United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division
SHANESIA S. JAUDON, Plaintiff,
ROBERT B. SASSER, for the Estate of Robert C. Sasser, MIKE THOMAS, TIMOTHY HOLLINGSWORTH, and MATTHEW J. DOERING, in their individual and official capacities; and GLYNN COUNTY, GEORGIA, Defendants.
STAN BAKER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
lawsuit arises out of the search of Plaintiff Shanesia S.
Jaudon's residence and her subsequent arrest and
prosecution. (Doc. 12.) Plaintiff alleges that Robert C.
Sasser,  Mike Thomas, and Timothy Hollingsworth, in
their official and individual capacities, searched her home
without probable cause and later maliciously arrested and
prosecuted her in violation of federal and Georgia law. (Doc.
12, pp. 4-37.) Plaintiff also alleges that Matthew J.
Doering,  in his individual and official capacities,
negligently failed to terminate Defendant Sasser's
employment despite a pattern of unlawful behavior.
(Id. at pp. 31-32.) Finally, Plaintiff contends
Defendant Glynn County is liable for Doering's alleged
inaction. (Id. at pp. 38-39.)
before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment, (doc. 62). For the reasons set forth below, the
Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to support any of her
claims with enough evidence to survive summary judgment.
Moreover, even if a genuine dispute of material fact existed
as to the merits of Plaintiff's claims, Defendants would
nonetheless be shielded by qualified, official, and/or
sovereign immunity. Accordingly, the Court
GRANTS Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment, (doc. 62). The Court DIRECTS the
Clerk of Court to enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal
and to CLOSE this case.
filed this action on September 9, 2017, (doc. 1), and later
filed an Amended Complaint, (doc. 12), alleging violations of
her Fourth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
and Georgia law. (Id.) Specifically, Plaintiff
contends Defendant Sasser, an officer with the Glynn County
Sheriff's Department, and Defendant Thomas, an officer
with the Brunswick Police Department, lacked probable cause
to search her home for Alton Brown-a non-party who was the
subject of an active arrest warrant. (Id. at pp.
4-37.) Plaintiff alleges that, after the search, Sasser,
Thomas, and Defendant Hollingsworth, another officer with the
Glynn County Sheriff's Department, caused her arrest and
prosecution based on feelings of ill-will. (Id.)
Based on these allegations, Plaintiff asserts claims against
Thomas, Sasser, and Hollingsworth for: effecting an
unconstitutional search in violation of the Fourth Amendment
(Count XII); false arrest in violation of the Fourth
Amendment and Georgia law (Counts I, II); false imprisonment
in violation of the Fourth Amendment and Georgia law (Counts
III, IV); malicious arrest in violation of the Fourth
Amendment and Georgia law (Counts V, VI); malicious
prosecution in violation of the Fourth Amendment and Georgia
law (Counts VII, VIII); and intentional infliction of
emotional distress in violation of Georgia law (Count
(Doc. 12, pp. 4-37.)
further alleges that Defendant Doering was on notice that
Sasser “had no problem violating other persons[']
legal and constitutional rights” yet chose not to take
remedial action, and that Defendant Glynn County endorsed
Doering's decision. (Id. at pp. 31-32, 38-39.)
As such, Plaintiff contends that Doering and the County are
liable for Sasser's actions (Counts X,
XIII). (Id.) Plaintiff also asserts her
intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against
Doering (Count IX). (Id. at p. 29.) Finally,
Plaintiff seeks attorney's fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1988 (Count XIV) and requests compensatory damages and
punitive damages for each of her claims. (Id. at pp.
an extended period of discovery, Defendants filed the
at-issue Motion for Summary Judgment seeking dismissal of all
of Plaintiff's claims. (Doc. 62.) Plaintiff then filed a
Response, (doc. 71), and an Amended Response, (doc. 83), and
Defendant filed a Reply, (doc. 76).
events giving rise to this action took place during an
eight-month period. On September 27, 2015, several Glynn
County and City of Brunswick police officers conducted a
search at Plaintiff's home located 508 Mack Street in
Brunswick, Georgia. (Doc. 62-1, p. 5.) Prior to the search, a
car belonging to the subject of an arrest warrant, Alton
Brown, was located across the street from Plaintiff's
residence. (Doc. 62-5, p. 2.) The arrest warrant listed 508
Mack Street as Brown's address. (Id. at p. 8.)
Based on this information, officers asked Plaintiff for her
permission to conduct a search because they believed that
Brown was hiding inside her residence. (Id. at pp.
