Court Dismisses Pre-Arrest Search and Seizure Challenge

August 29, 2018

The Honorable John Robert Blakey in the Northern District of Illinois granted a motion to dismiss in favor of two detectives and one commander of the Romeoville Police Department in DaJuan Key v. Masterson, al. Case No. 15-cv-9266 (N.D. Ill. August 14, 2018). Plaintiff, DaJuan Key, originally alleged that the search of his hotel room and vehicle were unlawful under the Fourth Amendment where the officers were attempting to locate a missing young woman from Wisconsin. Originally filed while his criminal case was pending, but before the Court had entered final judgment, the Court initially stayed its rulings on the lawfulness of the search until Plaintiff’s criminal case had completed. Plaintiff was ultimately convicted of transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of engaging in prostitution, and his conviction was upheld on appeal.

In 2015, a distressed mother from Wisconsin called the Romeoville Police Department and reported that her underage daughter had called her from near a Romeoville motel crying and asking to come home. The young girl had left her home with an unidentified African-American man. The motel was known to the police as having a reputation for prostitution and drug use. The officers responded and located only one vehicle in the motel parking lot with Wisconsin plates – a rental car. The officers entered the motel, and asked if there were any guests from Wisconsin, and the Plaintiff was identified by the front desk. The Officers went to the room searching for the missing girl. They knocked, announced themselves, and were allowed to enter by Plaintiff. They asked about the girl, and Plaintiff said she was no longer at the motel. Another woman was in the room with Plaintiff. The officers observed used and unused condoms, pre-paid credit cards, and a tablet open to backpage.com in the room. These were known to the officer to be indicia of prostitution. The items were seized as evidence, and Plaintiff was detained. The other woman in the room allowed the officers entry into the vehicle in the parking lot. The missing girl was found at a nearby fast food restaurant. Plaintiff was ultimately arrested, tried, and convicted for transporting the minor with the intent to engage in prostitution.

Plaintiff challenged the lawfulness of the searches and the seizure of evidence in his criminal case through several pre-trial and post-trial motions. Plaintiff also challenged the searches and seizure of evidence on appeal. Plaintiff’s challenges to the searches were unsuccessful at both the trial and appellate courts. In moving to dismiss his civil lawsuit, Defendants argued that Plaintiff was barred by the doctrine of issue preclusion in that because Plaintiff was unsuccessful in challenging the lawfulness of the searches in his criminal case, he could not do so again in a civil case, as a court of competent jurisdiction has already ruled on the issue. Additionally, the Defendants raised the defense of qualified immunity. Judge Blakey found that because the trial and appellate courts had already weighed in on the lawfulness of the searches, Plaintiff could not challenge the issue in his civil case. Judge Blakey additionally found that the Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity and dismissed Plaintiff’s case with prejudice. The officers were represented by Michael Bersani and Tony Fioretti.

Key v. Masterson, al. Case No. 15-cv-9266 (N.D. Ill. August 14, 2018)

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