Conspiracy Theory? Sixth Circuit Denies Cop Qualified Immunity
Let's say you have an employee who leaves his job. Things become awkward between the two of you. What would you do?
Normal people would simply avoid each other. Maybe un-friend one another on Facebook. Normal people aren't fun to read about. Thankfully, the subjects of today's Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals case are extraordinary people.
Nidal Bazzi worked for Marwan Haidar for several months. When the relationship between the two became strained, Haidar allegedly decided to get Bazzi arrested.
At the time, Bazzi was on federal supervised release following a cocaine conviction. If Bazzi violated the terms of his supervised release, he could be sent back to prison. Bazzi claims that Haidar conspired with two Dearborn, Mich. police officers to have Bazzi arrested for a supervised release violation.
Haidar and Daniel Saab, one of the officers, fabricated a police report stating that Bazzi threw a glass bottle at Haidar's van, causing a window to break. Then Saab called fellow officer Fred Thompson, telling him, "Bro, some guy's going to call you, just talk to him."
Haidar was the "guy" who called. Haidar told Thompson that Bazzi was carrying guns and drugs in his car and that his cousin saw Bazzi with a gun. Haidar identified the car Bazzi was driving and provided Thompson with Bazzi's location.
Thompson, who was on patrol at the time, pulled Bazzi over for moving violations. Bazzi consented to a search of his vehicle, but the officers let him go after they did not find any weapons or drugs.
As a result of the false police report, Bazzi was later arrested for violating the terms of his supervised release. The charges were eventually dismissed.
Bazzi filed a civil rights action against Saab, Haidar, Thompson, and the City of Dearborn. Saab and Haidar settled, and the district court later granted summary judgment for Thompson and Dearborn based on qualified immunity. Bazzi appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and won.
While the Sixth Circuit ruled that Bazzi had not presented enough evidence to infer that Thompson was part of the Haidar/Saab conspiracy to have Bazzi arrested, it agreed that a jury could find that Thompson had stopped Bazzi without probable cause.
Thompson claimed that he had probable cause for the stop because Bazzi was speeding and ran a stop sign. The court, however, found that the evidence was inconsistent with Thompson's claim. Bazzi was not cited for a traffic violation after the stop; Thompson apologized to Bazzi for inconveniencing him at the conclusion of the search; and Thompson's partner wrote in an internal report that they had stopped Bazzi for suspicion of a stolen vehicle and later admitted that this was false information.
The court also disregarded Thompson's reasonable suspicion defense because Haidar's gun-and-drug-tip did not provide sufficient "indicia of reliability."
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Thompson's claim of qualified immunity, allowing the case to proceed in the district court.
- Bazzi v. City of Dearborn (FindLaw's CaseLaw)
- Uneasy Rider: Cop Denied Qualified Immunity in Motorcycle Death (FindLaw's Sixth Circuit blog)
- Officer has Qualified Immunity from Search Warrant Suit (FindLaw's Ninth Circuit blog)
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