United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS39; MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
E. SELF, III, JUDGE.
alleges that Defendants John B. Kennedy, Megan Wright, and
Karen Wright conspired to falsely arrest and maliciously
prosecute him in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights and
that they maliciously arrested and prosecuted him in
violation of Georgia law. Defendants move for summary
judgment on the claims against them, and for the following
reasons, Defendants Megan Wright and Karen Wright39;s
Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 24] and Defendant
Kennedy39;s Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 27] are
action arises from Plaintiff39;s arrest for stalking and
the subsequent nolle prosequi of the charges against him. At
the time of the relevant events, Plaintiff, then 47 years
old, worked with Defendant Megan Wright
(“Megan”), then 17 years old, at Howard Sheppard,
Inc., a trucking company in Sandersville, Georgia. [Doc.
24-1, ¶¶ 1- 3; Doc. 27-1, ¶¶ 1, 4]. On
February 24, 2014, Megan and her mother, Defendant Karen
Wright (“Karen”), sat down with Defendant John B.
Kennedy (“Officer Kennedy”), who was a police
officer with the City of Sandersville Police Department at
the time, to discuss two encounters Megan claims she had with
Plaintiff on February 18 and 21. [Doc. 27-1, ¶¶ 9,
39]. Megan gave Officer Kennedy a statement, in which she
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 about 5:45pm I was walking into
Walmart while talking on the phone with my mom . . . .
Walking to the cards I passed [Plaintiff] Ricky Hagans, I
recognized him from work (Howard Sheppard). He smiled and
said hey so I said hey, like any time at work. Then I saw a
friend of my parents, Voyen Souter. I stopped to speak to him
at the corner of the cards aisle beside the womens clothing[,
] still on the phone with my mom. Mr. Voyen and I talked for
a few minutes. During this time, [Plaintiff] comes up behind
Mr. Voyen and mouthed to me to call him. I looked back at Mr.
Voyen and ignored [Plaintiff]. Then he moved even closer[, ]
looked me up and down and mouthed[, ] “You really need
to call me.” That time I just looked at him like he was
stupid. Mr. Voyen walked away and I went to the card aisle to
find a card (still on the phone with mama). [Plaintiff] walks
with his buggy behind the aisle I was on, across the outside
aisle and backed [himself] and buggy into the aisle across
from me and just watched me. At this point I had enough so I
Friday, February 21, 2014 about 5:20 or 5:30 pm I went to
Walmart to get pants. Again I walked in the pharmacy side and
as soon as I went to turn by the cash registers I saw
[Plaintiff]. Immediately I put my head down and quickly
turned and kept walking. Then I heard “Hey
Megan!” I looked back and there was [Plaintiff] saying
hey. I replied hey and kept walking. I replied hey hoping
that he would leave me alone.
[Doc. 1-1]. Megan testified that the first encounter made her
“very uncomfortable.” [Doc. 42, pp. 18:21-19:1].
on the other hand, testified that he saw Megan in Walmart on
February 11-not February 18-but did not know who she was.
[Doc. 25, pp. 70:1-72:1]. According to Plaintiff, Megan waved
at him, but because he did not recognize her, he “went
about [his] business” and entered the checkout line.
[Id.]. While he was in line, his wife called and
asked him to look at the prices for microwaves because theirs
had stopped working. [Id.]. Plaintiff exited the
checkout line, started walking toward the microwaves, and saw
Megan again. [Id.]. She was “constantly
waving” at him but stopped to speak with a man before
she could reach Plaintiff. [Id.]. Rather than
stopping to mouth words to Megan as she claims, Plaintiff
testified that he kept walking past her and the man to whom
she was speaking. [Id.]. When he got to the
microwave aisle, he saw Megan across from him in the card
aisle and called his wife to tell her that Megan was looking
at him like she wanted to say something. [Id.]. His
wife told him to leave, so he re-entered the checkout line
and saw Megan leave the store. [Id.]. He testified
that after February 11, he never saw Megan again, even though
he admits that he may have been in the same Walmart on
February 21 when Megan claims he spoke to her. [Id.
at pp. 71:25-72:1, 76:25-77:1, 78:5-13].
to meeting with Megan and Karen on February 24, Officer
Kennedy went to the Walmart to review surveillance footage
based on limited information he had received from Megan and
Karen before the meeting. [Doc. 40, pp.
