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Hoskins v. Knox County

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

March 15, 2018

AMANDA HOSKINS, et al. PLAINTIFFS
v.
KNOX COUNTY, KENTUCKY, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          David L. Sunning United States District Judge

         On March 15, 2012, Plaintiffs Amanda Hoskins and Jonathan Taylor were arrested for robbery and murder. Hoskins and Taylor spent three years and five years, respectively, incarcerated and awaiting trial. That trial never came. Instead, in the summer of 2016, the Commonwealth of Kentucky dropped the criminal charges and acknowledged that there was a lack of probable cause to support either prosecution. From the ashes of that criminal case, this civil action arose.

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Plaintiffs filed the instant action seeking recompense for alleged violations of their constitutional rights, as well as various state-law torts, against ten law-enforcement officers and the municipal governments those officers represent. Specifically, the Plaintiffs have filed suit against the following Defendants: Kentucky State Police (“KSP”) Troopers Jason York, Jason Bunch, and Dallas Eubanks (the “Primary KSP Defendants”); KSP Troopers Bryan Johnson, Mark Mefford, Kelly Farris, and Jackie Pickrell Joseph (the “Secondary KSP Defendants”); Knox County, former Knox County Sheriff John Pickard, and Deputy Derek Eubanks (the “Knox County Defendants”); and the City of Barbourville and Barbourville Police Officer Mike Broughton (the “Barbourville Defendants”). (Doc. # 1). The Court has federal-question jurisdiction over this matter under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On December 20, 2010, Katherine Mills's body was found at her home in Flat Lick, Kentucky.[1] (Doc. # 1 at ¶ 20). The Kentucky State Police, the Barbourville Police Department, and the Knox County Sheriff's Department commenced a joint investigation into her murder. Id. at ¶ 21. Because $12, 000 had been stolen from Ms. Mills's home, the officers believed that the murder was financially motivated. Id. at ¶ 22. Early on, the investigation focused on three suspects: Allen Helton-a confidential informant for the investigating agencies-Jesse Lawson-Ms. Mills's grandson by marriage-and Mike Simpson. Id. at ¶¶ 23-25. The Plaintiffs allege that there was substantial evidence implicating Helton, Lawson, and Simpson. Id. at ¶¶ 25-44. Specifically, the Plaintiffs claim that the Defendant Officers knew that Helton and Simpson were in desperate need for money on the morning of Ms. Mills's murder, that they fled Kentucky immediately after the murder, that Simpson used cash to rent the car they drove from Kentucky to Florida, that they were in possession of a large amount of cash upon their return, that Simpson had prepared a note with a list of purported alibi witnesses before ever being asked about the murder, and that Helton and Lawson had failed polygraph examinations questioning them about their involvement in the robbery and murder of Ms. Mills. Id.

         Despite the “mounting evidence against” Helton, Lawson, and Simpson, the Plaintiffs allege that the Defendant Officers conspired to frame them, and accomplished this task by “coercing witnesses, fabricating statements, and committing other acts of egregious misconduct.” Id. at ¶¶ 45-48. In support of that allegation, the Plaintiffs claim that the Defendant Officers coerced Bob Smith, Christy Branson, Joe King, Allen Helton, and Amber Simpson into fabricating statements that falsely implicated the Plaintiffs; that the Defendant Officers falsely reported that Michael Crump had positively identified the Plaintiffs as the people he saw outside Ms. Mills's home on the day of the murder; and that the Defendant Officers altered and falsified Plaintiff Amanda Hoskins's medical records to nullify her alibi.[2] Id. at ¶¶ 50-97, 104.

         Based on that fabricated evidence, Trooper York signed criminal complaints and initiated charges against the Plaintiffs. Id. at ¶¶ 98, 101. On March 15, 2012- approximately one year and two months after the investigation began-the Plaintiffs were arrested for the robbery and murder of Ms. Mills. Id. at ¶ 99-101. After their arrest, the Plaintiffs allege that additional evidence was fabricated against them. Specifically, the Plaintiffs claim that the Defendant Officers coerced Daniel Wilson and Robert Beach into providing false statements that Plaintiff Jonathan Taylor had confessed to the murder.[3]Id. at ¶¶ 114-117, 118-125.

