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Walz v. Randall

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

December 27, 2019

CANDI WALZ, TIMOTHY WALZ, and TANNER WALZ, Plaintiffs,
v.
BRIAN RANDALL; JOSEPH QUANDT; DENNIS KUCERA; and TAMA COUNTY, IOWA; Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Kelly K.E. Mahoney Chief United States Magistrate Judge

         Tanner Walz and his parents, Candi and Timothy Walz, (collectively, the Walzes) brought claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law after Tanner, [1] then a minor, was arrested and charged with three counts of sexual abuse in the third degree under Iowa law. The state prosecutor ultimately dismissed the charges (after the court granted Tanner's suppression motion). The Walzes primarily argue that the Tama County, Iowa, sheriff's deputies that conducted the investigation of Tanner ignored exculpatory evidence and failed to conduct a thorough investigation before arresting Tanner. The Defendants, Tama County and Tama County Sheriff's Deputies Brian Randall, Joseph Quandt, and Dennis Kucera, now move for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. Doc. 37. The Walzes resist. Doc. 46. I grant the motion for summary judgment (Doc. 37).

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts in this section are recited in the light most favorable to the Walzes, the nonmoving parties. On Monday, September 26, 2016, at around 7:50 p.m., on-duty Sheriff's Deputies Randall and Quandt had just finished their dinner break at a restaurant when a woman named Angela stopped them in the parking lot and said that her sixteen-year-old daughter H.P.[2] had been raped by Tanner the previous Saturday night. Def. SOF ¶¶ 5, 7-8; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶¶ 5, 7-8; Pl. SOF ¶¶ 16, 31-38; Def. Resp. SOF ¶¶ 31-38; Def. App. 29, 227.[3] Angela said that she and her husband had not been home and that H.P. had invited three boys over to the house, including Tanner (Angela also named the other two boys). Id. The deputies asked H.P., who was with her mother, where the incident took place, and she said on her bed in her bedroom. Id. The deputies advised Angela to take H.P. to the hospital for an examination, but first, they requested to accompany Angela and H.P. to the house to gather the clothes H.P. had been wearing Saturday night. Id. The deputies followed Angela and H.P. to their residence and obtained the clothes H.P. had been wearing, as well as bedding and a towel that had been on the bed during the alleged rape, none of which had been washed yet. Id. They instructed Angela to take H.P. to the hospital and not to ask her any questions about the incident, informing her that they would set up an interview with H.P. through the Child Protection Center. Id. A deputy later went to the hospital to pick up the rape kit from H.P.'s examination (which was never tested, since whether a rape occurred ultimately turned on the issue of consent). Id.

         The next evening, Deputies Randall and Quandt talked with Angela at the sheriff's office. Def. SOF ¶ 9; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 9; Def. App. 30-31, 227-28; Def. Ex. D (video recording of interview). Angela explained how she had found out about the rape on Monday: She saw a message on H.P.'s phone from Tanner's girlfriend asking if there was any truth to the rumor that H.P. had slept with Tanner on Saturday night.[4] Angela asked H.P. whether the rumor was true, and H.P. said yes. H.P. told her mother that Tanner had called her from another boy's Facebook account on Saturday, asking to come over, and when H.P. responded she was not allowed to have guests over without her parents being home, Tanner told her it would be fine. During this conversation, Angela and H.P. were in the car, driving through town, and Angela drove past a restaurant, where she saw a marked squad car. Angela wanted to talk to her husband about what happened, so she stopped at a gas station. Her husband talked to H.P. briefly about what happened while Angela went inside and purchased a soda, and Angela and H.P. got back in the car. Thinking that H.P. had consented to sex with Tanner, Angela asked H.P. whether they had used protection. H.P. said no. Driving at the time, Angela slammed on her brakes and asked, “Are you flipping kidding me?” H.P. stated, “I asked him if he had anything, he told me no, and I said, then we're not doing anything, and he did it anyway.” At that point, Angela believed that H.P. had been raped and was furious about it, and she went to the restaurant to talk to the officers.

