Hall v. Williamsburg, Kentucky et al
MEMORANDUM ORDER: 1) Plaintiff Hall's motion for reconsideration [Record No. 142], including his request for an evidentiary hearing is DENIED; 2) Plaintiff Hall's motion for sanctions [Record No. 145] is DENIED. Signed by Judge Danny C. Reeves on 8/10/2017.(RC)cc: COR, paper copy to pro se filer via U.S. Mail
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
TRISTAN JAMES HALL,
CITY OF WILLIAMSBURG,
KENTUCKY, et al.,
Civil Action No. 6: 16-304-DCR
The Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order on May 24, 2017, granting several
motions to dismiss filed by the defendants. [Record No. 110] Plaintiff Tristan Hall (“Hall”)
has moved for reconsideration [Record No. 142] of this order. He has also filed a motion for
sanctions [Record No. 145], and a motion for leave to file a supplemental memorandum
[Record No. 147] to his motion for reconsideration. Next, Hall requests an evidentiary hearing
in connection with these motions. For the following reasons, Hall’s motions will be denied.
This case arises out of an anonymous posting on an internet site, Topix, promising
payment in exchange for the murder and concealment of Melissa Jones’s body. [Record No.
31] Defendant Richard Baxter (“Baxter”) arrested Hall in connection with this posting
following an investigation which revealed that the post had originated from Hall’s IP address.
[Id. at ¶¶ 21, 25]
Hall claims that Baxter obtained an arrest warrant “charging Hall with the
crime of ‘murder’ under KRS 507.020” in May 2013. [Id. at ¶ 25] According to the Complaint,
this charge was later amended and Hall was indicted on June 17, 2013, for solicitation to
commit murder. [Id. at ¶ 31] Some of Hall’s claims are based on his contention that his arrest
for murder was not supported by probable cause because the victim was not killed as a result
of the Topix posting. [Id. at ¶ 26]
Baxter filed a motion to dismiss Hall’s claims against him, asserting that Hall was
charged with solicitation to commit murder rather than murder. [Record No. 34, pp. 3-4] In
support, Baxter attached the criminal complaint to his motion which states that Hall created
the Topix posting “in violation of KRS 507.020 SOLICITATION TO COMMIT MURDER.”
[Record No. 34, Ex. 1] Several of the other defendants filed motions to dismiss in which they
concurred with Baxter’s statement that Hall was charged with solicitation to commit murder
rather than murder. [See Record No. 36, Ex. 1, p. 2]
Hall filed a joint response to the defendants’ motions dismiss in which he maintained
that Baxter had originally charged him with murder, but that the charge was later amended to
solicitation to commit murder at the time of indictment.
[Record No. 55]
approximately 80 exhibits to accompany his response. [Record Nos. 58-60] These exhibits
include several news articles that reported that Hall had been arrested for “murder.” [Record
No. 58, Ex. 10] Hall also provided two law enforcement reports of the incident that identify
the offense at issue as solicitation to commit murder. [Record No. 58, Exs. 7, 8]1 Baxter’s
report went on to describe the incident and investigation and stated that an “Arrest Warrant for
Solicitation to Commit Murder was issued on the accused.” [Id. at 5] Hall also attached the
Both reports list the offense description as “murder,” which Hall highlighted in his
attached exhibits. However, the reports also list the “ASCF” code as 2. Baxter and Hall have
each provided documentation showing that the ASCF 2 code classifies an offense as
solicitation. [Record No. 160, Ex. 1; Record No. 195, Ex. 3, p. 10] Accordingly, both reports
identify the offense as solicitation to commit murder.
arrest warrant, which charged the offense of “murder,” classified as “solicitation.” [Record
No. 58, Ex. 9] Additionally, Hall filed a document listing the conditions of his release, which
stated the offense as murder. [Record No. 58, Ex. 11] Hall also included the docket sheet for
his case, which listed the offense as “SOLICITATION Murder.” [Record No. 58, Ex. 13]
In its earlier decision, the Court observed the discrepancy between Hall’s Amended
Complaint alleging that he had been charged with murder and the criminal complaint that
Baxter filed showing the charge as solicitation to commit murder. [Record No. 110, p. 3]
Because Hall’s allegation was directly contradicted by a public record, the Court declined to
assume the truth of Hall’s assertion that he was charged with murder. [Id.] Instead, the Court
relied on the criminal complaint and its representation that Hall had been charged with
solicitation to commit murder. [Id.]