         While they were awaiting trial, the Plaintiffs were incarcerated. Id. at ¶¶ 132, 135. But a trial never commenced. On June 29, 2016, the Commonwealth of Kentucky filed a motion seeking dismissal of the criminal charges against Plaintiff Jonathan Taylor because probable cause did not exist. That motion was granted on June 30, 2016, after Taylor had spent approximately five years in jail. Id. at ¶¶ 128-130, 132. On July 29, 2016, the Commonwealth filed a similar motion dismissing the criminal charges against Plaintiff Amanda Hoskins. That motion was granted on August 22, 2016, after Hoskins had spent approximately three years in jail. Id. at ¶¶ 131, 135.

         On April 4, 2017, the Plaintiffs filed the instant action alleging multiple constitutional violations, as well as state-law tort claims against the Defendants. (Doc. # 1). The Barbourville Defendants and the Knox County Defendants filed Answers to Plaintiffs' Complaint on May 2, 2017 and May 3, 2017, respectively. (Docs. # 30 and 31). Instead of answering Plaintiffs' Complaint, the Primary KSP Defendants and the Secondary KSP Defendants (collectively “the KSP Defendants”) filed Motions to Dismiss. (Docs. # 36 and 39). Shortly thereafter, the Barbourville Defendants and the Knox County Defendants filed Responses in support of the KSP Defendants' Motions to Dismiss, joining in their co-defendants' arguments and asking the Court to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims against them for the same, and additional, reasons. (Docs. # 44 and 54). After filing their own Response opposing the KSP Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (Doc. # 55), Plaintiffs filed Motions to Strike the Barbourville Defendants' and the Knox County Defendants' Responses as untimely Motions to Dismiss. (Docs. # 56 and 57). The KSP Defendants then filed a Joint Reply in support of their Motions to Dismiss (Doc. # 60), and the Barbourville Defendants and Knox County Defendants filed Responses in opposition to Plaintiffs' Motions to Strike. (Docs. # 61 and 62). Thus, the Motions to Dismiss and the Motions to Strike are fully briefed (Docs. # 36, 39, 55, 60, 56, 57, 61, and 62) and ripe for review.[4]

         II. ANALYSIS

         This matter is currently before the Court upon both substantive and procedural motions-four Motions to Dismiss, two of which are disguised as “Responses, ” and two Motions to Strike. First, the Court will address the parties' procedural motions, and then the Court will turn to the parties' substantive motions.

         A. Motions to Strike

         Plaintiffs ask the Court to strike the Knox County Defendants' and the Barbourville Defendants' Responses as untimely Motions to Dismiss. (Docs. # 56 and 57). The Knox County Defendants and the Barbourville Defendants contest the characterization of their “Responses” as Motions to Dismiss. (Docs. # 61 at 1; 62 at 2). Accepting that argument, however, would elevate form over substance. (Docs. # 44 at 2; 54 at 2) (indicating that the Defendants “file this Response … and concurrently seek dismissal of all claims against them.”). Despite the innocuous titles, the Knox County Defendants and Barbourville Defendants filed dispositive motions masquerading as “Responses.”

         The trouble, of course, is that neither the Knox County Defendants nor the Barbourville Defendants are in a position to file a procedurally proper dispositive motion. A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) must “be made before pleading, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b), and both the Knox County Defendants and the Barbourville Defendants filed answers before they filed their “me too” motions.[5] (Docs. # 30 and 31). Therefore, those post-answer Motions to Dismiss are untimely. McGlone v. Bell, 681 F.3d 718, 728 n.2 (6th Cir. 2012) (“Defendants filed an untimely motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of 12(b)(6), as it was filed after Defendants' Answer.”).

