Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Aguilera v. Wright County, Iowa

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Central Division

January 6, 2014

JOSE ANGEL AGUILERA, Plaintiff,
v.
WRIGHT COUNTY, IOWA; LEE E. POPPEN; JEFFREY TEKIPPE; VICTOR MURILLO; WILLIAM BASLER; JACK SEWARD; ERIC SIMONSON; and SCOTT D. BROWN, Defendants

Page 927

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 928

For Jose Angel Aguilera, Plaintiff: Martyn S Elberg, LEAD ATTORNEY, Elberg Law Office, PLC, Clarion, IA.

For Wright County, Iowa, Lee E Poppen, Jeffrey TeKippe, Eric Simonson, Defendants: Kristopher K Madsen, Robert M Livingston, Stuart Tinley Peters Thorn Hughes Faust & Madsen, Council Bluffs, IA.

For Victor Murillo, William Basler, Jack Seward, Scott D Brown, Defendants: Jeffrey C Peterzalek, LEAD ATTORNEY, AAG, Des Moines, IA.

OPINION

Page 929

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING STATE DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

MARK W. BENNETT, U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Factual Background

B. Procedural Background

II. LEGAL ANALYSIS

A. Standards For Dismissal For Failure To State A Claim

B. Federal Constitutional Claims

1. Count " 37" : Brady and Giglio violations by the

1996 State Defendants

a. Arguments of the parties

b. Analysis

2. Counts 1, 5, and 9: The § 1983 claims against

individual State Defendants

a. Arguments of the parties

b. Analysis

3. Count 27: The § 1983 claim against Brown

a. Arguments of the parties

b. Analysis

4. Summary

C. Section 1983 Conspiracy Claims

1. Arguments of the parties

2. Analysis

D. Remaining State Tort Claims

1. Arguments of the parties

2. Analysis

E. The " Obstruction Of Justice" Claims

1. Arguments of the parties

2. Analysis

III. CONCLUSION

In 1996, plaintiff Jose Angel Aguilera was convicted of the second-degree murder of Jesus " Jesse" Garcia. Aguilera v. State, 807 N.W.2d 249, 250 (Iowa 2011). Fourteen years later, on Aguilera's second application for post-conviction relief, the Iowa Supreme Court granted Aguilera relief from his conviction, on the basis of a Brady violation. [1] Specifically, the Iowa Supreme Court concluded that Aguilera was denied due process when the prosecution failed to turn over an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) file, which contained several witness statements, prior to Aguilera's initial trial, and that the suppressed, favorable statements in the DCI file had a reasonable probability of impacting the outcome of the trial. Id. at 250 & 259. The state opted to retry Aguilera on a second-degree murder charge for the death of Garcia, but, on March 12, 2012, Aguilera entered into a plea agreement to

Page 930

plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and to be sentenced to time served. Aguilera continues in custody facing deportation.

Aguilera now asserts federal constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state-law tort claims against state investigators and county prosecutors involved in his initial prosecution in 1996 and against a state investigator and county and state prosecutors involved in his re-prosecution in 2012. The state defendants have moved to dismiss the claims against them for failure to state claims upon which relief can be granted. [2] Aguilera concedes that his state-law tort claims for malicious prosecution and false arrest and imprisonment against the state defendants must be dismissed, because the State has not waived sovereign immunity as to those claims, but he contests dismissal of his § 1983 claims and state-law tort claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium against these defendants.

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Factual Background

The parties agree to the moving defendants' summary of the factual background to this case in the moving defendants' brief in support of their Motion To Dismiss (docket no. 7-1). That summary is, in turn, based almost entirely on the Iowa Supreme Court's decision in Aguilera v. State, 807 N.W.2d 249 (Iowa 2011), on Aguilera's second application for post-conviction relief, and subsequent court orders on Aguilera's re-prosecution. The parties do not dispute my consideration of such court decisions and orders on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. [3] Therefore, I will rely directly on those court decisions and orders, rather than the moving defendants' statement of facts, as well as pertinent allegations in Aguilera's Amended Complaint (docket no. 5), which must be taken as true for purposes of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. [4]

Jesus " Jesse" Garcia died on August 18, 1996, from a gunshot wound that he sustained while he was attending a party at the home of Salvador Guido. Victor Murillo, William Basler, and Jack Seward, who were Special Agents with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), investigated Garcia's death. As a result of their investigation, Aguilera was prosecuted on a charge of first-degree murder for the death of Garcia in the Iowa District Court for Wright County by Wright County Attorney Lee E. Poppen and Assistant Wright County Attorney Jeffrey TeKippe.

