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Yassin v. Weyker

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 9, 2017

IFRAH YASSIN, Plaintiff,
v.
HEATHER WEYKER, individually and in her official capacity as a St. Paul Police Officer; JOHN DOES 1-2, individually and in their official capacities as St. Paul Police Officers; JOHN DOES 3-4, individually and in their 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 Ifrah Yassin alleges that she was arrested without probable cause on the basis of fabricated evidence and material omissions, in violation of her constitutional rights. She was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of obstructing justice by attempting to intimidate a witness in a different federal case, and a jury acquitted her of all charges after a trial. Yassin sues Defendants Heather Weyker, a police officer for the St. Paul Police Department in Minnesota; John Does 3-4, members of the St. Paul Police Department who are alleged to have been Weyker's supervisors; and the City of St. Paul (“St. Paul”).[1] Weyker moves to dismiss Yassin'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. 22. St. Paul moves on behalf of the City of St. Paul and John Does 3-4 for judgment on the pleadings. Dkt. No. 28.

         The witness whom Yassin was charged with intimidating was a witness in a large criminal case prosecuted in the Middle District of Tennessee that at its core alleged a widespread conspiracy to sex-traffic minor girls across Minnesota, Tennessee, and Ohio (“Tennessee Case”). Thirty people, mostly Somali, were indicted in the Tennessee Case in 2010-2011. Twenty of the former defendants in that criminal case have brought separate civil suits alleging that Weyker, an investigator in the Tennessee Case, fabricated evidence, causing them to be arrested and detained unlawfully. The parties in these twenty-one separate civil cases agreed to coordinated briefing on the defendants' motions to dismiss and for judgment on the pleadings. 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).

         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) (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.

         III. SUMMARY OF YASSIN'S ALLEGATIONS

         On June 16, 2011, Yassin and two friends, Hawo Ahmed and Hamdi Mohamud, were driving to the mall when Ahmed spotted Muna Abdulkadir. Compl. ¶¶ 8-9. Ahmed told her friends that she wanted to fight Abdulkadir, without explaining why, and exited the car to approach Abdulkadir. Compl. ¶ 9. Yassin followed. Id. The two followed Abdulkadir into an apartment building, where Ahmed confronted her, and Abdulkadir agreed to fight. Compl. ¶ 10. The three stepped into an elevator and got into a physical altercation. Compl. ¶¶ 10-11. Yassin did not participate until she felt the need to protect Ahmed, who was pregnant. See Compl. ¶ 11. The three parted ways, and Abdulkadir proceeded to go to Ahmed's car, with a knife in hand, and begin breaking the windows. Compl. ¶¶ 12-13. When Yassin approached, Abdulkadir lunged at her with the knife. Compl. ¶ 14.

         Yassin broke away and called the police for emergency help. Compl. ¶ 15. Minneapolis Police Department Officer Anthijuan Beeks responded to Yassin's emergency call, and when he arrived at the scene, he spoke to Yassin and her friends, treating them as victims of alleged felony assault and vandalism. Compl. ¶ 17. Before he could find and question Abdulkadir, he received an urgent call from Weyker. Id.

         After observing that Yassin had called the police, Abdulkadir ran and called Weyker. Compl. ¶ 16. Weyker then got in touch with Beeks. She informed him that she was a St. Paul police officer, that “Abdulkadir was a key witness in a federal human-trafficking investigation that Weyker was working on, ” and that Weyker “had ‘information and documentation' that Yassin, Ahmed, and Mohamud had been actively seeking out Abdulkadir to intimidate her and cause bodily harm to her because of her role in the federal investigation.” Compl. ¶ 18.

         Without confirming that the “information and documentation” existed, Beeks took Weyker at her word: “her conversation with him ‘changed the situation.'” Compl. ¶ 19. “Based on Weyker's representations, Officer Beeks and his supervisor decided to arrest Yassin, Ahmed, and Mohamud on suspicion of federal witness tampering. The[y] also decided not to arrest Abdulkadir on state felony assault or vandalism charges.” Compl. ¶ 20. “Beeks told Yassin in his squad car while driving her to jail that he arrested her based on Officer Weyker's assertions.” Compl. ¶ 25.

         In fact, Weyker did not have any “information and documentation” about Yassin or her friends, about whom Weyker had only first learned that very day. Compl. ¶ 21. Yassin had been out of the country from 2008 to 2011, Compl. ¶ 22, while the Tennessee Case investigation was ongoing and the indictments were filed. Weyker's statement to Beeks that she had “information and documentation” that Yassin had been trying to intimidate and harm Abdulkadir for her role as a witness was entirely false, and furthermore omitted that Abdulkadir had “previously made multiple false statements to her.” Compl. ¶¶ 21, 23. Weyker made these false and misleading statements because “Abdulkadir was a lynchpin of Weyker's manufactured human-trafficking case, ” the Tennessee Case, in which none of the defendants who stood trial were convicted. Compl. ¶ 24 & n.2 (citing United States v. Fahra, 643 Fed.Appx. 480 (6th Cir. 2016)). Weyker “sought to assist Abdulkadir in avoiding criminal charges for her actions against Yassin, Ahmed, and Mohamud as further incentive for Abdulkadir to continue cooperating with Weyker by fabricating events and testimony in the human-trafficking case.” Compl. ¶ 24.

         After Beeks arrested Yassin, she was temporarily held in custody before being released on conditions. Compl. ¶ 32. She was indicted on federal charges of witness tampering and obstruction of justice. Compl. ¶ 25. A jury acquitted her of all charges in July 2013. Id. ¶ 34.

         Yassin alleges violations of her rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and/or Fourteenth Amendments. She also includes allegations ...


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