A federal judge has dismissed an excessive force lawsuit against a Georgia State Patrol trooper, arguing he didn't do much damage when he pulled a woman into a ditch during an arrest.
Kiersten Quick sued Trooper Joseph Geddie over her November 2016 arrest, when he wrestled with her and pulled her to the ground after an argument in Dade County. Geddie charged her with obstruction of an officer.
"(Quick's) arm was not broken, as she feared, and she suffered some scrapes and bruises," U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy wrote Aug. 9, in an order granting Geddie's motion for summary judgment. "(Quick) took one prescription pain pill given to her at the hospital, and she treated the rest of her injuries with over-the-counter pain medications."
The case began after Quick's daughter crashed her car into a tree at New England Road and Main Avenue. When he responded, Geddie realized that the woman was driving on a suspended licence and with an expired tag. Quick drove to the scene after getting a call from her daughter and yelled "Are you (expletive) kidding me?" when she learned about the arrest. (She later said she was yelling at her daughter, not Geddie.)
Geddie yelled at Quick several times over the next couple of minutes as Quick tried to get near her daughter's crashed car. At one point, she opened the passenger-side door. Geddie ordered her to get back. He said he was telling Quick to return near her own vehicle. Quick said she thought Geddie was merely telling her to take a few steps back.
At any rate, the two argued face to face. Geddie grabbed her and they wrestled to the ground. Quick screamed. Geddie charged her with obstruction of an officer. In January 2017, a judge dismissed the charge. In August 2017, Quick sued the trooper.
In addition to an excessive force claim, she also sued Geddie for making a false arrest, malicious prosecution and retaliation for her use of the First Amendment.
Last week, Murphy dismissed those claims, too. As an officer, the judge wrote, Geddie is protected by qualified immunity. This means he cannot be sued for using his discretion while working, as long as any reasonable officer may have potentially have taken the same approach.
In this case, Murphy said charging Quick with obstruction of an officer was reasonable because she did not listen to Geddie's commands to back away. In theory, her daughter's car was still a crime scene. During her argument, she also waived her arms in the air.
"Refusing to obey orders may be sufficient to support a misdemeanor obstruction conviction," Murphy wrote.
During a pretrial deposition on April 4, Geddie told attorneys he felt threatened by Quick's actions.
"She's very, very aggressive," he said. "Very belligerent. Refused to disperse from a crime scene, crash. She hindered me from doing my lawful duty."
He added: "Whenever she reached up (with her arms during the argument), I didn't know — I didn't know if she was going for my weapon."
Geddie and Quick differ on what exactly happened when he grabbed her. Geddie said he raised her hand, spun her around and took her to the ground. Quick, meanwhile, told attorneys during an April 12 deposition that he yanked her by the arm, slammed her into the ground and smashed her head into the ground. She said she thought her arm was broken.
"He was bullying me," she added. "I didn't believe he was going to arrest me because I knew he didn't have a lawful reason to arrest me."
Quick also sued Danny Reyes, a Dade County deputy on the scene that night who brought her to jail. But Murphy dismissed charges against him for the same reason he did Geddie, with one additional element: He was not the lead investigator charging Quick with a crime.
Quick's attorney, Zack Greenamyre, said in a statement Tuesday night that they plan to appeal Murphy's order.
"We believe a reasonable jury would find that Trooper Geddie's orders were divorced from any justifiable law enforcement reasoning and were issued to Ms. Quick, and only her, because Geddie was offended by her earlier speech, not because she posed any danger to his investigation of a routine crash site," he wrote.
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.