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Jones v. Spokane County Washington

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

April 21, 2014

CHARLOTTE RHYS JONES, wife, and RACE JONES, husband, Plaintiffs,
v.
SPOKANE COUNTY WASHINGTON, a political subdivision of the State of Washington; OZZIE KNEZOVICH, individually and in his capacity as Sheriff of Spokane County, Washington; SHAWN AUDIE, individually and in his capacity as Spokane County Deputy Sheriff; and JUSTIN ELLIOTT, individually and in his capacity as Spokane County Deputy Sheriff, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

ROSANNA MALOUF PETERSON, Chief District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT is a Motion for Preliminary Injunction filed by Plaintiffs Charlotte Rhys Jones and Race Jones, ECF No. 4. The motion was heard with oral argument from the parties. Plaintiffs are represented by Karen L. Unger. Defendants Spokane County, Washington, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, and Deputy Sheriffs Shawn Audie and Justin Elliott are represented by Heather C. Yakely. The Court has considered the briefing, the arguments of the parties, and the file, and is fully informed.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Charlotte Rhys Jones[1] and Race Jones filed a complaint in this Court under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, alleging that Defendants Spokane County, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, Deputy Shawn Audie, and Deputy Justin Elliott violated Plaintiffs' civil rights. Sheriff Knezovich and Deputies Audie and Elliott were each named individually and in their official capacities with the Spokane County Sheriff's Department.

Plaintiffs allege that plaintiffs were at their home late in the evening on December 15, 2011, when they heard a knock at the front door. Plaintiffs claim that they both went to answer the door, at which point Defendants Audie and Elliott "burst into the plaintiffs' home and immediately began assaulting Mr. Jones." ECF No. 1 at 3. Plaintiffs further allege that "[t]he assault was brutal and violent and unprovoked in any way." Id. According to Plaintiffs, the officers did not seek permission to enter the home, give any explanation for their presence at the residence, or seek to question either plaintiff prior to the alleged assault. Plaintiffs further allege that Ms. Jones did not seek assistance from either of the officers or allege that she was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of Mr. Jones. Id. at 3-4.

According to Plaintiffs, Ms. Jones attempted to intervene to stop the officers as they were attacking Mr. Jones. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Audie used his Taser weapon on Mr. Jones after Mr. Jones was in handcuffs and presented no threat. Plaintiffs state that they were both arrested and taken to the Spokane County Jail. Id. at 4. Plaintiffs were each charged with a felony. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants Audie and Elliott filed "false reports describing the encounter in a manner calculated to cover up their actions" and that the charges against the Plaintiffs were eventually dismissed. Id. at 4-5.

Plaintiffs further allege that Mr. Jones received "serious injuries, both physical and emotional" as a result of the incident. ECF No. 1 at 4. Ms. Jones alleges to have suffered physical injuries as well as "severe emotional distress." Id.

With regard to Spokane County and Sheriff Knezovich, Plaintiffs allege that Sheriff Knezovich knew of "other instances of excessive and unlawful force" by members of the Spokane County Sheriff Department, including Defendant Audie. Plaintiffs allege that Sheriff Knezovich was obligated to protect the public from Defendant Audie but took no such steps. Plaintiffs further allege that despite "numerous incidents of police brutality and unlawful use of force, " the department has taken no action to address these ongoing issues. Id. at 5-6.

Plaintiffs stated four causes of action in their complaint: 1) use of excessive force by Defendants Audie, Elliott, and Knezovich; 2) policies and customs on the part of Defendants Spokane County and Sheriff Knezovich, including a failure to train and failure to discipline, that caused violations of Plaintiffs' civil rights; 3) violations of Plaintiffs' rights "to be secure in their persons against unreasonable seizures in the sanctity of their home" by Defendants Audie and Elliott; and 4) violations of Plaintiffs' rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments against each defendant. Id. at 6-9. Plaintiffs seek "preliminary and permanent injunctive relief" against Defendant Audie's continued employment with the Spokane County Sheriff's Department as well as money damages, attorney's fees and costs. Id. at 9-10.

In their answer, Defendants generally deny the factual allegations in Plaintiffs' complaint. ECF No. 11. Defendants allege that Mr. Jones engaged in "assaultive" and "belligerent" behavior, and "actively resisted arrest and fought [with] the Deputies." Id. at 3-4. Defendants deny "that any assault occurred or was brutal and unprovoked in any way." Id. at 3. Defendants further deny that Mr. Jones was "tased" at any time or that the officers falsified any reports. Id. at 4-ORDER 5. Defendants deny that Mr. Jones suffered multiple injuries all over his body except that "Mr. Jones suffered discolored eyes, " and deny that Mr. Jones suffered any injuries from a Taser because he "was never tased." Id. at 5. Defendants do admit that all charges were eventually dropped against Mr. Jones, and that Ms. Jones' original charges were pleaded down to lesser charges. Id.

Plaintiffs have filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction. ECF No. 4. Plaintiffs seek to enjoin Spokane County "from continuing to violate the civil rights of its citizens" and "the further active duty employment of defendants Audie and Knezovich." Id. at 1. Defendants oppose the motion. ECF No. 9.

Plaintiffs rely on the declarations of Race Jones and Charlotte Jones, which generally echo and expand upon the allegations of the complaint. ECF Nos. 5-6, 17. Plaintiffs also provided evidence of other allegations against Spokane County, including some involving Deputy Audie specifically. ECF No. 4-3, 4-4, 13, 13-1. Plaintiffs contend that the prior incidents involving Deputy Audie are similar in nature to the allegations of their complaint. For their part, Defendants have submitted police reports from Defendants Elliott and Audie, entered under the penalty of perjury, that provide a version of the events markedly different from Plaintiffs' allegations. ECF No. 15-1.

ANALYSIS

To obtain a preliminary injunction, a plaintiff must establish "(1) that he is likely to succeed on the merits, (2) that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, (3) that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and (4) that an injunction is in the public interest." Johnson v. Couturier, 572 F.3d 1067, 1078 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Winter v. Natural Res. Defense Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008)). A ...


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