21:21-22:8]. In three black-and-white still photos from
the February 18 surveillance footage, a person-whose features
are unascertainable-is circled with black marker. [Doc. 40,
pp. 91-93]. In one of these photos, the circled person has a
shopping cart and is labeled “backing buggy into
aisle.” [Id. at p. 93].[2" name="FN2" id="FN2">2] None of the still
photos in the record are date-stamped February 21.
[Id. at pp. 91-95]. Because the surveillance video
contained no audio, Officer Kennedy could not tell whether
the person in the video spoke to Megan. [Doc. 40, p. 34:3-6].
Karen testified that after Officer Kennedy viewed the
surveillance footage, he contacted her and told her that the
video clearly depicted the events that Megan claimed had
occurred. [Doc. 43, pp. 16:23-17:4].
and Karen testified that Officer Kennedy made reference to
other incidents involving Plaintiff that he knew of, and they
believed they were a small part of a bigger criminal
investigation of Plaintiff. [Doc. 42, pp. 40:11-41:3,
57:18-25, 59:9-15; Doc. 43, pp. 21:5-22:4]. Kennedy disputes
telling Megan and Karen that he had evidence of other
incidents involving Plaintiff, [Doc. 40, p. 30:15-19], and he
testified that he gave them two options: he could personally
ask Plaintiff to leave Megan alone or they could proceed with
criminal action. [Id. at pp. 29:18-30:2]. He further
testified that they chose the second option. [Id. at
p. 30:3-5]. However, Megan testified that they never told
Officer Kennedy that they wanted to press charges against
Plaintiff; they simply wanted law enforcement to be aware of
these events in case they developed further. [Doc. 42, pp.
47:16-48:4, 54:2-5]. Karen, on the other hand, testified that
it was her decision to press charges against Plaintiff and
supported Officer Kennedy39;s decision to arrest Plaintiff
as long as he had enough evidence to do so. [Doc. 43, pp.
with Megan39;s statement, a copy of the surveillance video,
copies of the still photos from the video, and his belief
that he had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff, Officer
Kennedy applied for an arrest warrant from the Washington
County Magistrate Judge. [Doc. 40, pp. 38:15-39:4, 67:19-25].
Officer Kennedy39;s affidavit in support of his warrant
application merely states, “Subject is following and
harassing [Megan] to go out with him.” [Id. at
p. 87]. When asked what evidence he based this statement on,
Officer Kennedy testified that he made the assumption that
Plaintiff was attempting to get Megan to date him based on
Megan39;s statement that Plaintiff told her to call him.
[Id. at pp. 35:25-36:15].[3"
name="FN3" id="FN3">3] Officer Kennedy also
testified that the Walmart surveillance video showed
Plaintiff following Megan through the store. [Id. at
February 26, 2014, after reviewing Officer Kennedy39;s
affidavit and Megan39;s statement-but not the surveillance
footage or still photos-the Washington County Magistrate
Judge issued a warrant for Plaintiff39;s arrest.
[Id. at p. 39:1-10, p. 87]. Plaintiff was arrested
at work the next day and subsequently charged via accusation
with stalking Megan in violation of Ga. Code Ann. §
16-5-90. [Id. at p. 97; Doc. 25, p. 26:6-9]. In
Georgia, stalking is defined as following, placing under
surveillance, or contacting another person at a certain place
without that person39;s consent for the purpose of
harassing and intimidating him or her. Ga Code Ann. §
[T]he term ‘harassing and intimidating39; means a
knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific
person which causes emotional distress by placing such person
in reasonable fear for such person39;s safety or the safety
of a member of his or her immediate family, by establishing a
pattern of harassing and intimidating behavior, and which
serves no legitimate purpose.