         A motion for judgment on the pleadings, on the other hand, would be premature. Under Rule 12(c), a party cannot move for judgment on the pleadings until after the pleadings have “closed.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). “As a number of other district courts in this Circuit have noted, the pleadings are not closed until all defendants have filed an answer, even when one defendant has filed a motion to dismiss instead of answering.” Wells Fargo Fin. Leasing, Inc. v. Griffin, 970 F.Supp.2d 700, 705 (W.D. Ky. 2013) (citing Nationwide Children's Hosp., Inc. v. D.W. Dickey & Son, Inc. Emp. Health & Welfare Plan, No. 2:08-cv-1140-GLF, 2009 WL 5247486, at *1 (S.D. Ohio Dec. 31, 2009); Dunn-Mason v. JP Morgan Chase Bank Nat'l Ass'n, No. 11-cv-13419, 2013 WL 4084676, at *4 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 31, 2013); Horen v. Bd. of Educ. of Toledo Sch. Dist., 594 F.Supp.2d 833, 840 (N.D. Ohio 2009)). Because the KSP Defendants have not yet filed answers, the pleadings have not “closed” for purposes of Rule 12(c), and any construed Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings would be premature.

         When presented with this procedural predicament, other district courts in this Circuit have considered premature Rule 12(c) motions and permitted post-answer Rule 12(b)(6) motions. Horen, 594 F.Supp.2d at 840-41 (construing premature Rule 12(c) motion as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss after other parties answered); Signature Combs, Inc. v. United States, 253 F.Supp.2d 1028, 1030 (W.D. Tenn. 2003) (considering Rule 12(c) motion, although premature when filed, after all other defendants had answered); Gillespie v. City of Battle Creek, 100 F.Supp.3d 623, 628 (W.D. Mich. 2015) (construing defendants' premature Rule 12(c) motion as a post-answer Rule 12(b)(6) motion where the issues presented in the motion were also raised as affirmative defenses in the answer); Prade v. City of Akron, No. 5:14-cv-188, 2015 WL 2169975, at *2 (N.D. Ohio May 8, 2015) (denying motion to strike and converting premature Rule 12(c) motion into post-answer Rule 12(b)(6) motion because issues raised in the motion were sufficiently raised as affirmative defenses in defendant's answer).

         Those decisions, however, are not binding on this Court. Nor does the Court find them persuasive. Although the Court generally disfavors piecemeal resolution of the issues, the Court refuses to relax the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to permit procedurally improper motions. Therefore, the Court declines to exercise its discretion to construe and consider the Knox County Defendants' and the Barbourville Defendants' filings as either post-answer Motions to Dismiss or premature Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings.[6] Accordingly, Plaintiffs' Motions to Strike the Knox County Defendants' and the Barbourville Defendants' Responses (Docs. # 56 and 57) are granted.

         B. Motions to Dismiss

         The Court having determined that the Primary KSP Defendants' and the Secondary KSP Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (Docs. # 36 and 39) are the only substantive motions properly before it, the remainder of the Court's analysis will focus only on the KSP Defendants' Motions to Dismiss.

         1. Standard of Review

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Put another way, “the plaintiff must allege facts that state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face and that, if accepted as true, are sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Wesley v. Campbell, 779 F.3d 421, 427 (6th Cir. 2015) (quoting Handy-Clay v. City of Memphis, Tenn., 695 F.3d 531, 538 (6th Cir. 2012); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         Although “plaintiffs need not meet a ‘probability requirement' … they must show ‘more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.'” Wesley, 779 F.3d at 427-28 (quoting Rondigo, LLC v. Twp. of Richmond, 641 F.3d 673, 680 (6th Cir. 2011)). “In ruling on the issue, a district court must ‘construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept its allegations as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.'” Id. at 428 (quoting Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007)). After all, the “defendant has the burden of showing that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim for relief.” Id.

         2. Federal § 1983 Claims

         “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Miller v. Sanilac Cty., 606 F.3d 240, 247 (6th Cir. 2010). “If a plaintiff fails to make a showing on any essential element of a § 1983 claim, it must fail.” Redding v. St. Eward, 241 F.3d 530, 532 (6th Cir. 2001).