The evidence at trial showed the following:

On August 18, 1996, Aguilera attended a party that was hosted by Salvador Guido. The victim, Jesus " Jesse" Garcia, also attended, though neither had been invited. Garcia had recently moved in with Aguilera's wife, Zeidy. Guido and Lorenzo Lopez, who was also at the house that night, were the only " eyewitnesses" who testified at trial. At trial, each testified that Aguilera approached Garcia while Garcia was sitting in his Blazer. The two exchanged words and taunts, and Garcia exited the car. At that point, Aguilera pulled out a gun

Page 931

and shot Garcia in the chest. Although both Guido and Lopez acknowledged Garcia and Aguilera struggled over the weapon at some point, there was disagreement as to how far apart the two were when the gun went off. Guido placed the two six feet apart when the shot was fired and testified they only struggled after the shot was fired. Lopez indicated the two had struggled over the gun before or at the same time as the shot was fired. At trial, witnesses testified that Aguilera was afraid that Garcia, who had just moved in with Aguilera's wife, would attempt to kidnap Aguilera's daughter. According to their testimony, Aguilera appeared nervous and mentioned that men might be coming to harm him or take his daughter and that he needed the gun that was ultimately used to shoot Garcia for his own personal protection. Aguilera attempted to portray the shooting as either an accident, self-defense, or as a voluntary manslaughter killing, whereas the State sought a first-degree murder conviction.
Aguilera, 807 N.W.2d at 250-51 (footnote omitted) (decision on Aguilera's second application for post-conviction relief). Aguilera's defense was partially successful, in that he was convicted only of a lesser-included offense:
In December 1996, a jury found Aguilera guilty of second-degree murder, and the trial court imposed sentence in January 1997. The conviction and sentence were affirmed by the court of appeals in 1998.

Aguilera, 807 N.W.2d at 251.

Aguilera's first application for post-conviction relief, challenging jury instructions, was dismissed in 2000, and his appeal of that dismissal was dismissed for want of prosecution. Id. at 250. Then,

[i]n 2005, Aguilera filed a second application for postconviction relief, which was amended in 2007. . . . It was based on an alleged Brady violation and various other issues that were not appealed. The application alleged that the State failed to turn over a DCI file containing interviews with various people. The file was turned over on October 2, 2006. Two of the individuals whose interviews were included in the file testified at trial (Guido and Lopez) and four did not (Ramae Shuver, Zeidy Aguilera, Roberto Reyes, and Graciela Lucio).

Aguilera, 807 N.W.2d at 251 (footnotes omitted).

In its decision on Aguilera's second application for post-conviction relief, the Iowa Supreme Court analyzed in detail the statements of the witnesses in the DCI file; the inconsistencies between some of the witnesses' statements to police, their pre-trial deposition testimony, and their trial testimony; and the inconsistencies among the witnesses concerning where purported eyewitnesses Guido and Lopez were at the time of the shooting. See id. at 253-59. Based on this analysis, the Iowa Supreme Court concluded that " there is a reasonable probability that had these statements been turned over to the defense, the outcome of the trial would have been different. The DCI file and statements were material." Id. at 259. Furthermore, " [b]ecause [the court] determine[d] that the suppressed, favorable statements which were not turned over by the State had a reasonable probability of impacting the outcome of the trial, [the court] f[ou]nd a Brady violation occurred in this case and Aguilera's due process rights were violated." Id. It then reversed the lower courts' decisions, and remanded for a new trial. Id. (reversing the decisions of the district court and the Iowa Court of Appeals, which had held that, while some of the statements were not

Page 932

disclosed, others were, and that, while favorable to Aguilera, the undisclosed statements were not material to Aguilera's guilt).

Nowhere in its decision on Aguilera's second application for post-conviction relief did the Iowa Supreme Court determine who, specifically, was responsible for failure to turn over the DCI file to Aguilera's defense counsel.