         Later in the interview, Angela relayed additional details that she had learned from H.P. She stated that the two other boys at the house had been in a different room during the rape. Angela said she had not gotten the whole story from H.P., noting that the two other boys might have been in the “wrong place” at the “wrong time, ” but “by that same token, they were in on the conversation and they knew what was going on and they did nothing.”

         Angela also told the deputies what she knew about Tanner and H.P.'s relationship. Tanner and H.P. had been in the same math class the previous year, and H.P. had tried to befriend Tanner, a troublemaker in class. Angela also said that Tanner had been to their house on one prior occasion, at the end of the previous school year for a bonfire. Angela stated Tanner had shoved another boy (who once dated H.P.), and Angela's husband had told H.P. that Tanner was banned from coming over again in the future. Angela also indicated that when Tanner came over on Saturday night, H.P. thought Tanner and his girlfriend were no longer together.

         Angela told the deputies that she had gone to the school earlier in the day and learned that H.P. had talked to some school employees about what happened. Angela indicated that H.P. was very close with her resource-room teacher and had talked to her about having sex with Tanner at school on Monday, portraying the encounter as consensual. Angela also said that H.P. had talked to the two school guidance counselors. According to Angela, the guidance counselors said that H.P. described what had happened as a hypothetical and asked for their advice, and she later described what had happened as if she had dreamt it (which the deputies noted was a common coping device for sexual assault). It is unclear from Angela's interview whether H.P. portrayed the incident as consensual or not to her guidance counselors, but the deputies indicated in their depositions that if H.P. had told her teachers she was raped, they would have had a duty to report it. Angela also indicated that H.P. had talked about what happened with a friend via text message that day (Tuesday) after her friend asked why she was not in school.

         Angela expressed concerns about H.P. having to see Tanner, the two other boys, and Tanner's girlfriend at school. Deputies Randall and Quandt indicated that a no-contact order between H.P. and Tanner would automatically be put into place once they filed charges but that H.P. did not have a good chance of success at obtaining a no-contact order before then. At the conclusion of the interview, the deputies indicated they would schedule H.P.'s interview with Child Protection Services the next morning, and they instructed Angela to make sure H.P. brought her phone to the interview so they could take pictures of the messages from Tanner's girlfriend. Angela asked whether they would need to seize H.P.'s phone, and the deputies indicated there was no need, since Angela knew about the relevant evidence on H.P.'s phone due to her close relationship with her daughter.

         Deputies Randall and Quandt did not investigate the matter further until the Child Protection Services interview with H.P. that took place on Friday, September 30, 2016. See Def. SOF ¶¶ 10-12; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶¶ 10-12; Def. App. 38-96. At the interview, Deputies Randall and Quant took pictures of the Facebook message that Tanner's girlfriend had sent to H.P. on Monday about the “rumors that [H.P.] and Tanner had sex Saturday night.” Pl. SOF ¶ 46; Def. Resp. ¶ 46; Pl. App. 7.[5] Deputies Randall and Quandt also received the statement H.P. made at the hospital during her examination on Monday night:

We were kissing. We were laying down. I don't remember how it started but he took his shirt off and I told him I don't want to do anything and he said why not. I said because of the risks. I asked him if he even had a condom and he said no. He said I didn't have to worry about anything because he'd been with his girlfriend for a year and a half and they'd done it a few times and she'd never gotten pregnant and they didn't use a condom. Then he took his pants off and his underwear and I kept telling him I didn't want to do anything and he said it was just one time and I didn't have to worry. He kept repeating that. He started kissing me again and laid me down and took my pants off. I kept tell him to stop and he never took my shirt off but he pulled my tank top up and he kissed me up and down like from my chest to where my underwear line would be. And then he did what he did. He laid on top of me and had sex with me and I just kept trying to push him off and I kept telling him no. He took his clothes to the bathroom and got dressed. Then he went to the living room with two other boys. . . . After he had sex with me he forced me to put his penis in my mouth too.

Pl. SOF ¶ 44; Def. Resp. SOF ¶ 44; Def. App. 232. The records from the hospital also reflect that H.P. told the nurse that she had never had sex before the date of the assault. Def. App. 235.