         Because § 1983 “is not itself a source of any substantive rights, but instead provides the means by which rights conferred elsewhere may be enforced, ” the Court's “first task … is to identify the specific constitutional or statutory rights allegedly infringed.” Meals v. City of Memphis, 493 F.3d 720, 727-28 (6th Cir. 2007) (internal citations omitted). “That [a plaintiff] asserts claims under various constitutional provisions does not control [the Court's] inquiry.” Moldowan v. City of Warren, 578 F.3d 351, 376 (6th Cir. 2009). “Rather, the critical question is whether the ‘legal norms' underlying those claims implicate clearly established constitutional rights.” Id. (citing Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 528 (1985)).

         The Plaintiffs' Complaint alleges that the Defendants violated their constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments when the Defendants conspired to frame them for the robbery and murder of Katherine Mills, manufactured probable cause by fabricating evidence and testimony, initiated a criminal prosecution based on that fabricated probable cause, and unlawfully continued their detention without probable cause until the Commonwealth of Kentucky acknowledged the lack of probable cause and dismissed the charges. (Doc. # 1 at ¶¶ 138-152). Specifically, the Plaintiffs' Complaint asserts seven causes of action based on those alleged constitutional violations.[7] Count One alleges a violation of Plaintiffs' constitutional right to be free from unlawful prosecution and continued detention without probable cause under the Fourth Amendment, based on the Defendants' fabrication of evidence and withholding of exculpatory evidence. Id. at ¶¶ 138-147. Count Two alleges a violation of Plaintiffs' constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, premised on Defendants' fabrication of evidence. Id. at ¶¶ 148-152. Counts Three, Four, Five, Six, and Seven seek to impose supervisor liability, indirect liability, conspiracy liability, and municipal liability for the aforementioned constitutional violations.[8] Id. at ¶¶ 153-181.

         In their Motions to Dismiss, the KSP Defendants argue that the Plaintiffs cannot pursue Counts One and Two simultaneously because they are based on the same constitutional right-the right to be free from continued detention without probable cause under the Fourth Amendment-and the same alleged conduct-the fabrication of evidence-and, thus, the fabrication-of-evidence claim is “subsumed” by the malicious-prosecution claim. (Docs. # 36-2 at 7; 39-1 at 8). The Plaintiffs contest the Defendants' characterization of their claims in a two-fold argument. First, the Plaintiffs claim that an officer's fabrication of evidence can support claims under both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Doc. # 55-1 at 33-35). And second, the Plaintiffs argue that Sixth Circuit precedent, which has established different elements for malicious-prosecution and fabrication-of-evidence claims, defeats the Defendants' argument. Id. at 35-38.

         Therefore, as a threshold matter, the Court must determine whether the Plaintiffs can simultaneously pursue a malicious-prosecution claim and a fabrication-of-evidence claim. In the simplest of terms, the answer is yes.

         The Plaintiffs' reliance on the Fourteenth Amendment, however, is not the reason why. Under certain circumstances, the Sixth Circuit has refused to “restrict[ ] plaintiff[s] to one theory of recovery over the other, ” even when the claims alleged “share a factual premise.” Gregory v. City of Louisville, 444 F.3d 725, 750 (6th Cir. 2006) (holding that a plaintiff can simultaneously pursue a Fourteenth Amendment Brady claim and a Fourth Amendment continued-detention claim against a defendant who has allegedly withheld exculpatory evidence). In Gregory, the Sixth Circuit explained that the “legal constructs” of a “continued detention claim, which allege[s] a Fourth Amendment violation, are distinct from a [Fourteenth Amendment] Brady claim, which alleges a due process violation.” Id. Because the Plaintiff had “allege[d] both that his detention was unlawfully continued … and that his right to a fair trial was abridged, ” the Sixth Circuit held that the “situs of the injury” was “distinct” and “therefore Plaintiff should be able to pursue both legal theories.” Id. It stands to reason that a fabrication-of-evidence allegation would be treated the same way-that is, despite the shared factual premise, a plaintiff could pursue a fabrication-of-evidence claim under both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, if the plaintiff alleged “both that his detention was unlawfully continued … and that his right to a fair trial was abridged, ” such that the “situs of the injury” is “distinct.”[9] Id. The Plaintiffs, however, have not alleged that their right to a fair trial was abridged. Nor could they, as there was no trial. Therefore, Plaintiffs' fabrication-of-evidence claim has only one constitutional foundation: the Fourth Amendment.

