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Feltha v. City of Newport

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington

February 13, 2017

JOSEPH FELTHA PLAINTIFF
v.
CITY OF NEWPORT CITY OF HIGHLAND HEIGHTS CAMPBELL COUNTY, KY. BRADY BUEMI BILL BIRKENHAUER DAVE FORNASH DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          William O. Bertelsman, United States District Judge

         This is a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights case that presents the narrow question of whether the statute of limitations for such claims is tolled when a litigant receives an adverse judgment from a state criminal court. After brief discovery on that question, Defendants jointly filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 19). Having heard from the parties at oral argument, the Court now issues this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         This case arises out of Plaintiff's arrest and prosecution in Campbell County, Kentucky. The Kentucky Court of Appeals summarized the facts as such:

Two officers on the Campbell County Drug Task Force (DTF) arranged a controlled drug buy to be executed on September 24, 2013. Detective Brady Buemi was acting as backup for the controlled buy. After arranging it with a confidential informant (CI), Detective Ryan Marcus and Officer Christopher Vance sat in a car and listened to the recorded conversation of the CI and “J.” Following the buy, Detective Marcus met with the CI who gave the purchased substances to Officer Vance. Detective Marcus testified at the suppression hearing before the trial court that the connection was made that “J”, who had sold drugs to the CI, was . . . Joseph Feltha. The second controlled buy was on October 16, 2013. Detective Buemi and Detective Bill Birkenhauer were involved in this buy. The same CI was also involved. The CI gave the detectives makeup instead of drugs. She said that she ingested the drugs.
On December 12, 2013, the Campbell County Grand Jury indicted Feltha for two counts of Trafficking in the First Degree, Controlled Substance, Cocaine, on October 21, 2013; Trafficking in the First Degree, Controlled Substance, Cocaine, on September 24, 2013; and Possession of Marijuana on September 30, 2013. On May 1, 2014, Feltha was also indicted for being a First-Degree Persistent Felony Offender. The Trafficking charges were later amended to Trafficking in a simulated substance.
Feltha filed two motions to suppress evidence with the trial court. The first was for his arrest and the second for the search of his residence. On February 19, 2014, the trial court allowed Feltha to file a third motion to suppress wherein he asserted that the search warrant was defective.
On February 24, 2014, the trial court held a suppression hearing and, thereafter, requested additional briefing from counsel on the issue of the doctrine of inevitable discovery. [In an order that became final on July 17, 2014, ] [t]he trial court . . . overruled all of Feltha's motions finding that the evidence would have been inevitably discovered. Feltha then entered a conditional guilty plea to all of the counts against him. He reserved the right to appeal the denial of his suppression motion. Feltha was sentenced to a combined twelve years on the charges.

Feltha v. Cmmw., 2014-CA-001308-MR, 2016 WL 837195, at *1 (Ky. App. Mar. 4, 2016).

         The Kentucky Court of Appeals then reversed the Campbell County Circuit Court's denial of the Motion to Suppress, finding that there were “no objectively reasonable facts from which the officers had probable cause for Feltha's arrest” and that the search of Feltha's residence violated the Fourth Amendment. Id. at *3. The Kentucky Court of Appeals opinion became final on April 4, 2016. (Stipulations, Doc. 18, PageID# 104).

         Feltha was released from state prison on April 28, 2016. (Id.). He filed this suit on July 7, 2016. (Complaint, Doc. 1, PageID# 1).

         II. Analysis

         Plaintiff claims the arresting officers violated the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments by illegally searching his apartment and illegally arresting him. (Complaint, Doc. 1, PageID# 3). He also brings state law claims for false imprisonment, negligence, and illegal search. (See generally Complaint, Doc. 1).

         At this juncture, Defendants do not challenge the merits of those claims. Instead, Defendants have jointly filed a Motion to Dismiss, arguing that all of Plaintiff's claims were time-barred when Plaintiff filed this case on July 7, 2016. This Court will address the § 1983 and state law claims separately and in turn.

         A. Plaintiff's § 1983 claims are dilatory.

         1. The Kentucky one-year statute of limitations applies to ...


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