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Summary Judgment Granted in Northern District of Florida in Civil Rights Violation Case

Chelsea R. Harris | August 1, 2018

Chelsea R. Winicki, of the Jacksonville office, obtained an order granting her Motion for Final Summary Judgment in a high profile case that has gained national attention. Chelsea filed the Motion for Summary Judgment on behalf of her client, Rusty Rodgers, a Special Agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. In the matter, Plaintiff, Jeremy Banks, a law enforcement officer with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, alleged civil rights violations under Federal Statute 1983, as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress, against Special Agent Rodgers.

The case arises out of the death of Michelle O’Connell, the then-girlfriend of Deputy Banks. On September 2, 2010, Michelle O’Connell was found dead in the home that she shared with Deputy Banks. The cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head and the weapon used was the duty weapon of Deputy Banks. St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office arrived on scene, commenced an investigation, and deemed the death a suicide.

However, the family of Michelle O’Connell was not convinced that Michelle committed suicide. Several months later, Florida Department of Law Enforcement was brought in to investigate the matter and Special Agent Rusty Rodgers was assigned the case. Through Special Agent Rodgers’ investigation, additional evidence was uncovered and turned over to the State Attorney’s Office. However, Deputy Banks was not charged with the crime.

Deputy Banks first filed his lawsuit against Special Agent Rodgers in January of 2014, alleging that Special Agent Rodgers, during his investigation of the case, committed civil rights violations under Federal Statute 1983 and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Chelsea represented Special Agent Rodgers since the initial Complaint was filed with the continued intention of seeking a dismissal of the case against Agent Rodgers through a Motion for Summary Judgment. Years of litigation ensued, with the depositions of high profile members of the legal and law enforcement community including numerous law enforcement officers, the Sheriff of St. Johns County, State Attorneys, and a Judge.

Chelsea filed the Motion for Summary Judgment in March of 2017. The ruling from the Federal Court, granting the Motion for Summary Judgment, and dismissing Chelsea’s client, came out in March of 2018, which was reported on in local news publications. Since the death of Michelle O’Connell, the case has gained national attention and has been the subject of a documentary on Frontline, Dateline, 20/20, and three New York Times articles, including a front page story in June of 2017. Plaintiff has elected not to appeal the decision.

https://www.firstcoastnews.com/article/news/crime/judge-dismisses-civil-case-against-lead-fdle-investigator-for-michelle-oconnell-death/77-533682705

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/17/us/michelle-oconnell-jeremy-banks.html

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