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Lake-Crunk v. City of Houston Police Department

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

May 22, 2018

GERMAINE D. LAKE-CRUNK, TDCJ-CID #2148452 Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND OPINION

          VANESSA D. GILMORE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Germaine D. Lake-Crunk, an inmate of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice -Correctional Institutions Division, sued in April 2018, alleging civil rights violations resulting from a false arrest. Lake-Crunk, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, sues the City of Houston Police Department; B.M. Bogorad, HPD Police Officer; L.R. demons, HPD Internal Affairs Detective, Sergeant; David Alofoje, Texas Parole Department Supervisor; Robert Harkrider, Texas Parole Department Division Officer; Enigboken Kayode, Texas Parole Department Officer; Kim Ogg, Harris County District Attorney; John Doe, Harris County Assistant District Attorney; and Jerome Petty, a/k/a Benjamin Bittner.

         The threshold issue is whether Lake-Crunk's claims should be dismissed as frivolous.

         I. Lake-Crunk's Allegations

         Lake-Crunk asserts that Jerome Petty filed a false complaint with HPD Officer Bogorad, claiming that Lake-Crunk had assaulted him. Lake-Crunk states that on January 26, 2015, he was released on parole, and his parole Officer was Enigboken Kayode. Lake-Crunk explains that he began sharing an apartment with Petty, a former TDCJ inmate. Lake-Crunk learned that Petty was in the latter stages of HIV (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted diseases. Lake-Crunk also witnessed Petty having sexual relations with a number of Houston prostitutes in the apartment he shared with Petty.

         Lake-Crunk states that he began advising the numerous prostitutes that Petty had HIV and other communicable diseases. Lake-Crunk's cousin also reported Petty's condition to the Houston Health Department. Lake-Crunk asserts that on April 5, 2016, Petty verbally attacked Lake-Crunk for informing all the area prostitutes of Petty's HIV status. On April 11, 2016, Lake-Crunk met with his parole officer, Kayode. Lake-Crunk advised Kayode that Petty was telling everyone that he had filed false charges against Lake-Crunk because Lake-Crunk had divulged Petty's HIV status. Lake-Crunk also informed Kayode that he had seen Kayode having sexual relations with various prostitutes, one of whom was HIV positive. He also told Kayode that he knew that Kayode had smoked crack with Petty and a prostitute. On April 25, 2016, Kayode called Lake-Crunk and asked for the name of the prostitute.

         Lake-Crunk asserts that Petty falsely claimed that Lake-Crunk had physically assaulted him by striking him with a gun causing bodily injury. Lake-Crunk complains that Defendants Alofoje, Harkrider, and Kayode issued a blue warrant. Defendant Bogorad generated the arrest warrant, and Defendants Ogg and John Doe sought and obtained an indictment. Lake-Crunk states that on July 31, 2017, the alleged assault charges were dismissed due to the lack of evidence and a subsequent arrest of the original complainant, Petty.

         Online research reveals that Lake-Crunk was convicted of possession of a controlled substance on July 31, 2017, in the 208th Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas. (Cause Number 1511888). Also on July 31, 2017, the prosecutor moved to dismiss the aggravated assault charges in Cause Number 1506901 because Lake-Crunk had been convicted of another offense in Cause Number 1511888.

         Lake-Crunk seeks a declaratory judgment that the defendants violated his civil rights. He moves for an injunction compelling the defendants to reinstate his parole in Cause Number 1324044, his 2011 conviction for aggravated assault. He further seeks compensatory damages of $1, 000, 000.00 and punitive damages of $500, 000.00 against each defendant.

         II. Discussion

         A federal court has the authority to dismiss an action in which the plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis before service if the court determines that the action is frivolous or malicious. 28 U.S.C. § l9l5(e)(2)(B)(i). A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. See Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Richardson v. Spurlock, 260 F.3d 495, 498 (5th Cir. 2001) (citing Siglar v. Hightower, 112 F.3d 191, 193 (5th Cir. 1997)). "A complaint lacks an arguable basis in law if it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, such as if the complaint alleges the violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist." Davis v. Scott, 157 F.3d 1003, 1005 (5th Cir. 1998) (quoting McCormick v. Stalder, 105 F.3d 1059, 1061 (5th Cir. 1997)).

         III. Analysis

         Liberally construed, Lake-Crunk complains that his arrest was illegal because it was not based on probable cause. On-line records show that on April 19, 2016, a grand jury of the 177th Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas indicted Lake-Crunk for aggravated assault on Jerome Petty. "An arrest is unlawful unless it is supported by probable cause." Flores v. City of Palacios, 381 F.3d 391, 402 (5th Cir. 2004). "Probable cause exists when the totality of facts and circumstances within a police officer's knowledge at the moment of arrest are sufficient for a reasonable person to conclude that the suspect had committed or was committing an offense." Ramirez v. Martinez, 716 F.3d 369, 375 (5th Cir. 2013).

         The probable cause inquiry focuses on the validity of the arrest, not the validity of each individual charge made during the course of the arrest. See Price v. Roark, 256 F.3d 364, 369 (5th Cir. 2001); Wells v. Bonner, 45 F.3d 90, 95 (5th Cir. 1995). A grand jury indictment is sufficient to establish probable cause. See Gerstein v. Pugh,420 U.S. 103, 117 n. 19 (1975). When the facts supporting an arrest "are placed before an independent intermediary such as a magistrate or grand jury, the intermediary's decision breaks the chain of causation for false arrest, insulating the initiating party." Cuadra v. Hous. Indep. Sch. Dist.,626 F.3d 808, 813 (5th Cir. 2010). The chain of causation remains intact, however, if "it can be shown that the deliberations of that intermediary were in some way tainted by the actions of the defendant." Hand v. Gary,838 F.2d 1420, 1428 (5th Cir. 1988). In other words, "the chain of causation is broken only where all the ...


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