5-9.) Plaintiff declined to consent to the search, and the
officers obtained a search warrant, ultimately locating Brown
inside Plaintiff's bedroom. (Id. at pp. 8-9.)
Plaintiff was subsequently arrested and indicted on criminal
charges in connection with Brown's presence in her home.
(Doc. 83, p. 3.) However, the criminal charges against
Plaintiff were disposed of via entry of nolle
prosequi in May 2016. (Doc. 71-5.) The relevant details
from each of these events are described below.
Events Leading to the Search of 508 Mack Street
met Alton Brown approximately ten years ago. (Doc. 64, p.
26.) According to Plaintiff, she and Brown began to have
relationship problems at some point in 2014. (Id. at
pp. 74-76.) For example, on May 25, 2015, Plaintiff called
the police when Brown tried to break into her residence at
508 Mack Street. (Id. at pp. 74-76.) Plaintiff told
the responding officer, Officer Chapman, that she had
instructed Brown “to leave several times but he [kept]
returning to her residence.” (Id. at p. 76.)
According to Chapman's police report, Brown left the
property before Chapman arrived but Plaintiff told Chapman
that Brown was driving a “silver Nissan Altima with
dark tinted windows and a Georgia wild life tag.” (Doc.
62-2, p. 8.) Chapman located a car matching that description
but did not find Brown. (Id.)
three months later, on August 26, 2015, Officers Melendez,
Gibson, Browning, and Lowther responded to a domestic dispute
at the home of a woman named Jessica Thomas. (Id. at
p. 3.) Thomas claimed that Brown threatened to kill her and
her family. (Id.) While the officers spoke to
Thomas, Brown ran out of the residence, and Browning and
Lowther pursued him. (Id.) However, Brown evaded
capture. (Id.) Two days later, a Glynn County
Magistrate Court Judge signed two arrest warrants for Brown
prepared by Officer Williams-one for willful obstruction of
law enforcement officers and another for terroristic threats
and acts. (Doc. 62-3, pp. 2-3.) The warrants listed
Brown's “home address” as “1610 Mlk
[sic] Blvd, ” property that Brown owns. (Id.;
doc. 71-2, p. 2.) On September 11, Thomas told Officer
Kapellers that Brown called her over twenty times despite
having been instructed not to contact her, and Officer Haney
used this information to obtain a third arrest warrant for
Brown on September 14. (Doc. 62-2, pp. 4-5; doc. 62-4, p. 2.)
This warrant listed Brown's home address as 508 Mack
Street-Plaintiff's residence. (Doc. 62-4, p. 2.)
point before the morning of September 25, 2015, Defendant
Sasser received information about Brown that ultimately led
him to 508 Mack Street to locate Brown. (Doc. 62-8, pp. 2-3;
see doc. 62-2, p. 3.) Sasser testified that he spoke
with “a reliable confidential informant who told him
that Brown was hiding out” at Plaintiff's house,
and that a “concerned citizen” informed another
officer that he saw Brown arrive at the residence. (Doc.
62-8, pp. 2-3.) According to Defendant Thomas, Sasser also
represented that he was told Brown parked “his silver
Nissan Altima at hotels near his ex-girlfriend's
residence at 508 Mack Street and walk[ed] to the
residence.” (Doc. 65, pp. 20-21.) Sasser surveilled the
area based on this information because part of his job
“was to actively search for wanted fugitives in Glynn
County, ” and Brown was classified as such. (Doc. 62-8,
p. 2.) The surveillance revealed that Brown's car was
indeed parked at “a hotel within walking distance of
[Plaintiff's] residence, ” the Clarion Inn.
(Id.; doc. 62-5, p. 2.) Sasser explained that this
information led him to believe that Brown was at 508 Mack
Street. (Doc. 62-8, p. 2.) Accordingly, he and at least one
other officer went to Plaintiff's house around 8:30 a.m.
on September 25. (Id.; doc. 62-2, p. 3; doc. 64, pp.