         H.P. made similar statements during the Child Protection Services interview. See Def. App. 46-96. H.P. said that Tanner messaged her on Facebook on Saturday from another boy's account, asking if he could come over.[6] Tanner showed up with two other boys, and they all went downstairs to watch television. H.P. asked Tanner about his girlfriend, and he said they had broken up. About five to ten minutes later, Tanner left the room. H.P. went to look for him and found him in the laundry room. H.P. gave Tanner a tour of the basement, and they ended up in H.P.'s bedroom. H.P. said that the other two boys were still watching television, and she slightly shut the door to her room out of habit. H.P. and Tanner talked about their math class the previous school year, and H.P. said that Tanner put his arms around her waist, almost as if they were slow dancing, and kept calling her pretty. H.P. said that Tanner pulled her onto the bed and tried to get her to lie down beside him. She said that “he had [her] arm, ” and her “other arm that [she] was holding [herself] up [with] kind of slipped, so [she] went down, ” and she stayed lying down. Def. App. 64. H.P. explained that then:

[H]e just started kissing me. And like I don't really know how it happened. It just ended up happening. And I kept telling him to stop. And he's like, It's okay. It's okay. I'm like, No, stop. He's like, Well, I won't do anything. I'm like, Don't. And he's like, Well, what if I was somebody else? I was like, I still don't want to do anything. And he's like, Why? Are you scared of getting pregnant? I said, Well, yeah. And he's like, Trust me, I was with [my girlfriend] for a year and a half and we never used anything. And she's . . . never been pregnant. I was like, I don't care. I don't want to do anything. And I kept telling him no, and he wouldn't stop.

Def. App. 66. H.P. told Tanner that even if she wanted to do something with him, she would not have sex with him without a condom, which he did not have. Def. App. 85. She talked about how Tanner kept pulling her shirt up to expose her stomach and bra and how she would pull it back down, and how she bent her knees to make it difficult for him to pull her pants off. Def. App. 67-70. H.P. said Tanner put his fingers in her vagina once he had taken both of their pants off. Def. App. 87-88. H.P. said that Tanner put her legs on his shoulders, and she “tr[ied] to force [her] legs back down” and told him she did not “want to do anything, ” but he “kept . . . trying to force [her] leg, ” and eventually, she got tired of trying to put her leg down. Def. App. 72-73. H.P. said that when Tanner tried to put his penis in her vagina, she “put [her] hand on his stomach and . . . kept trying to push him away” (but he was eventually successful). Def. App. 73. Tanner said it would be okay, and H.P. responded she did not “want to do anything.” Def. App. 73. H.P. described the encounter as her “repeat[ing] [her]self so many times.” Id. H.P. said that eventually, she moved Tanner's hands from her waist-adding that he let her move them easily-by interlocking their hands, and she was able to sit up (which she said she did to prevent anything else from happening). Def. App. 82. She said Tanner told her to lie back down, and then put his hands “behind [her] head, . . . put [her] face down[, ] and . . . had his penis in [her] mouth.” Def. App. 75-76. H.P. said when she finally realized what “he was trying to do, like when [she] went to move [her] hands to push him away, he had already had [her] head like where [she] couldn't do anything.” Def. App. 84. H.P. said she pushed Tanner away and told him to go to the bathroom to put his clothes on. Def. App. 76. H.P. got dressed in her bedroom, and she exited her room at the same time that Tanner was leaving the bathroom. Id. They went into the living room together, where the other two boys were sleeping.[7] Def. App. 77. Tanner woke the boys up, and all three left.

         H.P. told the Child Protection Services interviewer that the next morning (Sunday), she had gone to work and had talked with a friend at work (who she named) about what happened. Def. App. 79. Her friend advised her to tell her mother. Def. App. 79-80. H.P. posited that someone overheard her talking to her friend at work, which is how the rumor about her and Tanner spread around school.

