Attorneys for the City of Laurel have filed a motion asking the U.S. Southern District Court to dismiss a dozen of the claims that were filed by Greg Burroughs’ attorney in a lawsuit against the city, the Laurel Police Department and LPD officers.
Those claims were improper and without legal merit, according to attorneys Brett Robinson and Chris McDaniel in their motion to dismiss, and they cite case law to support their arguments.
The 21-page complaint filed by Hattiesburg attorney Daniel Waide seeks compensation for, among other things, his client’s “loss of reputation” and “loss of enjoyment of life” resulting from the investigation, arrest and indictment for manslaughter in the shooting of 23-year-old girlfriend Katherine Sinclair in Burroughs’ garage on the night of June 1, 2017. She died the next day. Burroughs was found not guilty by a Franklin County jury in September.
The city’s motion notes that some of the claims made in the complaint were state matters and shouldn’t be in federal court, and that many of the claims lacked merit. Before answering any part of the complaint, the motion says that Burroughs’ lawsuit was improper because he didn’t “provide a written notice of claim” at least 90 days for instituting the suit, as required by state law. Burroughs’ attorney gave only 30 days’ notice.
Municipalities are exempt from punitive damages under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act, according to the city’s motion to dismiss. And the claims against officers Michael Reaves and Josh Welch should also be dismissed because they were operating in their official capacity, so “the real party of interest is the entity,” the motion says, citing a previous ruling made in the court the complaint was filed in.
Burroughs’ claim of defamation caused by the “leaking of information” should also be dismissed because it is a matter of state law, not a federal claim under Section 1983 (a violation of civil rights), as filed in the lawsuit against the city.
Burroughs “takes the unusual position of seeking to fabricate a Section 1983 claim by couching it with the tort of defamation,” according to the city’s motion. “The harmful effects of an injured reputation alone does not suffice as a burden or alteration of status or rights.” Again, a previous ruling in the Southern District Court was cited.
Burroughs’ complaint that Reaves and Welch “leaked false or misleading information in an attempt to defame” him is “not a constitutional deprivation,” it’s a state matter, according to the motion.
The complaint accusing the LPD of providing misleading evidence is another “attempt to fabricate a Section 1983 claim,” the motion continues, because the claim “appears to arise” from grand jury testimony by Reaves and Welch. Grand jury witnesses, including law enforcement, are afforded “absolute immunity,” according to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, “even if that testimony is perjurious.”
Burroughs’ claims of a conspiracy against him are “a novel and interesting” action to make a case that his civil rights were violated, according to the motion. That’s because the actors — Reaves, Welch and late Chief of Police Tyrone Stewart — were part of the same agency. “The intracorporate conspiracy doctrine holds that acts of corporate agents are attributed to the corporation itself … a corporation cannot conspire with itself,” according to the motion.
As for the allegation that Welch improperly conducted a polygraph test then leaked the results to the media, the motion notes that Burroughs “voluntarily consented to the polygraph test, which he then failed to pass,” both facts were acknowledged in the lawsuit.
In Burroughs’ complaint that the city failed to train its officers adequately, he “failed to allege any specific deficiencies” or provide “specific facts demonstrating a pattern of similar violations.”
Burroughs’ claim of “malicious prosecution” should also be dismissed because his claim that he was “prosecuted without probable cause” is without merit, according to the motion, which says there is “no clearly established … constitutional right to be free from malicious prosecution.”
Sources with knowledge of the litigation process said that the city likely has responses for all 131 of the complaints, but its attorneys’ first move is to get the ones dismissed that are either baseless or improperly filed. These are just the first two of several filings that will be done during the legal wrangling of the case, sources said.
“To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter … that is plausible on its face,” according to the motion.
“Courts are not ‘required to accept as true allegation that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deduction of fact or unreasonable inferences,” it continued, citing more case law, “and the court must “draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”
Sinclair suffered “a reported self-inflicted gunshot” in the garage of Burroughs’ home in the gated community Windermere on the night of June 1, 2017, according to Waide’s complaint, and Burroughs called 911 to report that she had shot herself, then went to the end of the driveway to help officers find the residence.
The lawsuit did not mention that Burroughs made two calls before dialing 911, which came out in the criminal trial. A wrongful death suit filed by her family his still pending.
Burroughs’ lawsuit also claims that he was subjected to “multiple strip searches … despite the fact that he was in police custody in between each strip search” in the 86 hours he was incarcerated in the Jones County Adult Detention Center after the shooting.
He was later charged with murder “despite the facts of the case being wholly consistent with a self-inflicted gunshot wound” and the police’s probable cause was “the result of a reckless investigation and intentional/reckless alteration of factual findings,” the complaint continued, and “false and/or grossly misleading information” was presented to the grand jury to secure Burroughs’ indictment for manslaughter.
As a result of “misinformation disseminated by the Defendants through the press and other media, (Burroughs’) reputation in the community has been harmed to such an extent that (he) may be forced to move out of Jones County,” according to the lawsuit.