Wills v. Mountain Home, Arkansas, City of et al
OPINION AND ORDER. 96 Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Michael Kelly is GRANTED; 99 Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Janet Faye Lacefield is GRANTED; 102 Motion for Summary Judgment filed by City of Mountain Home, Arkansas, Rob ert Harden, Carry Manuel is GRANTED. 131 Motion for Sanctions filed by Janet Faye Laefield is DENIED. Judgment will be entered accordingly. Signed by Honorable P. K. Holmes, III on August 30, 2013. Copy of Opinion and Order mailed to non-CM/ECF participant. (jas)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
CITY OF MOUNTAIN HOME, ARKANSAS; CARRY
MANUEL; ROBERT HARDEN; MICHAEL KELLY;
and JANET FAYE LACEFIELD
OPINION AND ORDER
Currently before the Court are motions for summary judgment and supporting documents
filed by Defendant Michael Kelly (Docs. 96-98), Defendant Janet Faye Lacefield (Docs. 99-101),
and Defendants Robert Harden, Carry Manuel, and the City of Mountain Home, Arkansas (“the City
Defendants”) (Docs. 102-104). Plaintiff Martin Wills has filed responses with supporting documents
(Docs. 108-110, 113-115, 118-120) to each motion. Kelly (Doc. 117) and the City Defendants (Doc.
122) filed replies. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that the motions should be granted
and judgment entered in favor of Defendants.
The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of proving both the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact and that the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 56; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986);
Glorvigen v. Cirrus Design Corp., 581 F.3d 737, 742 (8th Cir. 2009). The Court must review the
facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing a motion for summary judgment and give that
party the benefit of any inferences that logically can be drawn from those facts. Canada v. Union
Elec. Co., 135 F.3d 1211, 1212-13 (8th Cir. 1997). “In order for there to be a ‘genuine issue of
material fact,’ the evidence must be ‘such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.’” Allison v. Flexway Trucking, Inc., 28 F.3d 64, 66 (8th Cir. 1994) (quoting
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). “The nonmoving party must do more
than rely on allegations or denials in the pleadings, and the court should grant summary judgment
if any essential element of the prima facie case is not supported by specific facts sufficient to raise
a genuine issue for trial.” Register v. Honeywell Fed. Mfg. & Techs., LLC, 397 F.3d 1130, 1136 (8th
Cir. 2005) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)).
The Court previously dismissed certain claims and Defendants to this action. (Doc. 88). The
parties, however, left other claims pending. The claims remaining for adjudication at this time are:
claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City Defendants, as well as failure-to-train claims
against City of Mountain Home and Manuel; malicious prosecution claims against Kelly, Lacefield,
Manuel, and Harden; and claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress against Kelly,
Lacefield, Manuel, and Harden. The Court will address each issue in turn.
The briefs and supporting documents for the three pending summary judgment motions are
voluminous, and the Court has previously set forth the background of this case at length (Doc. 88).
The Court will not belabor the record with another lengthy recitation and will, instead, only set forth
the relevant facts as necessary to resolve the pending motions.
§ 1983 and Failure-to-Train
Wills brings claims, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, that the City Defendants1 had or
encouraged a practice or policy of failing to protect Wills from abuse and harassment and that certain
Wills brings suit against the City of Mountain Home as well as against Manuel and Harden
in their official capacities. A suit against a public official in his official capacity is equivalent to a
suit against the governmental entity of which the official is an agent. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S.
159, 165-166 (1985). The Court therefore considers Wills’s official-capacity claims as claims
against the City of Mountain Home.
actions by the City Defendants constituted deliberate indifference to Wills’s rights. Wills also claims
that Manuel, chief of police for the City of Mountain Home, failed to train and/or supervise Harden.
The Court finds that the City Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on Wills’s § 1983 claims.
First, as set forth below, the Court finds that the Mountain Home Police Department did not act
without probable cause in getting a warrant to arrest Wills for violation of a protective order entered
against him, nor did the Mountain Home Police Department violate Wills’s rights in any other
respect. See McCoy v. Monticello, 411 F.3d 920, 922 (8th Cir. 2005) (stating that the Eighth Circuit
“has consistently recognized a general rule that, in order for municipal liability to attach, individual
liability must be found on an underlying substantive claim”). Second, even if a violation of his rights
had occurred, Wills has not pointed to any formal policy of the Mountain Home Police Department
that would have led to such violation, and Wills has not otherwise presented any evidence of a
municipal policy or custom independent of the isolated incidents of alleged misconduct in his
complaint. See Wedemeier v. City of Ballwin, Mo., 931 F.2d 24 (1991) (an isolated incident of police
misconduct is insufficient to establish municipal policy or custom, and an unconstitutional city
policy or custom, conflicting with official policy, cannot be inferred from a single occurrence).