         Although Plaintiffs' malicious-prosecution claim and fabrication-of-evidence claim are both based upon the Fourth Amendment and both challenge the constitutionality of Plaintiffs' continued detention, the practicalities of litigation and precedent dictate that the claims be analyzed separately. First, a malicious-prosecution claim and a fabrication-of-evidence claim have different elements-most notably, that one requires a plaintiff to prove that there was a lack of probable cause to support the criminal charges and the other does not. See Morris v. Boyd, 238 F.3d 422, *3 (6th Cir. 2000) (table) (“A claim of fabricated evidence is a constitutional tort distinct from malicious prosecution, and can be shown without proving that the state lacked probable cause.”); see also Stemler v. City of Florence, 126 F.3d 856, 872 (6th Cir. 1997) (explaining that a “claim of fabricated evidence does not require a conclusion that the state did not have probable cause to prosecute” the plaintiff); Caminata v. Cty. of Wexford, 664 F. App'x 496, (6th Cir. 2016) (noting that plaintiff “allege[d] two Fourth Amendment claims against [defendant]: fabrication of evidence and malicious prosecution” but “consider[ing] the claims together” because of the overlap). Because “the claims have different elements, ” analyzing those claims separately “is sensible.” Mills v. Barnard, 869 F.3d 473, 485 (6th Cir. 2017). Furthermore, this analysis aligns with Sixth Circuit precedent, which establishes that a law-enforcement officer's fabrication of evidence violates an individual's constitutional rights, regardless of the strength of or support for the criminal charges. See Webb v. United States, 789 F.3d 647, 670 (6th Cir. 2015) (“[E]ven if independent evidence establishes probable cause against a suspect, it would still be unlawful for law-enforcement officers to fabricate evidence in order to strengthen the case against the suspect.”). Accordingly, despite the overlap between the claims, “[i]t is not the role of this Court to restrict [Plaintiffs'] choice of viable legal theories, ” and the Plaintiffs are permitted to proceed on both their malicious-prosecution and fabrication-of-evidence claims simultaneously. Gregory, 444 F.3d at 750.

         Having identified the specific constitutional rights allegedly infringed and determined that the Plaintiffs can simultaneously pursue each of the counts in their Complaint, the Court now turns to the merits of Plaintiffs' claims. In this case, there is no dispute that Defendants were acting under color of state law. Therefore, the only question is whether the Plaintiffs were “deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States.” Redding, 241 F.3d at 532. The Court will address each of Plaintiffs' claims and the Motions to Dismiss in turn, construing the Complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs and accepting its allegations as true.

         a. Count One: Malicious Prosecution

         “The Sixth Circuit ‘recognizes a separate constitutionally cognizable claim of malicious prosecution under the Fourth Amendment, ' which ‘encompasses wrongful investigation, prosecution, conviction, and incarceration.'” Sykes v. Anderson, 625 F.3d 294, 308 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Barnes v. Wright, 449 F.3d 709, 715-16 (6th Cir. 2006)). “To succeed on a malicious-prosecution claim under § 1983 when the claim is premised on a violation of the Fourth Amendment, a plaintiff must prove” four elements. Id. “First, the plaintiff must show that a criminal prosecution was initiated against the plaintiff and that the defendant ‘made, influenced, or participated in the decision to prosecute.” Id. (internal citations omitted). “Second, because a § 1983 claim is premised on the violation of a constitutional right, the plaintiff must show that there was a lack of probable cause for the criminal prosecution.” Id. “Third, the plaintiff must show that as a consequence of a legal proceeding, the plaintiff suffered a deprivation of liberty, as understood in our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, apart from the initial seizure.” Id. at 308-09 (internal citations omitted). And “[f]ourth, the criminal proceeding must have been resolved in the plaintiff's favor.” Id. at 309.

