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Plaintiff claimed he was wrongfully jailed as suspect
United States District Court, Central District, Los Angeles
Government - PoliceCivil Rights - Police as Defendant; Intentional Torts - Malicious Prosecution
J.N. v. Detective Heather M. Hendrickson #429; Anne Marie Schubert; Rick Braziel; Detective J. Lerose #773; Sgt. Dubke; Sacramento Police Department; City of Sacramento; and Ten Unknown Named Defendants, No. 2:14-cv-02428
March 6, 2017
J. N. (Male)
Jeff Dominic Price; Santa Monica, CA, for J. N.
City of Sacramento,
Anne Marie Schubert,
Heather M. Hendrickson,
Sacramento Police Department
Sean D. Richmond; Office of the City Attorney; Sacramento, CA, for J. Lerose, Sgt. Dubke, Rick Braziel, City of Sacramento, Anne Marie Schubert, Heather M. Hendrickson, Sacramento Police Department
On Aug. 17, 2011, the plaintiff was arrested in front of his Los Angeles home by Los Angeles police acting on a Sacramento warrant. The plaintiff was accused of using a Facebook account under the name of "Pater Noster," Latin for "Our Father," to contact a 12-year-old Sacramento girl and asking her to undress in front of a webcam while the Facebook user performed sex acts on himself. The plaintiff was subsequently was charged with seven felony counts. In 2011, prior to the plaintiff's arrest, the 12-year-old girl's mother filed a complaint with the Sacramento Police Department, claiming that her daughter was being contacted by men on Facebook. The girl was using a laptop she had gotten for Christmas and communicating with the men in a "Tiny Chats" site associated with Facebook. Sacramento Police Detective Heather Hendrickson ran the phrase "Pater Noster" as a last name through police records, and located the plaintiff, who had a criminal history. Police obtained a photo of the plaintiff and presented it, along with five other photos, in a photo lineup to the girl in March 2011. The girl pointed to the picture of the plaintiff, but said, "He is too skinny. The guy that I saw was much chunkier." After a few more seconds, she added, "That kind of looks like him." Hendrickson allegedly told her to draw a circle around the picture and then submitted the search warrant affidavit. As a result, the plaintiff was arrested, charged and jailed. The plaintiff told Hendrickson that he had not committed the crimes and that he was not on Facebook. Police seized his computer, and later found no Facebook account registered on the hard drive and no evidence that there ever had been a Facebook account used on the computer. In February 2012, the girl was brought in for an in-person lineup, which included the plaintiff, but she did not recognize any of the men. A few days later, charges filed against the plaintiff in Sacramento Superior Court were dismissed. However, the plaintiff had already been wrongfully incarcerated for over seven months. The plaintiff sued Hendrickson; Hendrickson's employers, the city of Sacramento and the Sacramento Police Department; and several other officers involved in the case, Rick Braziel, Sergeant Dubke, Detective J. Lerose, and Anne Marie Schubert. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants' actions constituted judicial deception and malicious prosecution. Several of the defendants were let out of the case. Thus, the matter continued against Hendrickson only. Plaintiff's counsel contended that Hendrickson omitted the fact that the girl said the suspect was "too skinny" to be the man she saw on camera, which caused the Facebook user to be conflated with the plaintiff. Thus, counsel argued that Hendrickson was reckless in her preparation and submission of the arrest and search warrant affidavits, causing her to mislead the magistrate that issued the warrants. Plaintiff's counsel further noted that Hendrickson went to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for help on the case and that an agent told Hendrickson that he would subpoena Facebook for information on the "Pater Noster" account. Within one month, the FBI determined that the account was being logged into from a device in Vienna, Austria. However, Hendrickson did not learn of this information, as she did not follow up with the FBI. Defense counsel argued that Hendrickson was not reckless in her conduct.
The plaintiff was incarcerated for over seven months before he was released. He claimed that as a result, he suffers from emotional distress, including pain, fright, fear, embarrassment, humiliation, and loss of liberty, as well as mental, emotional and physical injuries. The plaintiff claimed that he still suffers emotionally, as people know that he was initially charged in the case. He also claimed that he had to find new employment after being released from custody. The girl is now 17 years old and has also been emotionally impacted by the events. The male who committed the crime has never been located.
The jury rendered a verdict for the plaintiff. It determined that the plaintiff's damages totaled $5,005,000.
Dean D. Pregerson
This report includes information that was gleaned from an article that was published by The Sacramento Bee and an interview of plaintiff's counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.