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Goodman v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dep't

United States District Court, D. Nevada

August 2, 2013


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For Chentile Goodman, Plaintiff: John J Graves, LEAD ATTORNEY, Graves & Leavitt, Las Vegas, NV; Robert A. Nersesian, LEAD ATTORNEY, Nersesian & Sankiewicz, Las Vegas, NV.

For Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, James Signorello, John Segura, Defendants: Lyssa S Anderson, LEAD ATTORNEY, Kaempfer Crowell, Las Vegas, NV.

For Nevada Property 1, LLC, doing business as Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Defendant: Martin J. Kravitz, LEAD ATTORNEY, Las Vegas, NV; Timothy J Geswein, LEAD ATTORNEY, Kravitz, Schnitzer, Sloane & Johnson, Chtd., Las Vegas, NV.


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(Plf.'s Motion in Limine - dkt. no. 74; Def.'s Motions for Summary Judgment - dkt. nos. 81 and 82; Def.'s Motion to Seal - dkt. no. 87; Plf.'s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment - dkt. no. 84)

This is a civil rights suit arising out of the detention of a woman by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (" LVMPD" ) on suspicion of prostitution during a Vice anti-prostitution sting operation. Before the Court are the competing summary judgment motions of both parties (dkt. nos. 81, 82, and 84), as well as Plaintiff's Motion in Limine (dkt. no. 87) and Defendants' Amended Motion to Seal (dkt. no. 87). Oral argument was heard on all but the Motion in Limine on July 25, 2013. (Dkt. no. 121.) In short, the Court holds that Defendants violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights during her detention and arrest, and grants in part Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment consistent with the reasoning set forth below.


A. The Parties

Plaintiff Chentile Goodman, a resident of Las Vegas, Nevada, worked as a dancer at the Spearmint Rhino, a gentleman's club in Las Vegas. The incident that gave rise to this action occurred during an evening out with Goodman's friend and colleague, Ayda

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Mosafer, another dancer at the Spearmint Rhino. Four days prior to the incident, Mosafer was arrested for soliciting prostitution at the Rhino, but was ultimately released without charge.

Defendant James Signorello was a Sergeant in the LVMPD Vice Section. Defendant John Segura was a Detective in the same section. The Vice Section of LVMPD " is responsible for investigating vice-related crimes, including arresting and prosecuting prostitutes, their clients, and pandering suspects; prostitution-related larcenies; drug-related trick rolls, businesses that front for prostitution; sexually-oriented criminal enterprises; juvenile prostitution and related pornography; and felony HIV prostitution cases." LVMPD > Sections > Vice, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, (last visited July 22, 2013).

B. Vice Procedure

This suit arises out of a Vice anti-prostitution sting operation conducted at the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino (" the Cosmopolitan" ) in Las Vegas. According to Signorello, Vice enforcement activity is often requested by the casinos themselves to " clean up" their property.[1] (Dkt. no. 84-4 at 10.) These casinos cooperate with law enforcement by providing access to secured facilities and rooms that enable Vice anti-prostitution operations. ( Id. at 11.) Vice detectives arrive as a squad to a property and attempt " to make as many contacts and as many arrests as [they] can in such a small window." ( Id. at 6.) Signorello explained that this hurried procedure arises out of a need to ensure that targets of their operation lack the time to communicate to their associates the presence of a law enforcement operation. ( Id. ) For that reason, officers attempt to keep as low a profile as possible and not reveal themselves to any of their potential targets. ( Id. )

When they arrive at a particular property, the squad splits up into teams, makes contact with potential targets undercover, and attempts to secure probable cause for solicitation charges during the course of their contact.[2] If successful, officers then identify themselves, detain the individual, and escort them to a secured facility on the premises. ( Id. at 6.) Escorting a female may often involve taking a hold of her arms. ( Id. at 9.) Signorello describes these operations as often being " chaotic" due to the high number of women detained by the officers and the short window of time in which these detentions must occur. ( Id. at 6.)