Wills also claims, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, that Harden violated his 4th, 5th, and 14th
Amendment rights. The Court finds that Harden is entitled to qualified immunity against Wills’s
federal claims. “A police officer is . . . entitled to qualified immunity unless the evidence establishes
(1) that a plaintiff’s constitutional rights have been violated, and (2) those rights were so clearly
established at the time of the violation that a reasonable officer would have known that his actions
were unlawful.” Ulrich v. Pope Cty., 715 F.3d 1054, 1058 (8th Cir. 2013). “In the context of
obtaining a warrant, a police officer will lose his qualified immunity only if the warrant application
is so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official belief in its existence unreasonable.”
Brockington v. City of Sherwood, Ark., 503 F.3d 667, 674 (8th Cir. 2007). As previously stated, the
Court finds that Harden did not lack probable cause for proceeding with his investigation and
ultimate arrest of Wills. Wills’s constitutional rights were not violated, and Harden’s affidavit was
not so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official belief in its existence unreasonable.
The Court finds, therefore, that Harden is entitled to summary judgment on the basis of qualified
immunity on Wills’s federal claims against him.
Wills’s claims for malicious prosecution arise under state law. In Arkansas, “[i]n order to
establish a claim for malicious prosecution, a plaintiff must prove the following five elements: (1)
a proceeding instituted or continued by the defendant against the plaintiff; (2) termination of the
proceeding in favor of the plaintiff; (3) absence of probable cause for the proceeding; (4) malice on
the part of the defendant; and (5) damages.” Sundeen v. Kroger, 355 Ark. 138, 143 (2003). “In the
context of malicious prosecution, probable cause means such a state of facts or credible information
which would induce an ordinarily cautious person to believe that the accused is guilty of the crime
for which he is charged.” Harold McLaughlin Reliable Truck Brokers, Inc. v. Cox, 324 Ark. 361,
368 (1996). The Court finds that there was no lack of probable cause for the proceedings against
Wills, and Defendants are entitled to judgment in their favor on Wills’s malicious prosecution
Wills claims that Kelly and Lacefield, along with previously dismissed defendant Deputy
Prosecutor Christopher Carter, maliciously prosecuted Wills by initiating criminal revocation
proceedings against Wills without probable cause. In the revocation proceedings, Wills was charged
with violating the conditions of a suspended sentence imposed as part of his agreement to plead no
contest in 2009 to charges that he criminally harassed Lacefield. His plea statement, as well as the
no-contact order resulting from his plea, both incorporated by reference a letter written by Carter
containing detailed conditions that Wills was to abide by during his one-year suspended sentence.2
Wills denies that he agreed to the conditions in the letter. Regardless of Wills’s belief as to the
enforceability of the conditions in the letter, it was not unreasonable for Carter, Lacefield, or Kelly
to believe that the conditions were enforceable given the references to the “attached letter” in both
Wills’s plea statement and no-contact order. Wills acknowledges that he reviewed Carter’s letter
on the day of his plea hearing and that his lawyer explained the terms of the letter to him. (Doc. 965, pp. 34-40, 197-199).
Carter’s letter contained the condition that Wills was not to “distribute or cause to be
distributed any photographs, videos, written statements to any party or individual, corporation or
governmental agency, other than through his attorney, if those photographs, videos, written or oral
statements refer to or dipict [sic] or discuss or mention Janet Lacefield in any manner.” (Doc. 101-1,
p. 12). Wills admits that he sent photos of a sexual nature, depicting Janet Lacefield and another
man, to Kelly (Lacefield’s attorney at that time) in the context of a civil matter also pending at that
time between Wills and Lacefield. (Doc. 96-5, pp. 13-14). The state district court judge presiding
over the revocation proceedings found that Wills violated the no contact order. Wills appealed that
Wills argues that the letter referred to in the plea statement and the no-contact order was
actually the “acknowledgment of plea offer” (Doc. 96-3) signed by Wills. The evidence is contrary
to that assertion.
