Should a cop be held civilly liable for winning the arrest of his ex-girlfriend on falsified sex-crime charges?
To Michelle Hadley, the answer is a no-brainer. In 2016, she found herself stuck in a nightmare after she dumped Ian Diaz, a deputy U.S. marshal who’d insisted she have intercourse with strangers while he secretly filmed them from another room, according to court records. Diaz claimed Hadley not only organized an illegal harassment campaign against Angela, the woman he’d married, but also orchestrated her attempted rape by a masked man.
Anaheim cops ignored Hadley’s truthful pleas that she was being framed and filed 10 felonies and misdemeanors against her that carried a potential life-in-prison punishment if convicted. She stayed 88 days in the Orange County Jail, where she lived in a sparse, tiny room 23 hours per day because of a whopping $1 million bail demand. There, she endured indecencies from obnoxious custodial deputies and demented inmates. More than half a year into the ordeal, and after continued prodding by a defense lawyer, a local prosecutor agreed that cops had been duped. There had been no attempted rape of Angela, who’d sent herself threatening emails posing as Hadley.
Angela, 34, is now serving a five-year sentence in a state prison near Wasco in the Central Valley. Police declined to file charges against the deputy marshal, as you might expect. But Hadley believes a “vengeful” Diaz participated in the scheme to frame her. She wants a future civil jury to hold him accountable for false imprisonment, infliction of emotional distress and malicious prosecution.
“In concert with Angela Diaz, Ian fabricated fake emails as evidence and used his influence as a law-enforcement officer to induce the police to arrest the plaintiff,” Hadley attorneys Margaret McLetchie and Carrie A. Goldberg advised U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter in the pending civil-rights lawsuit. “Between May and July 2016, Ian and Angela Diaz impersonated Hadley using false email accounts they created to send violent and threatening emails to Angela. They further made dozens of false police reports implicating Hadley in crimes she did not commit. Then, still pretending to be Hadley, they replied to online ads directing strangers to the Diazes’ condo to fulfill rape fantasies with Mrs. Diaz. . . . On one occasion, the constructed crimes went a step further, with Mrs. Diaz claiming she was attacked in her garage by a masked man that Hadley had directed to her home.”
The allegations were nothing but “sloppy” and “false evidence” that boneheaded Anaheim detectives could have exposed with basic sleuthing skills, McLetchie and Goldberg assert.
But attorneys Lewis B. Adelson and Shadie Maghareh call the allegations against their client, Ian Diaz, “frivolous,” with “no facts” in support of them. “Simply put, [Hadley’s] conspiracy theory against Diaz is not plausible,” they told Carter. “While the plaintiff cannot accept that Angela duped both Diaz and the Anaheim police with her conduct, that is what the facts show, and no amount of insinuation and conclusory pleadings will change that.”
Adelson and Maghareh also claim Ian, who’d demanded officers put Hadley in handcuffs, enjoys immunity for his communications with fellow police that led to her unwarranted arrest, saying he had probable cause she was guilty, even if wrong. “It is anticipated that the plaintiff will argue that Diaz is liable because he falsely accused her of crimes and thereby wrongfully caused the state to bring charges against her,” they stated. “The test is not whether one made false statements; the test is whether the person took some affirmative action to encourage the prosecution by way of advice or pressure—as opposed to merely providing information.”
They added that it’s a good public-policy stance to let citizens say anything to cops regardless of negative consequences for an innocent person. “The notion that Diaz must verify the information he provided to law enforcement when he acted in good faith in his cooperation with [them] is not a requirement to a malicious-prosecution claim. . . . Punishment of an individual who innocently provides erroneous information to the police should not be held accountable for the result of the further investigation that is conducted by law enforcement.”
Hadley’s attorneys fired back with an opposing view. “Although pure communications with the police are outside the scope [of liability], this immunity does not extend to malicious conduct of a citizen that aids or promotes a peace officer’s unlawful arrest. . . . As part of this scheme, Mr. Diaz repeatedly advised and pressured law enforcement to have Hadley arrested. For example, when police responded to [the] Diazes’ false allegation that Hadley was harassing and stalking them, Mr. Diaz asked responding officers if there was a way to ‘put this girl in cuffs tonight,’ referring to Hadley. . . . Far beyond merely communicating to police, time and time again, Mr. Diaz would fabricate and provide false evidence, insist Hadley had criminal tendencies, and urge police to arrest her.”
In June, Carter sided with the deputy marshal. The judge recognized Hadley’s complaint that Diaz had been controlling and upset that she’d resisted his demands she satisfy his “rape fantasies” with strangers. He also noted her position that the officer’s claims against her had been false and that he’d used his law-enforcement status to aid in her arrest, but he opined Diaz’s arrest-inducing communications with police were “unquestionably” protected from civil liability. He seems intent on dismissing Diaz from Hadley’s lawsuit, which also targets Anaheim PD.
Hadley’s attorneys hope Carter will reconsider his stance. “Mr. Diaz faked crimes, manufactured evidence, and then falsely accused Hadley of horrific crimes,” they responded. “Mr. Diaz mangles the case law, desperate to convince the court that he should benefit from safeguards protecting people from liability who mistakenly report crimes. Diaz’s drawn-out, multistep, deliberate plan to frame Hadley was no mistake.”
The judge scheduled a Sept. 30 hearing inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse to contemplate his next move.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; won inclusion in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting for his coverage of a white supremacist’s senseless murder of a beloved Vietnamese refugee; launched multi-year probes that resulted in the FBI arrests and convictions of the top three ranking members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; and gained praise from New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.