A woman detained in a prostitution sweep may be handcuffed if officers determine that she is unruly or combative. (Dkt. no. 84-4 at 12.) According to Signorello, these detentions may last " for a while and sometimes for an hour." ( Id. ) Generally, no timekeeping is done to monitor the length of time any individual suspect is detained in these facilities. ( Id. at 13.)

C. The Incident

Goodman and Mosafer planned on an evening of dinner and drinks at the Henry, a restaurant and bar at the Cosmopolitan on the evening of February 9, 2011. Having arranged to also meet her boyfriend that evening, Goodman walked with Mosafer through the casino floor on route to the

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Henry. The parties dispute when exactly the incident occurred; Goodman claims it occurred near midnight on February 9, while Defendants represent that it was closer to 2:00 a.m. on the morning of February 10. At the same time, LVMPD officers were engaged in a large anti-prostitution sting operation at the Cosmopolitan after receiving " complaints that the place was being overrun" with prostitution-related activity. (Dkt. no. 84-4 at 5.) At the time, Vice officers were particularly interested in pursuing an investigation of a suspected pimp known as " Wheelchair Mike," the husband of Mosafer.

The parties dispute much of the remaining facts from this point onward. The facts are recalled here as articulated in Goodman's deposition, unless indicated otherwise. According to Goodman, she and Mosafer were walking towards the Henry when she was first approached undercover by Segura and Signorello. Segura attempted to proposition her by asking if she knew of " something to do or a fun place to go." (Dkt. no. 84-1 at 63-64.) The women rebuffed their advances, and continued walking. After reaching the Henry and seeing that her boyfriend had not yet arrived, she began to send him a text message. At this point, and possibly after a few more attempts at solicitation, Goodman testified that Segura walked up to her, clutched her by the upper arm, grabbed her mobile phone that had fallen to the floor, and proceeded to escort her away to Cosmopolitan's security office.

According to Defendants, Segura and Signorello spotted the women as they were walking near the elevators of the Cosmopolitan. One of them recognized Mosafer from an operation four days earlier that resulted in her arrest. Segura approached the women and attempted to solicit them. After failing to do so, Segura recalled that Signorello and another detective approached both women, and the three detectives identified themselves as officers. Segura recalled that Goodman resisted his request for her telephone, and that she became combative and argumentative. (Dkt. no. 84-3 at 34-35; 84-5 at 4.) Signorello did the same to Mosafer, grabbing her arm, which also caused her to drop her phone to the ground, and escorting her as well.[3] Goodman alleges that she was stopped near the Henry when the initial detention occurred, while Defendants represent that the detention occurred while Goodman was walking near the Casino's elevators.

Goodman and Mosafer were then escorted to the casino's security office, and were detained there for an indefinite period of time. Although the precise location of the security office was difficult to glean from the deposition testimony, the room's entrance does not face the main casino floor where Goodman and Mosafer were initially approached; rather, its entrance adjoins a hallway that opens up onto the casino floor. Both women were escorted to this room from the location where they were initially contacted. The security office itself consists of two separate rooms, with a number of individuals, including a Cosmopolitan security officer, present when Goodman entered the facility. The parties dispute the length of Goodman and Mosafer's detention. Defendants do not provide a positive time estimate for its length ( see dkt. no. 84-2 at 97; 84-3 at 53), while Goodman testified that it was up to two hours in duration.

Several other women were detained in the security room as a result of the sting operation. (Dkt. no. 84-3 at 52.) According

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to Goodman, other detained women were filing into the room over the course of the evening to the point where she had to relocate her position due to overcrowding. At the end of the evening, a number of these women were ultimately arrested for prostitution-related offenses. ( Id. at 80.) At oral argument, Defendants noted that a total of 17 women were detained, and 14 of them were arrested.

