Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

Elko County Deputy J. Brad Hester allegedly planted ecstacy

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Plaintiff has had an office at the Center since about September 2007, where he keeps personal affects such as photographs. (Id. ¶¶ 21-23). In or about August 2011, Deputy Hester (who was at that time a sergeant), accompanied by Deputy Munson and non-party Deputy Mike Moore, unlocked one of the outer doors of the Center and searched the Center without a warrant, based upon the false pretense that Plaintiff was selling the illegal drug known as “ecstasy” to school children. (See id. ¶¶ 27-28, 34). Once inside the Center, Hester ordered Moore to conduct a dog sniff throughout the building. (Id. ¶ 29). During the dog sniff, Hester unlocked the door to Plaintiff’s office and searched it, including Plaintiff’s desk, without a warrant. (Id. ¶¶ 30, 34). During the search, Hester seized an envelope from Plaintiff’s desk containing $500 that nonparty James Ward had left with Plaintiff to be given to Plaintiff’s God-son, Cody Ward, for travel expenses. (Id.). Hester then ordered Moore to perform a dog sniff of Plaintiff’s office, and the dog did not react to anything in Plaintiff’s office. (Id. ¶ 31). Hester then asked Moore if he were “sure” there was nothing in the office and asked him to perform another sniff “right here,” pointing to Plaintiff’s filing cabinet. (Id.). Moore complied, and again the dog did not react. (Id.). Plaintiff did not have any illegal drugs, but he suspects that Hester planted illegal drugs, i.e., ecstasy, during the search, and that the dog simply failed to react to them. (See id. ¶ 32).

In or about October 2011, ECSO informed Plaintiff of the August 2011 search. (Id. ¶ 38). Plaintiff presented a grievance to non-party ECSO Lieutenant Marvin Morton about the search, and Morton promised to “look into it.” (Id. ¶ 39). Plaintiff alleges that Under-Sheriff Keema’s investigation into the illegal search on behalf of ECSO was intentionally deficient. (See id. ¶ 40). However, Sheriff Pitts and Under-Sheriff Keema ultimately “sustained” the investigation, meaning they found that an illegal search had occurred; still, as is their usual custom and practice, they refused to properly punish Hester, but rather downplayed his illegal conduct in order to shield him from civil liability and criminal prosecution, giving him only a written reprimand and three days unpaid leave. (Id. ¶ 41).

Decision: No qi for Deputy Hester. Also, his employer may not have sufficiently punished Hester for doing what he is alleged to have done to plaintiff.

Written by Burgers Allday

July 13, 2013 at 6:17 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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