41-42.) After Plaintiff answered the door, the officers told
her they were looking for Brown to execute a warrant for his
arrest. (Doc. 62-9, pp. 2-3.) Plaintiff does not recall
whether the officers explained why they thought Brown was
inside her home. (Doc. 64, pp. 42-43.) Nevertheless,
Plaintiff told the officers that Brown was not inside her
house and that they could not search her home without a
warrant. (Id. at p. 42; doc. 62-9, p. 3.)
next day, September 26, Sasser contacted Defendant Thomas and
his unit at the Brunswick Police Department and requested
their assistance in serving an arrest warrant at 508 Mack
Street. (Doc. 65, pp. 8-9.) Thomas remembers that “four
or five” officers from his “group”
responded and that a K9 city officer, Officer Condo,
eventually joined them. (Id.) After Sasser apprised
the officers of the situation, Thomas saw the “silver
car” across the street at the hotel and verified that
it belonged to Brown. (Id. at pp. 15-16.) The
officers went to Plaintiff's residence later that day and
spoke to her about Brown's arrest warrants for the second
time. (Id. at pp. 52- 53.) Plaintiff
once again told the officers that Brown was not there and
said they could only search the residence if they showed her
a warrant. (Doc. 64, p. 44.) Thomas testified that as she
spoke to the officers, Plaintiff “became very
loud” and “boisterous, ” slammed and locked
the front door, and walked away while she continued to
yell-behavior he considered “evasive.”
(Id. at p. 53.)
point, most of the officers stepped back to set up a
“perimeter, ” meaning they surrounded the
property but did not approach the residence. (Doc. 65, pp.
17-18.) Plaintiff left her house with her children soon
thereafter and her sister picked them up “down the
road.” (Doc. 64, pp. 49-51.) Meanwhile, Thomas left the
area and went to the Glynn County Police Department to
prepare a search warrant for 508 Mack Street. (Id.
at pp. 11, 17.) To prepare the affidavit, Thomas spoke with
Sasser on the phone and typed the information as it was
relayed to him. (Id. at p. 11; doc. 62-5.) Thomas
indicated that some information in the affidavit was not
based on his own personal knowledge. For example, Thomas
Affiant states, Sgt. Sasser states that information given to
Sgt. Sasser from a concerned citizen was that Mr. Brown will
park his silver Nissan Altima at hotels hear his
ex[-]girlfriends' [sic] residence at 508 Mack St. and
walk to the residence. Affiant states, information given by
the concerned citizen to Sgt. Sasser is that he frequents the
residence in the same manner. Affiant states, Sgt. Sasser
states, that this concerned citizen has [sic] truthful
information in the past that has been corroborated by Law
Enforcement and only asks to remain anonymous out of fear of
(Doc. 62-5, pp. 2-3.) However, Thomas also included his
firsthand knowledge, noting that: he saw Brown's car at
the hotel; Plaintiff was “verbally upset;”
Officer Palmer told Plaintiff of the active warrant for
Brown's arrest with her address; and Plaintiff left her
house before an officer could show her the arrest warrant.
(Id. at p. 3.) He stated that he believed the
circumstances created probable cause to believe that Brown
was inside 508 Mack Street. (Id.) Thomas then
presented the finished documents to a Glynn County magistrate
judge who signed the search warrant and supporting affidavit
around 11:30 p.m. (Doc. 65, pp. 13-14; see doc.
and the other officers executed the search warrant shortly
after midnight on September 27; upon entering Plaintiff's
residence, they located Brown in a bedroom. (Doc. 65, p. 5;
doc. 62-9, p. 5.) Because Plaintiff left prior to the search,
an officer left a copy of the warrant on her coffee table.
(Doc. 64, p. 55.)
Plaintiff's Arrests and Prosecution
September 28, 2015, the day after the search, Sasser obtained
four arrest warrants for Plaintiff-two warrants for hindering
the apprehension of a criminal and two warrants for
obstruction of an officer. (Doc. 62-6, pp. 2-5.) Approximately one
week later, Plaintiff received a phone call from
“Sheriff Jump” asking her to go to the
sheriff's department to discuss Brown's arrest. (Doc.
64, pp. 61-62.) When she arrived, another officer confronted
Plaintiff and told her that there were warrants for
her arrest. (Id. at pp. 63-64.) Plaintiff
was arrested shortly thereafter and remained in custody until
she posted bond “[a] few days” later.
(Id. at p. 66; doc. 62-6, pp. 2- 5.) In November
2015, a grand jury indicted Plaintiff on two counts of
hindering apprehension of a criminal; two counts of
obstruction; and two counts of making a false statement to a
law enforcement officer. (Doc. 71-4.) On November 23, a Glynn
County Superior Court judge issued two bench warrants for
Plaintiff's arrest based on the false statement
indictments. (Doc. 62-7.)
bench warrants were executed on January 26, 2016.