Id. A person who commits this offense and has no
previous conviction for this offense is guilty of a
misdemeanor. Id. at (b).
months after Plaintiff was charged, Kerri Sheram, a woman who
worked at Howard Sheppard with Megan and who was,
coincidentally, Officer Kennedy39;s former stepdaughter,
gave Officer Kennedy a written statement in which she claimed
that Plaintiff followed her around town, loitered around her
workplace, and sent her letters in 1992 when she was 16 years
old. [Doc. 25-1; Doc. 39, pp. 7:17-19, 10:2-5]. Tamiko Watts
also wrote a statement regarding Plaintiff after seeing an
article in the Sandersville newspaper about his arrest. [Doc.
41, pp. 5:18-6:25]. In her statement, Ms. Watts wrote that
she “experienced harassing phone calls, being followed,
and inappropriate comments” from Plaintiff at an
unspecified time, which made her “feel like [she] was
being stalked.” [Doc. 25-2]. She gave her statement to
Karen, who she worked with, and Karen forwarded it to Officer
Kennedy. [Doc. 41, p. 6:21-25; Doc. 43, p. 31:12-19]. Officer
Kennedy put the statements in his investigative file and
informed the solicitor that he had them in case they were
needed during Plaintiff39;s prosecution. [Doc. 40, pp.
75:22-76:4]. On January 11, 2016, after repeated
continuances, a Washington County State Court judge dismissed
Plaintiff39;s criminal action via nolle prosequi. [Doc.
1-3, p. 1].
filed this action on October 6, 2017, alleging that
Defendants falsely claimed that Plaintiff followed Megan and
asked her to go out with him. See generally [Doc.
1]. He further alleges that Defendants conspired to secure
his arrest and prosecution despite knowing that Megan39;s
statement and Officer Kennedy39;s affidavit were false.
According to Plaintiff, Officer Kennedy also knew that he did
not have probable cause to arrest Plaintiff but sought and
obtained a warrant anyway. Based on these contentions,
Plaintiff seeks to hold Defendants liable under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for civil conspiracy to falsely arrest and
maliciously prosecute him; under Ga. Code Ann. § 51-7-1
for maliciously arresting him; and under Ga. Code Ann. §
51-7-40 for maliciously prosecuting him. Defendants now move
for summary judgment on the claims against them, and the
Court finds as follows.
Standard of Review
is entitled to summary judgment “if the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). As to issues for which the
movant would bear the burden of proof at trial, the
“movant must affirmatively show the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact and support its motion with
credible evidence demonstrating that no reasonable jury could
find for the non-moving party on all of the essential
elements of its case.” Landolfi v. City of
Melbourne, 32');">515 Fed.Appx. 832, 834 (11th Cir. 2013)
(citing Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112');">2 F.3d 1112,
1115 (11th Cir. 1993)). As to issues for which the non-movant
would bear the burden of proof at trial, the movant may (1)
simply point out an absence of evidence to support the
non-moving party39;s case or (2) provide “affirmative
evidence demonstrating that the [non-movant] will be unable
to prove its case at trial.” United States v. Four
Parcels of Real Prop. in Greene & Tuscaloosa Ctys.,
2d 1428');">941 F.2d 1428, 1438 (11th Cir. 1991) (citing Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 317');">477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986)).
the movant satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the
non-movant, who must “go beyond the pleadings and
present affirmative evidence to show that a genuine
issue of material fact exists.” Porter v. Ray,
3d 1315');">461 F.3d 1315, 1320 (11th Cir. 2006) (citing
Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1115-17) (emphasis added).
“A factual dispute is genuine ‘if the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the