On January 11, 2012, the Iowa District Court for Wright County set Aguilera's new trial for March 27, 2012. See State Defendants' Motion To Dismiss, Exhibit B (docket no. 7-3) (order setting new trial). Eric Simonson, Assistant Wright County Attorney and later County Attorney, and Scott D. Brown, an Iowa Assistant Attorney General (IAAG), represented the State in the 2012 new trial proceedings, and Aguilera alleges that DCI Special Agent Jack Seward was again involved in the case. On March 12, 2012, pursuant to a plea agreement, Aguilera pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, a class D felony, in the death of Garcia, and was sentenced to 5 years with credit for time served in connection with the offense. Id., Exhibit C (docket no. 73-4) (Judgment and Sentence). Aguilera alleges, and the moving defendants do not dispute, that he continues in custody facing deportation. Amended Complaint (docket no. 5), ¶ 207.

B. Procedural Background

On July 3, 2013, Aguilera filed his Complaint (docket no. 2) initiating this action, and, on July 10, 2013, he filed his Amended Complaint (docket no. 3). In his Amended Complaint, Aguilera named Wright County, Poppen, TeKippe, Murillo, Basler, Seward, Simonson, and Brown as defendants. He identified TeKippe, Poppen, Murillo, Basler, and Seward collectively as the " 1996 Defendants." Aguilera identified Wright County, Simonson, Brown, and Seward collectively as the " 2012 Defendants." I will further subdivide the defendants into the " 1996 State Defendants" (Murillo, Basler, and Seward) and the " 1996 County Defendants" (Wright County, Poppen, and TeKippe), and the " 2012 State Defendants" (Brown and Seward) and the " 2012 County Defendants" (Wright County and Simonson). Where appropriate, I will refer to Murillo, Basler, Seward, and Brown collectively as the " State Defendants," and I will refer to Wright County, Poppen, TeKippe, and Simonson collectively as the " County Defendants."

Aguilera's claims against the 1996 Defendants rest principally on his allegation that the " 1996 defendants purposefully withheld the several statements from the defense obstructing the fact-finding process." Amended Complaint, ¶ 23. His claims against the 2012 Defendants rest principally on the following allegations:

31. The 2012 defendants persisted in threatening to use the fraudulent statements of Guido and Lopez at trial.

32. The 2012 defendants obtained more exculpatory evidence during the new investigation.

33. The 2012 defendants moved the court to keep Aguilera from presenting a defense based on the fraudulent statements and prior misconduct of the 1996 defendants.
34. The 2012 defendants made false reports to the court that DCI reports had been sent to Aguilera.
35. The 2012 defendants violated ethical standards of a prosecuting attorney by pursuing a charge not supported by probable cause absent the fraudulent statements.

Amended Complaint, ¶ ¶ 31-35.

Aguilera asserts 38 causes of action, two of which are identified as " Count 37." On

Page 933

September 9, 2013, however, the State Defendants filed their Motion To Dismiss (docket no. 7), seeking dismissal of all claims against them on various grounds. On October 8, 2013, Aguilera filed his Response (docket no. 14), conceding that his Counts 2, 6, 10, [5] 3, 7, 11, and 28--in which he alleges " malicious prosecution" and " false arrest and imprisonment" claims against State Defendants--should be dismissed without prejudice, but disputing dismissal of his other claims against the State Defendants. On October 15, 2013, the State Defendants filed a Reply (docket no. 16), in further support of their Motion To Dismiss.

Although not all of Aguilera's 38 causes of action are still in dispute, the chart below identifies all of his claims, with bold indicating claims against State Defendants, and shading indicating claims that Aguilera agrees should be dismissed. I will quote, in the margin, only the factual allegations supporting claims in dispute on the State Defendants' Motion To Dismiss.

COUNT

DEFENDANT

CAUSE OF ACTION

1

Murillo (DCI)

§ 1983 (Individual

capacity)

2

Murillo (DCI)

Malicious prosecution

3

Murillo (DCI)

False arrest and

imprisonment

4

Murillo (DCI)

Intentional infliction

of emotional distress

5

Basler (DCI)

§ 1983 (Individual

capacity)

6

Basler (DCI)

Malicious prosecution

7

Basler (DCI)

False arrest and

imprisonment

8

Basler (DCI)

Intentional infliction

of emotional distress

9

Seward (DCI)

§ 1983 (Individual

capacity)

10

Seward (DCI)

Malicious prosecution

11

Seward (DCI)

False arrest and

imprisonment

12

Seward (DCI)

Intentional infliction

of emotional distress

13

TeKippe

§ 1983 (Individual

(ACA)

capacity)

14

TeKippe

Malicious prosecution

(ACA)

15

TeKippe

False arrest and

(ACA)

imprisonment

16

TeKippe

Intentional infliction of

(ACA)

emotional distress

17

Poppen (CA)