On appeal, Carter and Wills’s attorney agreed that the district court effectively found that
Wills had not committed the other three violations alleged in the revocation petition, such that the
only violation that could properly be heard on appeal was the violation regarding Wills’s sending
the photos of Lacefield to Kelly. The state circuit court judge found that, because the revocation
petition alleged that “[t]he defendant sent photos to attorney Michael E. Kelly that the defendant
contends is the defendant and another man in a compromising position” (Doc. 96-8) (as opposed to
photos of Lacefield and another man) that the petition did not state a violation on its face. As a
result, the district judge’s finding that Wills had violated the no-contact order was reversed without
consideration of whether Wills had actually violated the no-contact order.
Neither the fact that Wills did not independently sign off on Carter’s letter setting forth
conditions for Wills’s suspended sentence, nor the fact that an error was committed in drafting the
revocation petition negates the existence of probable cause in this case. The evidence is clear that
Wills sent compromising photos of Lacefield to Kelly. While the photos were sent in the context
of an ongoing civil litigation, they were not sent through an attorney. Furthermore, while Wills
claims the photos were sent in response to a request by Kelly, the Court finds that Kelly was well
within reason to believe that the photos were not responsive to his request (asking for a web address
or link to a video that Wills had alleged was publicly available online—not images from the video3)
and not relevant to the civil litigation, especially when viewed in the context of the history between
Wills and Lacefield. The Court finds that the information produced by Kelly to Carter would induce
an ordinarily cautious person to believe that Wills had violated the conditions of his suspended
It seems clear that Kelly was seeking for Wills to back up his allegations regarding the
public availability of the alleged video. Still shots from any video Wills may have had in his
possession would, therefore, be irrelevant to Kelly’s request.
It is not for the Court to determine, in the instant litigation, the enforceability of the
conditions contained in Carter’s letter or whether Wills actually violated the conditions of his
suspended sentence. Rather, the Court must simply determine whether the elements of malicious
prosecution, including an absence of probable cause, have been established. The Court finds that
probable cause existed to support the allegation that Wills violated the conditions of his suspended
sentence by sending Kelly images of a sexual nature depicting Lacefield with another man. This
finding is supported by the fact that the district court judge found that Wills had, in fact, violated the
no-contact order. See Sundeen, 355 Ark. at 143-144 (“Arkansas cases have consistently held that
a judgment of conviction by a court of competent jurisdiction is conclusive evidence of probable
cause, even though the judgment is later reversed.”). Poor drafting of the petition for revocation
does not negate probable cause.
In regard to the other three alleged violations, the Court likewise cannot find, upon review
of the evidence, that there is any genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Lacefield lacked
probable cause in providing information to Carter. Wills’s objections to the three other alleged
violations appear to be largely technical and/or legal and do not genuinely cast doubt on Lacefield’s
reasonable belief that Wills had violated the conditions of his suspended sentence by causing her to
receive numerous spam emails. Lacefield hired an expert to investigate the origin of the spam emails
she was receiving and appears to have relied on that expert’s analysis in determining that Wills was
the origin of at least some of the emails. The Court finds that the information obtained by Lacefield,
and provided to Carter, would induce an ordinarily cautious person to believe that Wills had violated
the conditions of his suspended sentence or no contact order. Because there is no genuine issue of
material fact as to the probable-cause element of Wills’s malicious prosecution claim (regarding the
revocation prosecution), entry of summary judgment on that claim is appropriate and will be entered
in favor of Kelly and Lacefield.
Additionally, the Court finds that Lacefield and Kelly are both private individuals who
simply provided information to a public official (Carter) who acted at his own discretion in initiating
criminal proceedings based on that information. See South Ark. Petroleum Co. v. Schiesser, 343
Ark. 492, 496 (2001) (a full, fair, and truthful disclosure to the prosecuting attorney is a defense to
a claim of malicious prosecution) (citation omitted). As set forth above, Wills admitted to the
material information provided by Kelly (that he sent the photos of Lacefield). As to any information
provided by Lacefield, there is no credible evidence that Lacefield provided information that she did
not believe to be true. As previously stated, Lacefield appears to have relied on her expert’s analysis
in determining that Wills was the origin of at least some of the spam emails she was receiving. Wills
has not raised a genuine issue that Lacefield or Kelly did not disclose all pertinent information
known to them. The Court finds, therefore, that Kelly and Lacefield have established an absence of
any genuine dispute of material fact as to Wills’s failure to establish the first essential element of
malicious prosecution: that Kelly or Lacefield instituted the proceeding against Wills. Summary
judgment in favor of Kelly and Lacefield is therefore appropriate on this additional and alternative
basis. Having found that at least two essential elements of malicious prosecution have not been
established, the Court makes no findings as to the remaining elements.
