United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Gainesville Division
RICHARD W. STORY, District Judge.
This case comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment , Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment , Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute , and Defendants' Motion for Leave to File Sworn Statement of William Narens and Amanda Narens in Further Support of Defendants' Response to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment . After reviewing the record, the Court enters the following Order.
This case arises out of a custody dispute concerning a minor child, which dispute ultimately led to the arrest of Plaintiff Laura Valentine for obstruction and interference with custody.
I. The Narens' Divorce and Custody Dispute
William and Chrisalena Narens were formerly married and are the parents of Iris Narens, a five-year-old girl at the time of these events in May 2008. Plaintiff is William's mother and the grandmother of Iris. After William and Chrisalena separated, Chrisalena moved to Texas with Iris. (Defs.' Statement of Material Facts ("SMF"), Dkt. [103-1] ¶ 43.) Chrisalena then filed for divorce in Texas in December 2007, and William filed for divorce in Georgia in February 2008. (Dkt. [103-3, 103-4].) Chrisalena hired Paula Free, an attorney in Georgia, to represent her in obtaining a dismissal of the Georgia action.
On April 29, 2008, the Superior Court of Barrow County entered an order finding that Texas had assumed jurisdiction of the divorce action, stating that the court "declines to further exercise jurisdiction, and relinquishes jurisdiction to Texas." (Dkt. [103-5].) The court then noted that it had conferred with the court in Texas and, based on agreement by the parties, the court recommended "that since the child has resided continuously in Georgia for more than eight months, is enrolled in school in Georgia, (which school year will end in May), the child should finish the school year with her class. Based on such agreement, the child shall remain in the custody of the Father until further order of the Texas court." (Id.) Then, sometime prior to May 22, 2008, Ms. Free was informed by Chrisalena's Texas attorney that the Texas court had issued an order granting Chrisalena custody of Iris. (See Defs.' SMF, Dkt. [103-1] ¶ 12; Texas Order, Dkt. [103-6].)
II. Chrisalena's Attempt to Obtain Custody
On May 22, 2008, Ms. Free sent a letter to William's attorney asking if the parties had agreed on a location to exchange custody of Iris on Monday, May 26, 2008. Chrisalena and Ms. Free then met with Defendant Deputy Andra Bush of the Barrow County Sheriff's Department on the morning of Monday, May 26. According to Deputy Bush's incident report, Ms. Free "showed [her] a court order to pick up a 5 year old female from an address at 904 Dogwood Trail[, ] Winder, GA." (Dkt. [96-1] at 1.) Deputy Bush states that she assumed the order was signed since an attorney, Ms. Free, provided it to her. (Bush Depo., Dkt.  at 38.) Moreover, Ms. Free told Deputy Bush that the order granted custody of Iris to Chrisalena, (Defs.' SMF, Dkt. [103-1] ¶ 27) but Plaintiff disputes the reasonableness of relying on Ms. Free. In any event, Ms. Free also informed Deputy Bush that there was a history of violence between Chrisalena and William. (Id.)
Plaintiff further disputes that Deputy Bush saw the Texas custody order on May 26, instead asserting that Deputy Bush only received a copy of the order on June 10, 2008, and thus it is "unclear what order was received when." (Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' SMF, Dkt. [113-1] ¶ 24.) Plaintiff relies on Deputy Bush's deposition wherein Deputy Bush stated that Ms. Free showed her a custody order, although she could not remember if it was signed by a judge, and she later received a copy of the order by mail on June 10, 2008. (Bush Depo., Dkt.  at 34-36.) Plaintiff is unable to point to any facts disputing whether Ms. Free showed Deputy Bush a custody order on May 26, 2008. Nonetheless, Plaintiff asserts that the order was not facially valid because it was unsigned, bearing only a signature by an "Associate Judge" appearing below the blank signature line for the "Judge Presiding." (See Custody Order, Dkt. [96-1] at 26.) It is undisputed, however, that the order was not domesticated pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 19-9-85. (See Defs.' SMF, Dkt. [103-1] ¶ 22; Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' SMF, Dkt. [113-1] ¶ 24.)
At the time of these events, William and his daughter were residing with Plaintiff at 901 Dogwood Trail, Winder, Georgia. On Monday, May 26, Deputy Bush went to Plaintiff's home and informed Plaintiff that she had a custody order granting custody of Plaintiff's granddaughter to Chrisalena. (Id. ¶ 32.) Deputy Bush asked if William and Iris were at the residence, and Plaintiff responded that William and Iris had gone on vacation to Cade's Cove in the Tennessee Smoky Mountains on Friday but would be back early that week. (Valentine Depo., Dkt.  at 43-44; Incident Report, Dkt. [96-1] at 2.) Plaintiff told Deputy Bush that William did not have a cellular phone but had called from a friend's phone just before going out of range to let Plaintiff know where they were traveling. (Def.'s SMF, Dkt. [103-1] ¶ 33.)
The next day, Tuesday, May 27, 2008, Deputy Bush drove by Plaintiff's home but did not see William's vehicle. Deputy Bush then visited Holsenbeck Elementary School, where she was informed that Iris was absent. When Deputy Bush told Chrisalena that William had not yet returned with Iris, Chrisalena became upset, expressing fear that William had "taken her and [run] again." (Incident Report, Dkt. [96-1] at 2.) Chrisalena explained that after the separation, Chrisalena and her daughter moved to Texas, and on one of William's visits he took Iris from Texas to Georgia and declared he was not going to return her. (Id. at 3.) Chrisalena further explained that William had served in the military for over eight years, and after he "returned from Iraq he began worshiping Satan and even had a satanic name, Neocelt." (Id.) Plaintiff, on the other hand, argues that Chrisalena was lying and that Defendants did not attempt to verify her story. (Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' SMF, Dkt. [113-1] ¶ 40.)
Chrisalena also reported to Deputy Bush that William used illegal drugs and was involved in a satanic group that conducted animal sacrifice and valued the sacrifice of a child or a child's virginity. (Incident Report, Dkt. [96-1] at 3.) Chrisalena said she was worried for the safety of her daughter and requested an Amber Alert. (Id. at 4.) However, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation declined to issue the alert after determining that the case did not meet the requirements for issuing one. (Id.) That same day, Deputy Bush obtained an arrest warrant for William for interference with custody.
III. The Search for William Narens and Arrest of Plaintiff Valentine
On Tuesday, May 27, 2008, Deputy Bush returned to Plaintiff's home, spoke to Plaintiff, and informed her that Defendants had a warrant for William's arrest. (Defs.' SMF, Dkt. [103-1] ¶ 50.) Plaintiff said she still had not spoken to her son. (Valentine Depo., Dkt.  at 57.) Plaintiff permitted Deputy Bush to see inside William's room, where Deputy Bush observed "several satanic pictures, books, and a schedule for a satanic conference in Atlanta." (Incident Report, Dkt. [96-1] at 5.) Plaintiff insisted that William was not a Satan worshiper but was instead doing research for a friend, and the books were by Anne Rice, the gothic fiction writer, and were about Celtic religions. (Id.)
Deputy Bush contacted federal authorities at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, faxed park rangers photographs of William and Iris, and asked them to search for William's vehicle around Cade's Cove. (Defs.' SMF, Dkt. [103-1] ¶ 60.) After the park rangers informed Deputy Bush later that day that they had not seen William or Iris at any of the camp grounds in the area, Deputy Bush, Defendant Investigator ...