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Beltran v. Rollie

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 24, 2018

Aida Beltran, Plaintiff,
v.
Eric Rollie and Nate Barker, in their individual capacities, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Paul A. Magnuson United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. For the following reasons, the Motion is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         At approximately 1:15 am on November 22, 2014, Defendant Wabasha County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Rollie witnessed a car rolling through a stop sign in Elgin, Minnesota. (Rollie Aff. (Docket No. 30) ¶ 3.) Rollie pulled the car over, and as he approached it, he noticed a back-seat passenger snuffing out a cigarette. (Id. ¶ 4.) This aroused Rollie's suspicions, because often individuals smoking cigarettes as an officer approaches are doing so to cover up the scent of something, such as alcohol or drugs. (Id.)

         Plaintiff Aida Beltran was driving the car. Rollie asked Beltran where the group was headed, and she responded that they were going to Oronoco. (Id. ¶ 6.) This further aroused Rollie's suspicions, because the car had rolled through the stop sign toward a residential area, not toward the road that led to Oronoco. (Id.) Rollie also noticed the odor of alcohol and marijuana in the car through the open windows. (Id. ¶ 5.) He asked whether there were any alcohol, drugs, or weapons in the car, and the three occupants answered no. (Id. ¶ 7.)

         Beltran told Rollie that she was the sober driver for her two male passengers, who had been drinking that evening. (Id. ¶ 6.) The front-seat passenger, Abraham Algadi, identified himself as the car's owner. He told Rollie that he did not have proof of insurance on the vehicle because he had just purchased insurance several days before. (Id. ¶ 8.) Rollie took the occupants' licenses with him to his squad car to run them through dispatch. (Id. ¶ 9.) At approximately this same time, Defendant Deputy Nate Barker arrived on the scene. (Id.) Rollie asked Barker to attempt to get verification of insurance from Algadi, and Barker thus approached the vehicle. Barker also noticed the strong odor of marijuana in the vehicle. (Barker Aff. (Docket No. 29) ¶ 2.)

         Because both Deputies believed that the vehicle contained drugs, they approached the vehicle again with the intent to remove the three passengers for a search of the vehicle. Deputy Rollie asked again whether there were any drugs in the car, and the occupants said no. (Id. ¶ 14.) Rollie told Algadi that he was going to search the car because he believed they had marijuana, and asked Algadi to exit the vehicle. (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.) The back-seat passenger, Corey Drewes, objected, saying that the officers could not search the car. (Id. ¶ 15.)

         As Barker was escorting Algadi away from the car, Rollie noticed that Beltran started digging in her purse. (Id. ¶ 17.) Rollie told Beltran to put her hands on the steering wheel, and she did. (Id.) As Rollie stepped closer to the car to speak to Beltran, he noticed the end of a gun magazine sticking out of Drewes's pants. (Id.) Rollie drew his weapon and told Drewes to place his hands on the ceiling of the car. (Id. ¶ 18.) Rollie called for assistance, and Barker took Drewes out of the car and secured the weapon. (Id. ¶ 19.) The gun was loaded and the safety was off; Drewes also had another magazine for the gun in a holster. (Barker Aff. ¶ 9.) As Barker removed Drewes from the car, a baggie of marijuana fell from Drewes's crotch area. (Id.)

         After securing Drewes, Barker removed Beltran from the car. While she was leaving the car, Barker saw Beltran slip her hands under her shirt and tug on her clothing. (Id. ¶ 15.) He decided to pat her down to ensure that she, too, did not have a weapon or drugs, and he conducted a brief pat-down of the area she had been touching. (Id. ¶ 16.) Barker then asked Beltran whether she would prefer to wait in the squad car, because it was cold outside and she was not wearing a coat. (Id. ¶ 17.) Beltran ultimately agreed to sit in the car. (Wolfe Aff. (Docket No. 31) Ex. 1 (Beltran Dep.) at 66.)

         The Deputies then began to search the car, and another officer, Plainview Officer Brandon Miller, arrived. (Rollie Aff. ¶ 21.) The search revealed another bag of marijuana, stuffed in a beverage bottle that had been in a cupholder between the front seats, and a black scale with marijuana residue inside one of Beltran's boots. (Rollie Aff. ¶ 22; Barker Aff. ¶ 19.) They also found a large amount of cash in Beltran's bag. (Barker Aff. ¶ 22.)

         After the search, the Deputies consulted with the on-call Wabasha County Attorney regarding charging decisions. Barker returned to his car, and Beltran told him that she had to go to the bathroom. (Id. ¶ 21.) Barker told her that there was no restroom nearby. (Id. ¶ 22.) Approximately 20 minutes after requesting to use the bathroom, Beltran was allowed to return to the car. Rollie's squad video shows her leaving at 2:19 am, or slightly more than an hour after Rollie first stopped the car. (Warren Aff. (Docket No. 32) Ex. 1.)

         Beltran offers a different account of the evening, saying that four officers pointed guns at her while she was in the car, that she was moved from car to car, and that she was “held” for more than two hours. She brought this lawsuit in Wabasha County, raising a single claim of a violation of her constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants removed the case to federal court, and now move for summary judgment, contending that qualified immunity shields them from liability for Beltran's claims.

         Beltran's pleadings are less than clear, and thus the parameters of her constitutional claims are difficult to discern. Her opposition memorandum mentions unlawful seizure in detaining her, patting her down, and not allowing her to use the bathroom. It also references alleged “interrogations” without benefit of Miranda warnings, and a ...


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