Wills claims that Lacefield, Manuel, and Harden maliciously prosecuted him by initiating
criminal proceedings against Wills without probable cause. In 2011, Lacefield lodged numerous
complaints with the Mountain Home Police Department for violation of a five-year order of
protection she had received against Wills in January of 2010. Lacefield claimed that she had been
receiving calls from recruiters inquiring about Wills. Harden investigated Lacefield’s complaint by,
among other things, calling the numbers of the recruiters who had contacted Lacefield. Harden was
informed that a resume with Martin Wills’s name had been posted on monster.com that listed
Lacefield’s phone number as his contact number. One of the recruiters sent Harden, at Harden’s
request, a copy of the resume that had been posted. The information on the resume appeared to
coincide with Wills’s information except for the contact information being Lacefield’s instead of
Wills’s. Looking at the resume (Doc. 103-3), it is clear that any potential recruiter calling the
number listed on the resume would have thought they were calling a person named Martin Wills,
with a history in Arkansas and extensive IT experience, and with an email address of
The Court again finds that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to whether probable
cause existed in this prosecution. The order of protection provides that Wills “is further prohibited
directly or through an agent from contacting [Lacefield] or her minor child either directly or
indirectly. The forms of prohibited contact include but are not limited to the following: verbal
communication, letters, telephone calls, e-mails, notes or sending communications through any third
party who is not a legal representative of the Respondent acting through the Court system.” (Doc.
101-2, pp. 1-2). The information provided by Lacefield, and additional information resulting from
Harden’s investigation, would induce an ordinarily cautious person to believe that Wills had
submitted the resume4 and that such conduct was in violation of the order of protection, which
broadly prohibited Wills from contacting Lacefield either directly or indirectly, including through
third parties. Because the Court finds that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to the failure
of Wills to establish the probable-cause element of malicious prosecution, the Court finds that
Lacefield and Harden, as well as Manuel—to the extent Wills brings a claim against him—are
entitled to summary judgment in their favor on Wills’s malicious prosecution claim (regarding
violation of the order of protection).
Additionally, Lacefield acted as a private individual in providing information to the Mountain
Home Police Department. She informed the police department that she had been contacted by
recruiters asking for Wills. As the callers were asking for or about Wills, it was reasonable to
believe that Wills had instigated the calls or at least distributed Lacefield’s contact information to
third parties. Wills has not raised a genuine issue that Lacefield acted dishonestly or omitted any
pertinent information in making her reports to the police department. The police department then
independently investigated Lacefield’s complaints, and the prosecutor exercised his discretion in
prosecuting Wills. The Court finds, therefore, that Lacefield has demonstrated an absence of any
genuine issue of material fact as to Wills’s failure to establish the first essential element of malicious
prosecution: that Lacefield instituted the proceeding against Wills. Summary judgment in favor of
Lacefield is therefore appropriate on this additional and alternative basis.
Wills argues that he had been satisfied with his employment for many years and would have
no reason to post a resume on monster.com. However, it is irrelevant whether or not Wills was
actually seeking employment. In fact, if Wills were to post a resume that had Lacefield’s contact
information instead of his own, it would not appear that the resume would be posted for the purpose
of seeking employment but, rather, would be posted for the purpose of indirectly causing Lacefield
to be contacted.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Wills’s claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress are tied to his claims for
malicious prosecution in that Wills claims that Defendants intended to cause him emotional distress
by engaging in malicious prosecution. As the Court has already found that Defendants are entitled
to judgment in their favor on Wills’s claims for malicious prosecution, the Court must also find that
judgment must be entered in favor of Defendants on Wills’s claim, based on malicious prosecution,
for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Further, the Court finds that the actions of
Defendants were not “so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all
possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized
community.” Givens v. Hixson, 275 Ark. 370, 372 (1982) (quotation omitted).
For the reasons set forth above, IT IS ORDERED that Defendant Michael Kelly’s motion
(Doc. 96) for summary judgment is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant Janet Faye Lacefield’s motion (Doc. 99) for
summary judgment is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendants Robert Harden, Carry Manuel, and City of
Mountain Home, Arkansas’s motion (Doc. 102) for summary judgment is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant Janet Faye Lacefield’s motion (Doc. 131) for
sanctions and to strike is DENIED.
Judgment will be entered accordingly.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 30th day of August, 2013.
/s/P. K. Holmes, III
P.K. HOLMES, III
CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?