§ 1983 (Individual

capacity)

18

Poppen (CA)

Malicious prosecution

19

Poppen (CA)

False arrest and

imprisonment

20

Poppen (CA)

Intentional infliction of

emotional distress

21

1996 Defendants

§ 1983 Conspiracy

22

Wright County

§ 1983--1996 Policy

or custom

23

Wright County

1996 Indemnity

24

Simonson

§ 1983 (Individual

(ACA)

capacity)

25

Simonson

False arrest and

(ACA)

imprisonment

26

Simonson

Intentional infliction of

emotional distress

27

Brown

§ 1983 (Individual

(IAAG)

capacity)

28

Brown

False arrest and

(IAAG)

imprisonment

29

Brown

Intentional infliction

(IAAG)

of emotional distress

30

2012

2012 Conspiracy

Defendants

31

Wright County

§ 1983--2012 Policy

or custom

32

Wright County

2012 Indemnity

33

1996

Conspiracy to commit

Defendants

malicious prosecution

34

All

Conspiracy to commit

Defendants

fraud

35

All

Obstruction of

Defendants

defense and

prosecution

36

All

Conspiracy to commit

Defendants

obstruction

37

1996

Loss of consortium

Defendants

" 37"

199

Withholding evidence

Defendants

(Brady and Giglio

and Wright

Violations)

County

COUNT

ALLEGATIONS

1

Creating false testimony and

concealing information [6]

2

Instigation of prosecution without

probable cause and with malice

3

Previously alleged misconduct caused

Aguilera's unlawful detention

4

Previously alleged conduct was

outrageous and was intended to or was

in reckless disregard of whether it

would cause emotional distress to

Aguilera [7]

5

See Count 1

6

See Count 2

7

See Count 3

8

See Count 4

9

See Count 1

10

See Count 2

11

See Count 3

12

See Count 4

13

See Count 1

14

See Count 2

15

See Count 3

16

See Count 4

17

See Count 1

18

See Count 2

19

See Count 3

20

See Count 4

21

Conspiring to convict Aguilera and

fabricating and concealing evidence in

furtherance of the conspiracy [8]

22

Poppen was a final policy maker for the

County and the County is responsible for

his misconduct in promulgating a policy

and custom of unconstitutional treatment

and discrimination against Mexicans,

and the County failed to train or

supervise its personnel

23

Wright County has a statutory obligation

to indemnify TeKippe and Poppen for

claims against them and has agreed to

indemnify them for punitive damages

24

Creating false testimony and concealing

information [9]

25

Previously alleged misconduct caused

Aguilera's unlawful detention from

January 2011 until March 2012 and

thereafter

26

Previously alleged conduct was

outrageous and was intended to or was

in reckless disregard of whether it would

cause emotional distress to Aguilera [10]

27

See Count 24

28

See Count 25

29

See Count 26

30

Conspiring to reconvict Aguilera and

to continue his imprisonment [11]

31

Simonson was a final policy maker for

the County and the County is responsible

for his misconduct in promulgating a

policy and custom of unconstitutional

treatment and discrimination against

Mexicans, and the County failed to train

or supervise its personnel

32

Wright County has a statutory obligation

to indemnify Simonson and Brown for

claims against them and has agreed to

indemnify them for punitive damages

33

There is an ongoing conspiracy to

cause Aguilera to be unlawfully

prosecuted[12]

34

The governmental defendants

conspired to defraud the plaintiff by

depriving his Fifth Amendment rights

of due process of law to a fair trial

and his Sixth Amendment rights to

confront witnesses, to have

compulsory process for obtaining

witnesses in his favor, and to be

informed of the nature and cause of

the accusation, and the County is

liable for the actions of the individual

County Defendants. [13]

35

Withholding witness statements and/or

making unsupported motions to

prevent Aguilera's defense, hindering

the original trial and the new trial and

Aguilera's immigration rights [14]

36

Agreeing to obstruct Aguilera's

defense and prosecution by using false

evidence or tampering with evidence [15]

37

The previously alleged conduct caused

Aguilera to lose the services,

companionship, and society of his

child for 16 years [16]

" 37"

Hiding exculpatory evidence motivated

by prejudice against Aguilera because

of his race and liability of the County

based on policy, practice, or custom [17]

Page 937

Unfortunately, the press of other work, including matters requiring expedited disposition and a trial in a civil rights case, prevented my more timely attention to the present motion. Also, although both parties requested oral arguments on the State Defendants' Motion To Dismiss, my crowded schedule does not allow me to accommodate the parties' request for oral arguments on the present motion without causing further undue delay of the proceedings. I find the parties' written submissions fully address the issues raised. Therefore, I have resolved the pending motion on the parties' written submissions.