         H.P. said that at school on Monday, she talked to the resource-room teacher and both guidance counselors. She said that they “agreed with [her] that if it happened to their kid, they would want [their kid] to tell them.” Def. App. 80. H.P. said that she did not go into detail about what happened-although she did tell them she had not wanted Tanner to come over-and she did not “think anybody really knew what [she] was getting at, that it wasn't something that [she] wanted to do”; she said “they all thought that it was something that [she and Tanner] did because [they] wanted to.” Def. App. 81-82. H.P. also indicated that she had learned from people at school that Tanner had been at a bonfire before coming over to her house on Saturday night and that he had been asked to leave because he was drinking beer and smoking cigarettes.

         After H.P.'s interview, Deputies Randall and Quandt both agreed they found H.P. believable and credible because her statement was detailed and “virtually the same” as the statement she made at the hospital on Monday night. Def. SOF ¶ 12; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 12. They believed they had probable cause to arrest Tanner. Id. The deputies made arrangements to pull Tanner from school and interview him with his parents present. Def. SOF ¶ 13; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 13. At first, Tanner repeatedly denied having been to H.P.'s house on Saturday night or early Sunday morning. See Def. App. 105-154. He stated that he had been at his girlfriend's apartment around 10:00 p.m. and gone to a bonfire at his friend's house, and that after the bonfire, he went to a gas station and back to his girlfriend's apartment. He denied being at H.P.'s house, even when the deputies suggested they could talk to his friends to confirm whether he had been there and when the deputies stated they could test H.P.'s bedding for his DNA. After Tanner wrote out a statement with his story, the deputies asked him to swear under penalty of perjury that he was telling the truth, reminding him that it was a crime to provide false information to a police officer. At that point, Tanner admitted that he had been to H.P.'s house, saying “I did go over to her house, but she wanted it. She convinced me. She forced me pretty much.” Def. App. 154.

         Tanner said that he and two other boys (the same boys H.P. had named) went back to his girlfriend's apartment after the bonfire. Tanner said that H.P. called one of the boys, knowing Tanner was with him, and asked the group to come over. Tanner said he talked to H.P. on his friend's phone. H.P. convinced them to come over, and they watched television in the basement for thirty to forty-five minutes. After the other two boys had fallen asleep, H.P. told Tanner to go to her room. Tanner said once in H.P.'s room, “[H.P.] turned on music, and she said, Want to have sex? And she kept talking about it, trying to force [him].” Def. App. 159. Tanner said H.P. got on top of him and started kissing him, took off her pants, and had sex with him, even though he told her to stop. He said that after she stopped, he went to the bathroom to put his clothes on, and he and his friends left. He could not say whether they used a condom. Tanner said he had lied at first because he was scared he would get in trouble (he could not explain how he would “get in trouble for being forced to have sex with somebody”). Def. App. 155. Tanner said that he had had sex one time before that night, a long time ago.

         The deputies left the room several times during the interview. During one of those occasions, they called Amy Zeman, whose son hosted the bonfire on Saturday night that Tanner had attended. Def. SOF ¶ 16J; Pl. SOF ¶ 16. She confirmed that she had asked Tanner to leave because she thought “he was drinking and/or possibly doing drugs.” Id. Prior to Tanner admitting to going to H.P.'s house on Saturday night, Tanner twice denied being asked to leave the bonfire (once with the deputies present and once to his parents when the deputies had left the room). Def. App. 118, 138, 145-46. After Tanner admitted to going to H.P.'s house, Tanner continued to deny being asked to leave the bonfire, drinking, or using drugs on Saturday night. Def. App. 155-56.

         The deputies indicated that they were going to arrest Tanner. Def. App. 166. Tanner's mother, Candi, asked what would happen if the deputies discovered later that the encounter was consensual. Def. App. 166-67. Tanner asked why he was being arrested if he “got forced into it.” Def. App. 167. The deputies said that they did not believe him, they believed H.P. Def. App. 168. Tanner responded, “Of course. Always believe the girl.” Def. App. 168. Deputy Quandt said that they spent the morning with H.P. being interviewed by Child Protection Services, and Tanner and his mother requested the same interview for him, which was denied. The deputies also indicated that they had decided to arrest Tanner prior to his statement. Candi was upset that Tanner was being arrested and asked that the deputies investigate why rumors were going around about Tanner and H.P. having consensual sex. Candi indicated that she had heard about the rumors from Tanner's girlfriend. Candi also gave the deputies the names of two of H.P.'s friends (one of whom was the same girl that Angela had told the officers H.P. texted with on Tuesday), stating that H.P. bragged to those girls about having sex with Tanner at the beginning of the week. Tanner also gave the names of three other boys who might have heard H.P. bragging or that H.P. “had tried to do the same thing to.” Def. App. 182-84.

