Judge dismisses most of Longmire’s lawsuit
By Josh Richman, The Chauncey Bailey Project
A federal judge has dismissed most of a civil-rights lawsuit filed by the former Oakland homicide detective who led the highly criticized investigation of journalist Chauncey Bailey’s 2007 slaying.
Sgt. Derwin Longmire had claimed in his April lawsuit that the Oakland Police Department, Assistant Chief Howard Jordan and Internal Affairs Division Lt. Sean Whent violated his constitutional rights and ruined his reputation by investigating his conduct and allowing information leaks while forbidding him from clearing his own name.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White this week ruled Longmire’s case is full of holes and can’t be sustained by the facts presented in the complaint. He dismissed all but one of Longmire’s claims, allowing Longmire the right to amend and refile his case on the others.
City Attorney John Russo and Longmire’s lawyers couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Bailey was editor of the Oakland Post when he was shot to death Aug. 2, 2007. The next day, police raided Your Black Muslim Bakery on warrants from a separate investigation and found the shotgun used to kill Bailey. Hours later, Longmire let former bakery CEO Yusuf Bey IV and bakery handyman Devaughndre Broussard, both of whom were in custody, have a seven-minute, unrecorded conversation.
Broussard then confessed to killing Bailey but later recanted. Broussard ultimately admitted to prosecutors in April 2009 that he killed Bailey but said he was ordered to do so by Bey IV. The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office now has charged Bey IV and Antoine Mackey, a bakery associate, with Bailey’s slaying and two other killings.
Longmire came under fire from critics for having too close of a relationship to Bey IV as he investigated Bailey’s death. He had interceded in Bey IV’s criminal cases before, and the two had numerous telephone conversations while Bey IV was in jail, including calls omitted from Longmire’s case notes.
White noted in his ruling this week that the first internal investigation found Longmire had compromised the Bailey case, and so he was suspended and put on paid administrative leave in April 2009. Longmire complained that the internal investigation had been faulty, and the city responded with an offer that he return to work in exchange for agreeing not to sue the city. Longmire refused to sign the release, and later was ordered to return to work and was served with a proposed 20-day suspension for alleged misconduct related to a second internal investigation of his handling of other homicide cases.
Longmire received no discipline for his conduct in the Bailey case and now works as a sergeant in the patrol division, where he was transferred from homicide before he was put on leave.
In his lawsuit, Longmire claimed he was retaliated against for exercising his First Amendment free-speech rights by writing to the department in March 2009 to complain about the internal affairs officer investigating him. White wrote the lawsuit doesn’t establish that the letter was “constitutionally protected as opposed to a mere internal personnel grievance.”
Longmire also claimed Jordan and Whent violated his rights by “ratifying” leaks to the press of confidential information about Longmire’s case, doing nothing to investigate those leaks but imposing a gag order to keep him from saying anything publicly to clear his name. This, too, doesn’t rise to the level of a First Amendment claim, White ruled.
Longmire had claimed he was investigated unfairly as a result of his perceived membership in or association with Your Black Muslim Bakery and its religious affiliation, even though he’s a Christian.
But the judge said Longmire presented no claim that the city or police administrators interfered with his actual, Christian faith, or even with his hypothetical embrace of the Black Muslim faith. Anyway, White wrote, Longmire presented no precedent to show such a claim can be based on discrimination against a misperceived religious affiliation.
Nor does he have a case in claiming infringement of his right to association with a group he was mistakenly associated with, White wrote: He can’t claim his rights to associate with the bakery were infringed if he never actually associated with it anyway.
Longmire had claimed he was deprived of his right to privacy under the Fourth and Ninth Amendments by the information leaks about the internal affairs investigation into his activities. “However, the complaint does not allege that the press improperly received information about Plaintiff’s personnel records,” White wrote. “The current complaint fails to state the type or content of the information disclosed in the leaks.”
White wrote that Longmire claimed he was denied due process of law yet concedes he wasn’t disciplined for his conduct, so there’s no basis to claim he was deprived of property or liberty. “Although Plaintiff pleads elsewhere that he suffered damage to his reputation, such injury is not sufficient to support a claim for violation of due process.”
White did not dismiss Longmire’s claim that he was denied equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment because the department’s investigations of him were racially discriminatory. The judge said case law requires that the court allow such a claim to proceed.
Contact Josh Richman at firstname.lastname@example.org.