II. LEGAL ANALYSIS

A. Standards For Dismissal For Failure To State A Claim

The State Defendants seek dismissal of all claims against them pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,

Page 938

which authorizes a pre-answer motion to dismiss for " failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). As the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals recently explained,

We review de novo the district court's grant of a motion to dismiss, accepting as true all factual allegations in the complaint and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See Palmer v. Ill. Farmers Ins. Co., 666 F.3d 1081, 1083 (8th Cir. 2012); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). " To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (internal quotation omitted). " A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

Richter v. Advance Auto Parts, Inc., 686 F.3d 847, 850 (8th Cir. 2012); accord Freitas v. Wells Fargo Home Mortg., Inc., 703 F.3d 436, 438 (8th Cir. 2013) (quoting Richter, 686 F.3d at 850); Whitney v. Guys, Inc., 700 F.3d 1118, 1128 (8th Cir. 2012) (stating the same standards).

Courts consider " plausibility" under this Twom-bal standard [18] by " 'draw[ing] on [their own] judicial experience and common sense.'" Whitney, 700 F.3d at 1128 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). Also, courts must " 'review the plausibility of the plaintiff's claim as a whole, not the plausibility of each individual allegation.'" Id. (quoting Zoltek Corp. v. Structural Polymer Grp., 592 F.3d 893, 896 n.4 (8th Cir. 2010)). The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has refused, at the pleading stage, " to incorporate some general and formal level of evidentiary proof into the 'plausibility' requirement of Iqbal and Twombly ." Id. Nevertheless, the question " is not whether [the pleader] might at some later stage be able to prove [facts alleged]; the question is whether [it] has adequately asserted facts (as contrasted with naked legal conclusions) to support [its] claims." Id. at 1129. Thus,

[w]hile this court must " accept as true all facts pleaded by the non-moving party and grant all reasonable inferences from the pleadings in favor of the non-moving party," United States v. Any & All Radio Station Transmission Equip., 207 F.3d 458, 462 (8th Cir. 2000), " [a] pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (quoting [Bell A. Corp. v.] Twombly, 550 U.S. [544,] 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 [(2007)]).

Gallagher v. City of Clayton, 699 F.3d 1013, 1016 (8th Cir. 2012); Whitney, 700 F.3d at 1128 (stating the same standards).

In assessing " plausibility," as required under the Twom-bal standard, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained that courts " consider[ ] only the materials that are 'necessarily embraced by the pleadings and exhibits attached to the complaint,'" Whitney, 700 F.3d at 1128 (quoting Mattes v. ABC Plastics, Inc., 323 F.3d 695, 697 n.4 (8th Cir. 2003)), and " 'materials that are part of the public record or do not contradict the complaint.'"

Page 939

Miller v. Redwood Toxicology Lab., Inc., 688 F.3d 928, 931 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp., 186 F.3d 1077, 1079 (8th Cir. 1999), and citing Illig v. Union Elec. Co., 652 F.3d 971, 976 (8th Cir. 2011)). A more complete list of the matters outside of the pleadings that the court may consider, without converting a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss into a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment, pursuant to Rule 12(d), includes " 'matters incorporated by reference or integral to the claim, items subject to judicial notice, matters of public record, orders, items appearing in the record of the case, and exhibits attached to the complaint whose authenticity is unquestioned.'" Miller, 688 F.3d at 931 n.3 (quoting 5B Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1357 (3d ed. 2004)).

Various federal Circuit Courts of Appeals have expressly recognized that, in addition to dismissal for factual implausibility, the Twom-bal standard still permits dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of a claim that lacks a cognizable legal theory. See, e.g., Somers v. Apple, Inc., 729 F.3d 953, 959 (9th Cir. 2013); Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 469 (3d Cir. 2013) (a claim may be dismissed if it is based on an " indisputably meritless legal theory" ); Commonwealth Property Advocates, L.L.C. v. Mortgage Electronic Registration Sys., Inc., 680 F.3d 1194, 1202 (10th Cir. 2011) (" Dismissal is appropriate if the law simply affords no relief." ); see also Philadelphia Indem. Ins. Co. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.