Hall has now filed a motion for reconsideration of this decision [Record No. 142] and
a motion for sanctions. [Record No. 145] Hall again attaches numerous documents to his
motions and his replies to the defendants’ responses. [See Record Nos. 143, 148, 195]
According to Hall, these documents prove that he was charged with murder and establish that
the defendants committed fraud on the court by asserting otherwise.
Motion for Reconsideration
Under Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court may revise any order
that does not conclude the action. 2 Motions for reconsideration will be granted “if there is a
Hall cites Rule 60 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as the basis for the primary
relief sought. However, by its, terms, this rule only applies to final judgments. Because the
decision that Hall contests was not a final judgment, his motion to reconsider is not evaluated
under this rule.
clear error of law, newly discovered evidence, an intervening change in controlling law, or to
prevent manifest injustice.” American Marietta Corp. v. Essroc Cement Corp., 59 F. App’x
668, 670 (6th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A motion for
reconsideration cannot be used to raise legal arguments that could have been raised before the
court issued its decision. Shah v. NXP Semiconductors USA, Inc., 507 F. App’x 483, 495 (6th
Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). Additionally, “a party may not introduce evidence for the first
time in a motion for reconsideration where that evidence could have been presented earlier.”
Id. (citation mitted).
Hall has failed to introduce any “new evidence.” All of the evidence that he now
presents was available at the time that he filed his response to the defendants’ motions to
dismiss. The alleged murder charge was filed in 2013. The majority of the documents that
Hall has attached to his motions and replies are court documents that were created several
years ago around the time of the charge, well before this Court issued the decision that Hall
challenges. These documents are obviously not new evidence. Next, the documents that
appear to have been created since the Court’s earlier decision (such as criminal records checks
and affidavits) all concern events that occurred around the time of the charge. This information
thus was also previously available to Hall and is not new evidence. In short, Hall was aware
of the factual discrepancy regarding the murder charge at the time that he filed his response
and was free to obtain and attach the current exhibits at that time but failed to do so. Hall
cannot utilizee a motion to reconsider as a means of retroactively presenting information that
could have been presented in the first instance. As a result, the Court will not consider this
information and Hall is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing to present it.
Similarly, all of Hall’s legal arguments were available when he filed his response to the
defendants’ motions to dismiss. Hall argues that the defendants committed fraud by asserting
that Hall had never been charged with murder and had only been charged with solicitation to
commit murder. He then claims that this fraud entitles him to various forms of relief, including
setting aside the Court’s Order and tolling the statute of limitations for claims that the Court
dismissed as time-barred. However, the allegedly fraudulent statements were made in the
defendants’ motions to dismiss. Hall was clearly aware of these statements at the time that he
filed his response to these motions and should have made his responsive arguments then.
Indeed, Hall was required to raise his arguments concerning the defendants’ motions at that
time. That is the purpose of a response. Because Hall could have, but did not, raise his
arguments before the Court ruled on the defendants’ motions, the arguments are barred. See
Saulte Ste., 146 F.3d at 374.
Further, the Court did not commit clear error by concluding that Hall had not been
charged with murder, based on the information available at the time of the prior decision.
Baxter filed a criminal complaint listing Hall’s charge as solicitation to commit murder, not
murder. [Record No. 34, Ex. 1] Many of the documents that Hall himself filed corroborate
that the charge was for solicitation to commit murder: the arrest warrant, which clearly
classifies the murder charge as a solicitation [Record No. 58, Ex. 9]; the docket sheet for his
case, which lists Hall’s offense as “SOLICITATION Murder” [Record No. 58, Ex. 13]; and
the police reports stating that the court issued an arrest warrant for solicitation to commit
murder. [Record No. 58, Exs. 7, 8]
However, even if the Court had assumed the truth of Hall’s allegation (i.e., that he was
charged with murder), that allegation would not have affected the Court’s ruling on the motions
to dismiss. Hall argues that the defendants’ fraud affects the application of the statutes of
limitations and requires a finding that the defendants are not entitled to immunity. Any “fraud”
that would have affected the Court’s ruling on Hall’s claims would have had to have occurred
in connection with the conduct on which Hall’s claims were based: that is, arresting Hall and
prosecuting him. Hall attempts to avoid the Court’s ruling based primarily on the defendants’
conduct in filing their motions to dismiss, which occurred after Hall had already filed his
Complaint. It would be nonsensical to evaluate whether Hall is entitled to relief on his claims
based on conduct that did not occur until after the claims had already been filed. Accordingly,
Hall’s fraud-based statute of limitations and immunity arguments fail.
