United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Gregory Wehrman United States Magistrate Judge
a § 1983 case alleging claims under the Fourth Amendment
through the Fourteenth Amendment. There are also pendant
state law claims for malicious prosecution and assault and
facts of this case date back to January 2013, when Kentucky
State Police Trooper Brandon Maupin began using a
confidential informant to make controlled drug purchases in
and around Gallatin County, Kentucky. (See Doc.
23-1, PageID# 112). The confidential informant made 16
purchases over the course of five months. (Doc. 50-8 in
14-182). In each instance, Maupin followed a formula. The
confidential informant called him on a state-issued phone;
Maupin then drove to a meeting point in an unmarked car in
plain clothes with another trooper accompanying him in the
passenger seat; he picked up the informant, gave her money,
turned on a tape recorder and placed it on the
informant's person, and drove the informant to the
location of the buy. (Doc. 23-1, PageID# 99-101, 103, 105,
138, 179). After each buy, Maupin transferred the audio
recording to a compact disk and sent the alleged narcotics
the informant purchased to the lab for narcotics testing.
(Id. at 99, 121).
of the 16 controlled buys, the informant purchased narcotics.
(Doc. 50-8). But in seven of the buys, the lab results came
back showing that the substance the informant turned over to
Maupin was not actually a narcotic. (Id.). The three
Plaintiffs in the two cases presently before the Court are
among those seven instances in which the testing showed that
no narcotics were involved.
Controlled buy events.
morning of January 17, 2013, Maupin received a phone call
from the confidential informant. (See Doc. 50-2).
The informant claimed she could purchase 0.2 grams of heroin
from Miranda Sanders for $40. (Id.). Maupin drove
the informant to the residence of Christina Balsinger, on
U.S. 127 southeast of Warsaw. (Doc. 23-1, PageID# 128; Doc.
50-1, PageID# 1211). Maupin and the confidential informant
had purchased narcotics from Balsinger five days earlier.
(Doc. 50-6; Doc. 34-1 in Case No. 14-183).
informant went into the residence for approximately 10
minutes and spoke with someone who is not audible from the
recording. (Doc. 23-1, PageID# 165; Doc. 50-2). The audio
recording does not include Sanders' name. (Doc. 23-1,
PageID# 165). The only evidence that Sanders was present
comes from the informant's statement. (Id. at
informant returned to the vehicle and did not say anything.
(Doc. 50-2; see also Doc. 23-1, PageID# 166 (Maupin
stating he based his report on the informant's statements
upon returning to the vehicle)). Maupin stated that the
informant returned with “a cellophane wrapper
containing two pieces of paper with a brown substance
consistent with heroin.” (Doc. 50-2; see also
Doc. 23-1, PageID# 141). Maupin sent those alleged narcotics
to the Kentucky State Police lab for testing. On February 22,
2013, the lab concluded there were “no controlled
substances” in the items the informant gave Maupin.
(Doc. 24-4, PageID# 506 in Case No. 14-183). Contrary to
Maupin's initial assertion that there was a brown
substance in the wrapper, and contrary to the informant's
alleged attempt to purchase 0.2 grams of heroin, the lab only
had “yellow powder weighing approximately [0.077
January 30, 2013, Maupin received a similar call from the
informant, claiming she could buy 0.2 grams of heroin for $40
from Samantha Smith. (Doc. 50-11, PageID# 1315). Maupin,
another trooper, and the informant drove to Smith's
residence, where the informant purchased a folded piece of
white paper containing a brown substance consistent with
heroin. (Id. at 1316). On April 24, 2013, the
Kentucky State Police lab concluded that the substance the
informant purchased did not contain any controlled substance.
(Doc. 24-4, PageID# 505 in Case No. 14-183).
15, 2013, the informant called Maupin and said she could buy
0.3 grams of heroin from Tara Johnson for $60. (Doc. 50-12,
PageID# 1329, 1332). Maupin, another trooper, and the
informant drove to an apartment owned by Sue Ann Peg and
Jerry McGuire in Warsaw. (Doc. 24-1 in Case No. 14-183). The
audio recording of the more than 15-minute conversation
includes some small talk between the informant, a male voice,
and a female voice. (Id.). The informant then
returned to the vehicle and gave Maupin “a small clear
plastic bag” that “contained three pieces of
foil” containing a “brown solid substance”
and labeled “20.” (Doc. 50-12, PageID# 1333). On
June 19, 2013, the Kentucky State Police lab concluded that
the “tan chunky substance” contained no
controlled substances. (Doc. 24-4, PageID# 507 in Case No.
Maupin's cases went to a grand jury on April 8, 2013.
(Doc. 23-1, PageID# 151; Doc. 50-1, PageID# 1217). But the
Sanders and Smith cases, which both occurred in January, were
not among them-in part because the lab results were allegedly
not back. (Doc. 50-11, PageID# 1320). Instead, those cases
carried forward into the summer.