         The basis of Plaintiffs' malicious-prosecution claim is that the Defendants caused their prosecution and continued detention unlawfully by fabricating and withholding evidence, the absence of either or both of which would have dissolved probable cause. (Doc. # 1 at ¶¶ 102-112; 138-147). There appears to be no dispute that the Plaintiffs suffered a deprivation of liberty; thus, the Court will focus on the other three elements.

         i. Made, Influenced, or Participated

         The KSP Defendants argue that the Plaintiffs' Complaint fails to allege sufficient facts that support any involvement in the decision to prosecute the Plaintiffs. (Doc. # 39-1 at 10). Specifically, the KSP Defendants claim that the Complaint contains no specific factual allegations against Defendant Eubanks, [10] and that Defendants Johnson, Mefford, Farris, and Joseph “were not the driving force behind the prosecution of the Plaintiffs.” Id. In response, Plaintiffs argue that the Complaint contains ample factual allegations that support their claim that each of the Defendants influenced the decision to initiate charges through their alleged participation in manufacturing evidence, coercing witnesses, and falsely implicating the Plaintiffs. (Doc. # 55-1 at 49).

         To state a claim against the Defendants, the Complaint “must plausibly allege” that the Defendants “‘made, influenced, or participated in the decision to prosecute.” Sykes, 625 F.3d at 308. “Under the first element, an investigating officer does not escape liability just because someone else (e.g., the prosecutor) made the actual decision to prosecute, so long as the plaintiff can show that the officer ‘influenced or participated in the decision to prosecute.'” Sampson v. Vill. of Mackinaw City, 685 F. App'x 407, 417 (6th Cir. 2017) (quoting Sykes, 625 F.3d at 311-12). But, to be liable for malicious prosecution, “the officer must participate in a way that aids in the decision [to prosecute], as opposed to passively or neutrally participating.” Sykes, 325 F.3d at 308 n.5. Put another way, the officer's “participation must be marked by some kind of blameworthiness, something beyond mere negligence or innocent mistake, ” to satisfy the first element of a malicious-prosecution claim. Johnson v. Moseley, 790 F.3d 649, 655 (6th Cir. 2015).

         The Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that the Defendants made, influenced, or participated in the decision to prosecute. The Plaintiffs' “attempt to lump all of the officers together under the” broad term “Defendant Officers” is not improper, as the Defendants suggest. (Docs. # 36-2 at 3; 39-1 at 3). The Complaint plainly states that each of the individual law-enforcement officers are referred to collectively as the “Defendant Officers.” (Doc. # 1 at ¶ 19). The Complaint then continues on to assert a myriad of specific factual allegations against those “Defendant Officers.” Specifically, the Complaint alleges that the Defendant Officers learned of evidence implicating other suspects, reached an agreement to protect those other suspects and frame the Plaintiffs, coerced witnesses, fabricated statements, manipulated evidence, destroyed and withheld material exculpatory evidence, and concealed all of those actions from the prosecutor. Id. at ¶¶ 23-25, 30, 45-46, 50-53, 56-58, 63-64, 70, 82-83, 88-89, 102-106, 108, 110-112, 118-125. Therefore, the Complaint sufficiently alleges that each Defendant Officer-without specifically naming them-actively participated in the decision to prosecute Plaintiffs by coercing witnesses, fabricating statements, manipulating evidence, withholding and destroying exculpatory evidence, and concealing their actions.

         At this stage of the case, where the Court is required to accept Plaintiffs' factual allegations as true, that is sufficient. The Plaintiffs are not required to-nor could they be expected to-“make ‘detailed factual allegations' about which officer committed which act.” Horn v. City of Covington, No. 2:14-cv-73-DLB, 2015 WL 4042154, at *6 (E.D. Ky. July 1, 2015) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678); see also Lyons v. Jacobs, No. 2:16-cv-813-ALM, 2017 WL 4168369, at *6 (S.D. Ohio Sept. 20, 2017) (rejecting Defendants' argument that Plaintiffs failed to state a plausible constitutional violation because Plaintiffs “merely included the names of all the Defendants and lumped them together in a conclusory fashion”). Ultimately, the Plaintiffs may be unable to prove that all ten of the officers were involved in each factual allegation levied against the “Defendant Officers, ” but that “burden is reserved for later stages of the litigation.” Id. Accordingly, the Complaint satisfies the first element of Plaintiffs' § 1938 malicious-prosecution claim.