(Id.) That day, Sasser called for the police
officers in the “zone unit” near Plaintiff's
house “to meet him at the back of the church over by
Mack Street.” (Doc. 63, pp. 26-30.) Officer
Hollingsworth was in that zone at the time and responded to
Sasser's call. (Id. at p. 28.) Hollingsworth
joined Thomas and Sasser at the meeting point. (Id.
at pp. 28-29.) Sasser explained that he was going to execute
warrants for Plaintiff's arrest and wanted a marked
patrol unit-like Hollingsworth's vehicle-to be there.
(Id.) After Sasser showed Hollingsworth the signed
warrants, the three officers drove to 508 Mack Street where
Hollingsworth knocked on the front door. (Id. at pp.
29-30.) When Plaintiff answered, Hollingsworth placed her
under arrest and booked her at the Detention Center.
(Id.; doc. 62-9, p. 6.) Plaintiff was later released
on bond. (Doc. 62-9, p. 6.)
connection with her criminal case, Plaintiff filed a motion
to suppress the evidence obtained from the September 27, 2015
search of her residence. (Doc. 62-8.) The Superior Court of
Glynn County granted that motion, finding the affidavit
prepared in support of the search warrant to be
“legally insufficient.” (Id. at p. 4.)
Thus, the evidence from the search-the officers'
discovery of Brown in Plaintiff's house-was not
admissible in her criminal case. The criminal charges against
Plaintiff were later disposed of via entry of nolle
prosequi in May 2016. (Doc. 71-5.)
judgment “shall” be granted if “the movant
shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is
“material” if it “might affect the outcome
of the suit under the governing law.” FindWhat
Inv'r Grp. v. FindWhat.com, 658 F.3d 1282, 1307
(11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A dispute is
“genuine” if the “evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
moving party bears the burden of establishing that there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact. See
Williamson Oil Co. v. Philip Morris USA, 346 F.3d 1287,
1298 (11th Cir. 2003). Specifically, the moving party must
identify the portions of the record which establish that
there are no “genuine dispute[s] as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Moton v. Cowart, 631 F.3d 1337, 1341
(11th Cir. 2011). When the nonmoving party would have the
burden of proof at trial, the moving party may discharge his
burden by showing that the record lacks evidence to support
the nonmoving party's case or that the nonmoving party
would be unable to prove his case at trial. See id.
(citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
322-23 (1986)). If the moving party discharges this burden,
the burden shifts to the nonmovant to go beyond the pleadings
and present affirmative evidence to show that a genuine issue
of fact does exist. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257.
determining whether a summary judgment motion should be
granted, a court must view the record and all reasonable
inferences that can be drawn from the record in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party. Peek-A-Boo Lounge
of Bradenton, Inc. v. Manatee County, 630 F.3d 1346,
1353 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing Rodriguez v. Sec'y for
Dep't of Corr., 508 F.3d 611, 616 (11th Cir. 2007)).
However, “facts must be viewed in the light most
favorable to the non- moving party only if there is a
‘genuine' dispute as to those facts.”
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).
“[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute
between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly
supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is
that there be no genuine issue of material fact.”
Id. (emphasis and citations omitted).
move for summary judgment on all Plaintiff's federal
claims, arguing they are entitled to judgment on the merits
or, in the alternative, entitled to qualified immunity. (Doc.
62.) For the reasons explained below, the Court agree. In
short, qualified immunity shields Defendants from
Plaintiff's Section 1983 unreasonable search and
malicious prosecution claims while the remainder of her
claims fail as a matter of law.
Qualified Immunity Standard and Application
immunity protects government officials performing
discretionary functions from suits in their individual
capacities unless their conduct violates ‘clearly
established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known.'” Dalrymple
v. Reno, 334 F.3d 991, 994 (11th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 739 (2002)). The
doctrine “is intended to allow government officials to
carry out their discretionary duties without the fear of
personal liability or harassing litigation, protecting from
suit all but the plainly incompetent or one who is knowingly
violating the federal law.” Hoyt v. Cooks, 672
F.3d 972, 977 (11th Cir. 2012) (quotations and citations
omitted). As a result, qualified immunity “liberates
government agents from the need to constantly err on the side
of caution by protecting them both from liability and the
other burdens of litigation, including discovery.”
Holmes v. Kucynda, 321 F.3d 1069, 1077 (11th Cir.
2003) (internal quotation marks omitted). But qualified
immunity does not protect an official who ...