         The deputies arrested Tanner for three counts of sexual abuse in the third degree. Def. SOF ¶¶ 17-23; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶¶ 17-23. On October 3, 2016, the prosecuting attorney filed a formal petition charging Tanner with those counts. Id. The deputies continued their investigation through the month of October 2016. They obtained sworn written statements from the three counselors H.P. talked to at school on Monday prior to telling her mother what happened. Def. App. 199-201. The resource-room teacher, who H.P. had talked to first on Monday, stated that H.P. told her she had sex with Tanner and that “it wasn't suppose[d] to happen, it just did.” Def. App. 199. She indicated H.P. said that Tanner's girlfriend had found out and was upset. Id. The resource-room teacher believed H.P. was most concerned with telling her mother and wanted the teacher's opinion on what H.P. should do. Id. H.P. also talked to her guidance counselor on Monday, whose statement indicated H.P. told her she had a dream about Tanner and told her friends at work about it, and now they were spreading it around. Def. App. 201. Later that day, the guidance counselor said she received an email from H.P. saying “it wasn't a dream, it really happened, ” but the counselor indicated “she hadn't given any details so I wasn't sure what she meant.” Id. Later on Monday, H.P. talked to a different guidance counselor when her guidance counselor was unavailable. Def. App. 200. His statement indicates H.P. came to his office concerned about a text message and about telling her mom something. Def. App. 200. H.P. showed him the text message from Tanner's girlfriend (which mentioned sex between H.P. and Tanner), and he asked if that was what she was afraid to talk to her mother about. Id. H.P. said yes, and he advised her to have a one-on-one conversation with her mom. Id. His statement indicated he advised her to email her guidance counselor, since “they had worked together that morning on whatever was going on.” Id.

         The deputies also conducted interviews of one of the boys who was at H.P.'s house with Tanner and two friends of H.P's who she had talked to about what happened (including H.P.'s coworker). Def. SOF ¶ 25; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 25; Def. App. 196-97. During his interview with Deputy Quandt, Tanner's friend said that he met up with Tanner around 10:00 p.m. on Saturday night, and they went to the bonfire. Def. App. 196. He said that H.P. called him around 3:00 a.m. early Sunday morning via MSN messenger and asked the boys to come over to her house, sending him a message with her address. Id. He told Deputy Quandt that he had already deleted the message, so he could not show it to him. Id. He said that they watched television in the basement, and H.P. was “all over Tanner.” Id. He said H.P. went into her room and called for Tanner to join her. Id. He said he peeked into the bedroom once and saw Tanner “on top” of H.P. Id. He estimated they were at the house for about two hours, and he fell asleep. Id. He denied that Tanner did any drinking that night. Id.

         Deputies Randall and Quandt also interviewed H.P.'s friend who she had worked with on Sunday and talked with (leading to the rumors around school). Id. She said that H.P. had told her that the boys had come over Saturday night and that H.P. had had sex with Tanner. Id. She said H.P. bragged about getting together with Tanner to her and other people at work and seemed happy about it. Id. She said H.P. never mentioned anything to suggest it was rape. Id. She also mentioned the name of another friend of H.P.'s, who she said H.P. told the encounter was consensual. Def. App. 196-97.

         Deputy Quandt interviewed the friend mentioned by H.P.'s coworker. Def. App. 197. She said her understanding from H.P. was that H.P. was texting Tanner on Saturday night, and Tanner wanted to hang out with her, but H.P.'s parents were not home. Id. Tanner showed up at H.P.'s house, and H.P. told him he could not be there because her parents were not home. Id. H.P. and the boys watched television for a while, and then Tanner went into H.P.'s room. Id. H.P. followed him to see what he was doing. Id. Tanner would not leave her room. Id. H.P. and Tanner sat in her room ...


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