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Date: 08-04-2023

Case Style:

Giotto Germany v. Derek Watkins

Case Number: 2:21-cv-10879

Judge: Mark A. Goldsmith

Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (Wayne County)

Plaintiff's Attorney:

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Defendant's Attorney: Anthony McHugh, David Foy, Mark Straemans, Sandro DiMercurio

Description: Detroit, Michigan civil rights lawyer represented Plaintiff who sued Defendant violated his civil rights by charging him with "unlawfully summon[ing], as a joke, prank, or otherwise without good reason by phone in violation of a City of Warren ordinance.

Plaintiff Giotto Germany brings this action against Defendant Derek Watkins, a police officer employed by the City of Warren. Compl. (Dkt. 1). The action arises from events that occurred on
January 20, 2020, when Watkins responded to a 911 call that was placed at Germany's home. Id. ¶ 15.

The parties offer different versions of the events, but they agree that on January 20, Watkins responded to a 911 call that Renee Valenti made from Germany's home. Def. Mot. for Summ. J. at 15; Pl. Resp. to Def. Mot. for Summ. J. at 1. According to Watkins, Germany rented a room in his home to Valenti. Def. Mot. for Summ. J. at 13. In contrast, Germany maintains that he never agreed to rent a room to Valenti and that Valenti broke into his home. Pl. Resp. to Def. Mot. for Summ. J. at 4. When Valenti called 911, she stated that German was threatening to throw her belongings out of the home. Audio 911 call by Valenti at 0:45-0:52 (Dkt. 56-2)[2]; 1/20/20 City of Warren CAD Report (Dkt. 53-14).

In response to this call, Watkins and a detective arrived at the home. 1/20/20 City of Warren Case Report (Dkt. 53-6); Video of Watkins Microphone and Squad Car (Dkt. 56-3).[3] Before Watkins's arrival, Warren Police Department dispatch informed him that officers had responded to the address multiple times the previous night following calls from Valenti and Germany. 1/20/20 City of Warren Case Report; 1/20/20 City of Warren CAD Report; Def. Mot. for Summ. J. at 27; Pl. Resp. to Def. Mot. for Summ. J. at 1, 5. When Watkins arrived, Valenti told Watkins that she had moved into the home in January, that she was paying to rent a room, and that Germany was threatening to kick her out of the home. Video of Watkins Microphone and Squad Car at 2:35-4:11.

Watkins told Germany that Valenti had established residency in the home. Id. at 6:49-6:51. He also told Germany to “evict her, if you don't want her here.” Id. at 8:30-8:32. Germany agreed that he needed to evict Valenti. Id. at 8:32-8:54; Germany Dep. at 123-124 (Dkt. 65-2). He informed Watkins that he had tried to do so on Saturday, but that the court was closed, and he stated that he had already planned to go to court the following day to evict Valenti. Video of Watkins Microphone and Squad Car at 8:32-8:54; Germany Dep. at 123-124.

Watkins told Germany, “While you're waiting to do that tomorrow, don't go in her [Valenti's] bedroom.” Watkins Microphone and Squad Car at 8:54-8:56. Germany insisted that the room was his bedroom and that he was going to enter his bedroom. Id. at 8:56-9:00. Watkins later told Germany that Valenti had established residency to the bedroom and that, as a landlord, Germany could not simply enter the room. Id. at 15:00-15:05; 15:11-15:21; 15:41-15:48. Germany responded, “but I have a right to my stuff.” Id. at 16:27-16:29. Watkins then told Germany, “You don't have a right to go in and out of that room . . . You have to provide 24 hours' notice . . . to go in . . . if . . . you violate that, you can go to jail for that.” Id. at 16:29-16:32; 16:47-16:58.

During the interaction between Watkins and Germany, Watkins indicated that other officers had been previously called to Germany's home many times. Id. at 4:26-4:30; 11:18-11:33. The parties dispute the nature of these prior matters-including whether they involved nonemergencies and landlord-tenant disputes similar to the one on January 20. See Def. Mot. for Summ. J. at 2, 4; Pl. Resp. to Def. Mot. for Summ. J. at 5-6. They agree, however, that officers arrived at Germany's home in response to 911 calls twice on January 17 and that, on January 19, Germany called 911 twice, and Valenti called multiple times. Def. Mot. for Summ. J. at 3; Pl. Resp. to Def. Mot. for Summ. J. at 5.