According to her testimony, Goodman's purse was taken from her as soon as she entered the security facility. (Dkt. no. 84-1 at 77-78.) Early in her detention Goodman was asked a number of questions, including what she was doing at the casino and where she was employed. ( Id. at 85.) On numerous occasions, Goodman inquired as to the reason for her detention, and asked to be released to her boyfriend. Her requests were denied.

During her detention, Goodman testified that her purse was searched. Though she did not herself see the search, she recalls her identification stored in her purse being presented to her as well as questions and comments from a detective about the money in her wallet. (Dkt. no. 84-1 at 89-90.) According to Segura, he asked Goodman before she arrived at the security room whether she carried identification, and she responded that it was in her purse. She then consented to his retrieving the I.D. from her purse after he asked her for it. (Dkt. no. 84-3 at 48.) Segura testified that he did not recall whether he searched Goodman's purse for money. (Dkt. no. 84-3 at 49.)

After being held for up to two hours, Goodman and Mosafer were both released without being charged.

D. Procedural History

On August 22, 2011, Goodman filed suit against LVMPD, the Cosmopolitan International Company, Inc., and Nevada Property 1, LLC (owner of the Cosmopolitan) in the Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County, Nevada. LVMPD removed the case to this Court on September 8, 2011. In her Amended Complaint, Goodman asserts claims for (1) false imprisonment, (2) battery, (3) violation of the Fourth Amendment, (4) defamation, and (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress. ( See dkt. no. 50.) Goodman filed a Motion in Limine seeking to exclude evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts committed by her. ( See dkt. no. 74.) She also seeks partial summary judgment on her Fourth Amendment and state law false imprisonment claims. Defendants have also moved for summary judgment, seeking judgment on all of Goodman's claims.


A. Motion in Limine

A motion in limine is a procedural device to obtain an early and preliminary ruling on the admissibility of evidence. Black's Law Dictionary defines it as " [a] pretrial request that certain inadmissible evidence not be referred to or offered at trial. Typically, a party makes this motion when it believes that mere mention of the evidence during trial would be highly prejudicial and could not be remedied by an instruction to disregard." Black's Law Dictionary 1109 (9th ed. 2009). Although the Federal Rules of Evidence (" FRE" ) do not explicitly authorize a motion in limine, the Supreme Court has held that trial judges are authorized to rule on motions in limine pursuant to their authority to manage trials. Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n. 4, 105 S.Ct. 460, 83 L.Ed.2d 443 (1984).

A motion in limine is a request for the court's guidance concerning an evidentiary question. See Wilson v. Williams, 182 F.3d 562, 570 (7th Cir. 1999). Judges have broad discretion when ruling on motions in limine. See Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp.,

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316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2002). However, a motion in limine should not be used to resolve factual disputes or weigh evidence. See C & E Servs., Inc., v. Ashland, Inc., 539 F.Supp.2d 316, 323 (D.D.C. 2008). To exclude evidence on a motion in limine " the evidence must be inadmissible on all potential grounds." See, e.g., Ind. Ins. Co. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 326 F.Supp.2d 844, 846 (N.D. Ohio 2004). " Unless evidence meets this high standard, evidentiary rulings should be deferred until trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context." Hawthorne Partners v. AT & T Tech., Inc., 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D.Ill. 1993). This is because although rulings on motions in limine may save " time, costs, effort and preparation, a court is almost always better situated during the actual trial to assess the value and utility of evidence." Wilkins v. Kmart Corp., 487 F.Supp.2d 1216, 1219 (D. Kan. 2007).

In limine rulings are provisional. Such " rulings are not binding on the trial judge [who] may always change his mind during the course of a trial." Ohler v. United States, 529 U.S. 753, 758 n. 3, 120 S.Ct. 1851, 146 L.Ed.2d 826 (2000); accord Luce, 469 U.S. at 41 (noting that in limine rulings are always subject to change, especially if the evidence unfolds in an unanticipated manner). " Denial of a motion in limine does not necessarily mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted to trial. Denial merely means that without the context of ...

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