapolis-based Somali gangs, but did not allege that he was a gang member, nor did it charge him with participation in any of the sex-trafficking crimes charged in the indictment and allegedly perpetuated by members and associates of those gangs. See Compl. ¶ 17; FSI ¶ 1(f) (naming him as an “associate of members” of two gangs).

         The indictment's sex-trafficking-conspiracy charges included some allegations about the alleged co-conspirators' use of the word “mission” as code for prostitution. Compl. ¶ 25. These allegations, which were included in Count 1 of the First Superseding Indictment and incorporated by reference into Count 2, were:

• “Jane Doe Two was informed” by certain named defendants-not Farah-that “selling Jane Doe Two for sex would be called a ...

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