         ii. Probable Cause

         The KSP Defendants also argue that the Plaintiffs' have failed to state a malicious-prosecution claim because “there was probable cause at multiple stages of the criminal proceedings.” (Doc. # 39-1 at 10). Specifically, the Defendants highlight the arrest warrants issued by a local judge, a preliminary hearing that found probable cause for the criminal charges, and the grand jury indictments which were returned against Plaintiffs. Id. In response, the Plaintiffs point to the Commonwealth's acknowledgment “that probable cause did not exist” at the time the criminal charges were dismissed and argue that Defendants cannot immunize their unconstitutional conduct by using the fabricated evidence to obtain arrest warrants, survive a preliminary hearing, or secure grand-jury indictments. (Doc. # 55-1 at 47, 52-54).

         To state a plausible § 1983 malicious-prosecution claim, the plaintiff must allege “that there was a lack of probable cause for the criminal prosecution.” Sykes, 625 F.3d at 308. “Probable cause to initiate a criminal prosecution exists where ‘facts and circumstances are sufficient to lead an ordinarily prudent person to believe the accused was guilty of the crime charged.'” Webb v. United States, 789 F.3d 647, 666 (6th Cir. 2015). Whether probable cause exists is determined by the totality of the circumstances.” Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983).

         “As a general rule, ‘the finding of an indictment, fair upon its face, by a properly constituted grand jury, conclusively determines the existence of probable cause.'” Webb, 789 F.3d at 660 (quoting Barnes v. Wright, 449 F.3d 709, 716 (6th Cir. 2006)). There is, however, a “long-held exception to that general rule”-“when the defendant knowingly or recklessly presented false testimony to, or omitted critical information from, the grand jury in order to obtain that indictment, ” the presumption of probable cause is rebuttable. Jones v. Clark Cty., 690 F. App'x 334, 335 (6th Cir. 2017) (citing Sykes, 625 F.3d at 312). Therefore, “[t]he existence of an indictment is … not a talisman that always wards off a malicious-prosecution claim.” Mills, 869 F.3d at 180. Even so, “not every failed criminal prosecution will sustain a subsequent malicious-prosecution claim.” Bickerstaff v. Lucarelli, 830 F.3d 388, 397 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing Harris v. United States, 422 F.3d 322, 327 (6th Cir. 2005)).

         Of particular relevance here, “pre-indictment nontestimonial acts that were material to the prosecution of a plaintiff [can] rebut the presumption of probable cause established by a grand-jury indictment.” Mills, 869 F.3d at 180 (citing King v. Harwood, 852 F.3d 568, 587-80 (6th Cir. 2017)). The “presumption that the grand-jury indictment is evidence of probable cause is rebuttable and not conclusive” if three requirements are met:

(1) a law-enforcement officer, in the course of setting a prosecution in motion, either knowingly or recklessly makes false statements (such as affidavits or investigative reports) or falsifies or fabricates evidence; (2) the false statements and evidence, together with any concomitant misleading omissions, are material to the ultimate prosecution of the plaintiff; and (3) the false statements, evidence, and omission do not consist solely of grand-jury testimony or preparation for that testimony (where preparation has a meaning broad enough to encompass conspiring to commit perjury before the grand jury).

King, 852 F.3d at 587-88.

         The Plaintiffs have alleged just that-that “the Defendant Officers fabricated or manipulated all of the evidence of guilt” in the underlying criminal case and set their prosecutions in motion with false statements and fabricated evidence, apart from any grand-jury testimony they may have given. (Doc. # 1 at ¶¶ 105, 109, 112-113). If those allegations are taken as true, as the Court is required to take them, any presumption of probable cause created by the warrant, the preliminary hearing, or the grand-jury indictment is rebuttable. Therefore, the Defendants' argument that probable cause existed does not warrant dismissal of Plaintiffs' claim. The Complaint adequately alleges that there was a lack of probable cause for Plaintiffs' criminal prosecutions, and thus, the second element of Plaintiffs' § 1938 malicious-prosecution claim is satisfied.

         iii. ...


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