Additionally, whether Hall was charged with murder or solicitation to commit murder
would not have affected the probable cause analysis for the malicious prosecution claim. Hall
agrees that he was indicted for solicitation to commit murder, not murder. Hall would not have
been able to maintain a malicious prosecution claim based on the murder charge because that
charge was amended before indictment—Hall was not actually prosecuted for murder. See
Sykes v. Anderson, 625 F.3d 294, 308 (6th Cir. 2010) (recognizing that the tort of malicious
prosecution “encompasses wrongful investigation, prosecution, conviction, and incarceration”
and is “entirely distinct” from that of false arrest) (citation omitted). The malicious prosecution
claim was based on the charge for which Hall was actually indicted and prosecuted—the
solicitation to commit murder charge. The Court’s original analysis, therefore, is unaffected
by whether Hall was initially charged with murder. Hall is not entitled to relief on his motion
Motion for Sanctions
Hall’s motion for sanctions is also grounded on the contention that the defendants made
a fraudulent misrepresentation to the Court based on their statements regarding the murder
charge. Sanctions may be appropriate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 where a party
makes a willful misrepresentation or intentionally deceives the court. Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b),
(c). However, “the district court should exercise its inherent power to impose sanctions with
restraint and discretion.” Murray v. City of Columbus, Ohio, 534 F. App’x 479, 485 (6th Cir.
2013). “[T]he court is not required to sanction a party or attorney even if it has determined
that some wrongdoing has occurred.” Id.
Sanctions are not appropriate here. Hall has presented an abundance of documentation,
some of which is consistent with his claim that he was charged with murder. However, it
remains true that the official documents filed in connection with the motion to dismiss
represent the charge as solicitation to commit murder. Most importantly, the actual arrest
warrant and uniform citation clearly list the charge as solicitation to commit murder and
describe criminal conduct that does not mention a murder.3 [Record No. 58, Ex. 9; Record
No. 195, Ex. 3, p. 18] Hall personally filed this document, along with several others that
confirm the solicitation charge.
The only charging documents that Hall has presented that list a murder allegation are a
bench warrant and uniform citation issued by a peace officer in December 2013. [Record No.
Hall has since filed a uniform citation that appears identical to the other two, except
that the “ASCF” code of 2—which classifies the murder as solicitation—has been removed.
[Record No. 148, Ex. 1] Defendant Baxter persuasively explained that Hall appears to have
doctored this document, as shown by the fact that a portion of the “2” remains visible. [Record
No. 149] The Court, therefore, will not consider this document.
195, Ex. 3, pp. 13-14] These documents do not charge Hall with murder but, instead, charge
contempt of court based on a bond violation. [Id.] While the citation may list Hall’s
underlying offense as murder,4 it is qualified by the signing officer’s (who is not a defendant
in this case) statement that the “Officer has no knowledge of case.” [Id.] Based on the entirety
of the information available to the Court, the existence of the alleged murder charge is possible
In any event, even if Hall had been charged with murder, the record is sufficiently
ambiguous that it would be inappropriate to conclude that the defendants behaved vexatiously
or abused the judicial process. Hall claims that the defendants knew that he had been charged
with murder and committed fraud by informing the Court that Hall had never been charged
with that offense. The record does not support this claim. To the contrary, the record suggests
that the defendants believed that Hall had only been charged with solicitation to commit
murder and presented facts based on this belief. Bad faith has not been demonstrated on the
part of the defendants and there is no reason to impose sanctions against them.
For the foregoing reasons, it is hereby
ORDERED as follows:
Plaintiff Hall’s motion for reconsideration [Record No. 142], including his
request for an evidentiary hearing, is DENIED.
Plaintiff Hall’s motion for sanctions [Record No. 145] is DENIED.
It is unclear whether the arrest warrant actually lists Hall’s offense as murder since the
ASCF code, which may have classified the murder as solicitation like the other charging
documents in this case, appears to have been redacted. [Id. at 13]
This 10th day of August, 2017.
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