Court Boots Conspiracy Claim by Ex-NFL Player
HOUSTON (CN)-A former NFL player acquitted of soliciting prostitution does not have a conspiracy claim against the police officers who arrested him during a sting operation, a federal judge ruled.
Gregory LaFleur sued Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland and Officers Paula Camp and John Doe in Harris County Court in January 2013. The defendants removed the case to federal court the following month.
LaFleur, 54, played tight end for the St. Louis Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts.
LaFleur claims he was fired as Southern University's athletic director due to the arrest, a post he had held for nearly six years.
According to his lawsuit Officer Camp posed as a sex worker and offered him sex for money. Undercover Officer Doe arrested him a short time later, and charged with him with solicitation of prostitution.
The arrest came during the 2011 Final Four college basketball tournament in Houston. A jury acquitted him after deliberating for 34 minutes.
"This should have never happened," LaFleur told CBS News affiliate WAFB after the verdict. "The chick solicited me. I have lived with this for a year. I'm more pissed off than happy."
He sued the police for negligence, civil rights violations, malicious prosecution and conspiracy, alleging they "knowingly fabricated evidence that would not defeat an entrapment defense."
McClelland and Camp moved to dismiss the conspiracy claim, asserting that because they are both employees of the Houston Police Department, LaFleur cannot make such a claim.
To establish a conspiracy claim a plaintiff must allege there was an agreement between private and public defendants to break the law, and a deprivation of constitutional rights.
LaFleur bolstered his position by pointing out two conflicting defenses put forth by McClelland and Camp.
In their answers to the lawsuit McClelland cited "the lack of any custom, practice policy, or procedure which served as the moving force behind any alleged violation," while Camp said she was following HPD policy during the events leading to LaFleur's arrest.
U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon acknowledged the apparent contradictory statements, but agreed with the police.
"With respect to the claim of conspiracy, its facial plausibility depends on LaFleur's basic factual allegation: that multiple officers of the Houston Police Department conducted a prostitution sting operation that led to his arrest. No allegation could more precisely fit the rule that where all of the defendants are members of the same collective entity, no claim of conspiracy can be sustained against them," Harmon wrote.