4, 2013, Maupin met with Assistant Gallatin County Attorney
Kurt Kruthoffer. (Doc. 50-12, PageID# 1336). They discussed
both the Johnson and the Smith cases. Maupin left the meeting
concluding that the Kentucky State Police needed to make a
second controlled buy before they could go to a grand jury
with charges against Johnson. (Doc. 50-12, PageID# 1336).
weeks later, on July 25, 2013, Maupin met with Kruthoffer
again, and discussed the Sanders case. (Doc. 23-1, PageID#
153). For the first time, he learned the lab test showed no
narcotics. (Id. at 153-54). Kruthoffer recommended
charging Sanders with trafficking in a simulated controlled
substance. (Id. at 157; Doc. 50-1, PageID# 1218). So
Maupin attempted to prepare a complaint for that charge.
(Doc. 23-1, PageID# 157 - 58).
was no action in any of the three cases until October 14,
2013, when Maupin once again spoke with Kruthoffer. (Doc.
50-11, PageID# 1321). He was planning a “Black
Friday” raid on drug offenses in the Gallatin County
area for November 1, 2013. (Doc. 23-1, PageID# 188; Doc.
45-2, PageID# 1080-81).
conversation, Kruthoffer reminded Maupin that the Sanders
drug test came back negative. (Doc. 23-1, PageID# 187).
Maupin also learned for the first time that the tests for
both Smith and Johnson were negative. (Doc. 50-11, PageID#
1321; Doc. 50-12, PageID# 1337). Like in the Sanders case,
Maupin intended to pursue a charge for trafficking in a
simulated substance. (Id.).
Maupin encountered an issue preparing the complaints and went
to Assistant Gallatin County Attorney William Leger for
assistance on October 31, 2013. (Doc. 23-1, PageID# 159).
This was more than two weeks after Kruthoffer told Maupin
that the lab tests in the Sanders, Smith, and Johnson cases
all showed no controlled substances. Still, Maupin told Leger
that he “would like to be able to charge with
trafficking in heroin” in at least the Smith and
Johnson cases. (Doc. 45-2, PageID# 1077). Leger-who also knew
the drug test showed no narcotics (Id. at 1077)- sat
down with Maupin and typed out a complaint for the Smith and
Johnson cases. (Id. at 1072). He then had Maupin
read over the complaint for accuracy. (Id. at
1074-75). Leger believed that if “the person [who]
trafficked the substance did not know that it was not heroin
at the time they did it, that they could probably still be
charged” with trafficking in heroin. (Id. at
1078). Leger wanted to “charge a trafficking in
controlled substance, first degree, and plead” the
charge down “before it went to grand jury.” (Doc.
23-1, PageID# 194, 199). Leger testified that it is possible
he had never encountered a case involving trafficking in a
simulated controlled substance before October 31, 2013. (Doc.
45-2, PageID# 1119).
result led Maupin to sign a statement he knew to be false,
and which led directly to indictments against Smith and
Johnson. On October 31, 2013, Maupin signed a criminal
complaint affidavit stating that Johnson sold heroin under
two grams. (Doc. 50-9, PageID# 1310). Maupin later signed a
warrant of arrest for Johnson, repeating this statement.
(Doc. 50-12, PageID# 1339). On November 1, 2013, Maupin
signed a warrant of arrest stating that Samantha Smith sold
heroin under two grams. (Doc. 50-10, PageID# 1311).
acknowledges the information in those documents he signed was
not true. (Doc. 23-1, PageID# 194-95). But he admits he
willingly signed the documents, and was not forced to do so.
(Doc. 23-1, PageID# 193). Indeed, he testified that he was
“frequently” asked to sign incorrect affidavits.
(Id. at 198).
Commonwealth dismissed Smith's case on February 4, 2014
at the pretrial conference. (Doc. 50-16). It later dismissed
Johnson's case on April 22, 2014, at a hearing to address
outstanding motions. (Doc. 50-15). At that hearing, Gallatin
County Attorney John “Spike” Wright said:
I've known [Johnson] probably all her life. I've
listened to the audio probably three times . . . I don't
believe she was present. . . . It is hard to even tell
whether there was a transaction. But clearly the confidential
informant states that she got the substance from Tara
Johnson. But that couldn't be physically possible. And I
think there is no way I could move forward with that case. .
. . She wasn't, as best I can tell, [present]. The
apartment owner came to my office a couple of months ago and
said [Johnson] had never been in his apartment before. . . .
We can't go forward with the evidence that I've seen.
. . . The best I could tell from what I have gathered is
there was probably some animosity between [the confidential
informant] and Ms. Johnson.
(Doc. 27 in Case No. 14-cv-183).
Sanders case resolved slightly differently. Instead of
signing an inaccurate statement, on October 31, 2013, Maupin
signed a complaint that stated Sanders “sold a
simulated controlled substance.” (Doc. 50-1, PageID#
1223). The charge for trafficking in a simulated controlled
substance against Sanders was dismissed on February 4, 2014.
(Doc. 50-1, PageID# 1226).
and Johnson-the two Plaintiffs who were charged with
trafficking in heroin-filed a joint complaint on October 23,
2014, seeking relief for false arrest, malicious prosecution,
wrongful arrest, assault and battery, and punitive damages.
(Doc. 1 in 14-183). Sanders filed a separate ...