While Watkins was still in the home, Germany called 911. Audio 911 Call by Germany (Dkt. 56-5).[4] Germany told the operator, “One officer is telling me I can't come in my own room.” Id. at 0:03-0:06. The operator directed Germany to talk to the officers there with him. Id. at 0:430:47. Germany stated, “yeah, one officer is telling me different and he said I'm breaking the law if I go in my room, with my stuff, touching my property . . . .” Id. at 0:43-0:52. The operator asked Germany what he would like her to do given that officers were already there. Id. at 0:550:58. Germany told the operator to hang on. Id. at 1:02-1:04. The operator stated, “You're not going to tell me to hang on,” and the call ended. Id. at 1:04-1:08.

Watkins then confirmed with the Warren Police Department dispatch that Germany had just called 911. 1/20/20 City of Warren Case Report. Watkins then arrested Germany and transported him to the Warren police station. Id. Watkins prepared a police report that documented “misuse of 911” and that stated the following:

Giotto was advised multiple times on the proper eviction process but continued to advis[e] me that I was wrong. While I was speaking to Giotto, he called 911 and advised WPD Dispatch that I was giving him incorrect information about the eviction process.

Police Report (Dkt. 56-7). Watkins also completed a warrant request. In the section titled “summary of offense,” the report states that Germany “called 911 in the presence of an officer while there was no emergency situation to call for.” Warrant Request (Dkt. 56-8).

Germany was charged with “unlawfully summon[ing], as a joke, prank, or otherwise without good reason, by phone the Warren Police on 1-20-2020 to [his home] where such service was not required,” in violation of a City of Warren ordinance titled “False alarms.” Criminal Compl. (Dkt. 65-38); see also City of Warren Code of Ordinances § 22-24(b) (Dkt. 53-20).

On January 21, 2020, Germany was arraigned in the 37th District Court. Arraignment Tr. (Dkt. 65-27). He was unable to post bond and was detained pending trial. Proof of Incarceration (Dkt. 65-33). On February 6, 2020, Germany appeared for a pretrial hearing, and his attorney informed the court that Germany wanted to go to trial. Pretrial Tr. at 3 (Dkt. 65-11). At the final pretrial hearing, Germany's attorney told the court that Germany was requesting a bench trial. Final Pretrial Tr. at 4 (Dkt. 56-12). The court scheduled a bench trial for March 5, 2020. Id.

On the date of what was supposed to be his bench trial, Germany was asked on the record if he could go three months without improperly calling 911, and he stated that he could. 3/5/20 Tr. at 3 (Dkt. 65-31). Germany also signed a form, dated March 5, 2020, titled “Motion to Amend and/or Dismiss.” 3/5/20 Mot. to Amend and/or Dismiss (Dkt. 56-14). Germany's attorney and a City attorney also signed the form. Id. The form contained a provision stating that “[a]s a condition of this plea agreement (whether this case is dismissed or not), Defendant agrees to release the City, its officers, employees and agents from any and all claims . . . that arise from the incident which gave rise to the prosecution in this case.” Id. Germany placed his initials below the release provision. Id. The court gave Germany a personal bond and scheduled a review hearing to take place in 90 days. 3/5/20 Tr. at 3-4. Germany was released from custody on March 12, 2020. Proof of Incarceration.

According to Germany, on April 2, 2020, he spoke with 911 twice-after Valenti and the significant other of Germany's former girlfriend appeared at his home. Germany Aff. ¶¶ 63-67 (Dkt. 56-6).

On July 23, 2020, Germany returned to 37th District Court. Review Hr'g Tr. (Dkt. 65-34). His attorney moved to dismiss the case, and the court granted the motion and dismissed the case against Germany. Id. Germany signed another Motion to Amend and/or Dismiss dated July 23, 2020.

7/23/20 Mot. to Amend and/or Dismiss (Dkt. 53-31). The motion states that the government moves for the dismissal of count one because Germany had not made any 911 calls in 3 months and references the first motion. Id. It contains the same release provision as the first motion. Id. Germany placed his initials below the release provision. Id.

;Germany later filed this action. He brings three claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: (i) First Amendment retaliation, (ii) false arrest, and (iii) malicious prosecution. Compl. ¶¶ 143-159. He also brings state-law claims of false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Id. ¶¶ 160-178.

Outcome: The Court granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment.

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