The United States Court of Appeals for The Eleventh Circuit delivered the opinion on Friday in a case brought by one Larry D. Butler (19), against Sheriff of Palm Beach County and Dorethea Collier (the mother of the daughter). Here’s the first paragraph of the judgment quoted verbatim:
“In one of his ballads, Jim Croce warned that there are four things that you just don’t do: “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape/ You don’t spit into the wind/ You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger/ And you don’t mess around with Jim.” He could have added a fifth warning to that list: “And you don’t let a pistol-packing mother catch you naked in her daughter’s closet.””
The judicial opinion notes that it all started with a phone call by nineteen-year old Uzuri to Butler who was of similar age.
The judgment reads: “Once Butler was at Uzuri’s house, he and she consented to watch television for a while. Then they consented to do what young couples alone in a house have been consenting to do since the memory of man (and woman) runneth not to the contrary. The record does not disclose how long these two young people had known each other in the dictionary sense, but that afternoon in Uzuri’s bedroom they also knew each other in the biblical sense. While doing so, and while clothed in the manner that is customary in such matters, which is to say not at all, they heard someone coming into the house.”
Uzuri’s mother, Dorethea Collier returned home from duty, which is that of a corrections officer at the Eagle Academy, a “boot-camp facility for minors.” When she walked into the room, she was still wearing her uniform and gun belt with pistol, and found Uzuri alone and naked. She began asking why Uzuri was undressed, and thereafter she found Butler in her daughter’s closet wearing nothing but a “look of surprise.”
She yelled at him, and apparently gave him one solid punch, then handcuffed the still naked Butler and made him go down to his knees “for a prolonged period” pointing her gun at him. Still holding Butler at gunpoint, Colliers called her husband and told him to come home. Then she called a supervisor at Eagle Academy and asked what charges she could bring against Butler for entering her house and “engaging in sexual relations with her daughter.” The supervisor told her that if Butler had been invited in, then she would have to let him go.
After Collier’s husband arrived, Butler was allowed to get dressed and leave, though all the while held at gunpoint.
Eventually, Butler reported the incident to law enforcement and then filed a lawsuit in Florida state court against Collier individually and in her official capacity as a corrections officer claiming the use of “plainly excessive and disproportionate force on Butler to effect an unlawful and unreasonable search and seizure.”
However, the district court held that the allegations against Collier showed nothing more than her acting as a private individual because nothing she did relied on or invoked her authority as a law enforcement officer. The court dismissed Butler’s case and he moved in appeal. The appellate court also dismissed Butler’s case in the cited opinion holding “Section 1983 does not federalize all torts or other deprivations of rights committed by a person who is a law enforcement officer or other government agent.” The appeals court also observed: “When Collier punched Butler, she was acting as an enraged parent; she was not purporting to exercise her official authority to subdue a criminal for purposes of an arrest.”
Case dismissed. You can find the full judgment here. (http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/ops/201113933.pdf)