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Godbey v. Simmons

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

January 30, 2014

Walter Thomas Godbey, Sr., Plaintiff,
Hubert Simmons, et al., Defendants.


T.S. ELLIS, III, District Judge.

Walter Thomas Godbey, Sr., a federal inmate proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to both 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics , 403 U.S. 388 (1971), seeking monetary damages for the allegedly unlawful seizure of his "privileged legal work product" by officers of the Prince William County Police Department ("PWCPD")and the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("FBOP"). The matter now comes before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings of defendant Paul J. Masterson. After careful consideration, Masterson's motion will be granted, and the claim against him will be dismissed with prejudice. As service of the complaint has not been effected on the only other named defendant remaining in the lawsuit, Officer Hubert Simmons, he will be dismissed from the action pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(m), and plaintiff's various motions seeking to have Simmons served will be denied, as moot.

I. Background

On May 7, 2008, plaintiff became a federal inmate confined at FCI Petersburg pursuant to a judgment of the District of Colombia Superior Court. Dkt. 1, Ex. 4, ¶ 5. During the early part of 2009, plaintiff was contacted by Detective Paul Masterson of the PWCPD with respect to a missing persons investigation. Compl. at 6. Allegedly by using "deceptive investigation techniques, " Detective Masterson succeeded in "manipulat[ing]" plaintiff into revealing incriminating information. Id . During this process, plaintiff allegedly kept "copious notes" concerning his encounters with the detectives, and stored those notes along with copies of his correspondence with Detective Masterson in a brown file folder. Id . Plaintiff alleges that among the contents of the folder was information that was exculpatory to him, as well as "personal, private notes... in preparation for counsel should the Plaintiff be charged...." Id.

On November 4, 2009, plaintiff was indicted for murder by Virginia authorities. The facts underlying his arrest were described as follow in the search warrant executed by Detective Masterson and used to obtain plaintiff's property:

On 12-[illegible]-01, Ann Godbey was reported to the police by family members as a missing person. Through the course of that investigation, the victims husband, Walter Godbey Sr., was listed as a suspect in her disappearance. During later interviews and written correspondence, Walter Thomas Godbey Sr. admitted to shooting and deposing [sic] of his wife's body. During these interviews, detectives have seen documents and watched Walter Godbey read from notes, letters and personally drafted affidavits pertaining to his wife's murder.
On 11-9-09 Walter Godbey was transported from the FCC Petersburg-LOW facility to the Prince William County Jail. Walter Godbey did not take any of his personal possessions with him and on his transfer paperwork signed that he had no personal property.[1]
I contacted the FCC Petersburg-LOW and spoke to Officer H. Simmons who related to me that all of Walter Godbey's possessions are now being stored in his SIS Office at the prison.
I believe that contained within the personal possessions of Walter Thomas Godbey will be found documentation to support the crime of murder.

Am. Compl., Ex. F, Aff. for Search Warr. at 2.

A writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum was served on plaintiff on November 9, 2009. Compl. at 8. On that same date, "[w]ithout warning or... the protections of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act, " plaintiff was transported to the Prince William Manassas Adult Regional Detention Center. Compl. at 6-7. About three days later, Detective Masterson allegedly met with Officer Hubert Simmons at FCI Petersburg, and removed plaintiff's property from his cell and locker. Compl. at 7. Among the items that were handed over to Detective Masterson was the file plaintiff had prepared regarding his anticipated Virginia prosecution. Id . On June 24, 2010, plaintiff pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court of Prince William County to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter, and was sentenced to ten (10) years incarceration in the Virginia Department of Corrections. See Compl., Ex. D, Conviction and Sentencing Order, PWC Case No. CR09002252-00.

Based on the foregoing facts, plaintiff asserted in the initial complaint that his rights under the Fourth Amendment were violated when his "privileged legal materials" were taken from his locker at FCI Petersburg, allegedly without a warrant. Compl. at 8. In addition, plaintiff claimed that his rights under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act ("LADA") were compromised when he was not given a pre-transfer hearing prior to his "extradition" to Virginia custody. Compl. at 7. Plaintiff further contended that his rights under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") were violated because he requested information regarding the folder that was taken from him, but received no response. Compl. at 3. Without providing additional detail, plaintiff stated that the confiscation of his so-called privileged legal work product "tainted the cases and prejudiced the Plaintiff' and "caused [him] to suffer and endure damages and injuries in the form of incarceration...." Compl. at 3. Lastly, plaintiff alleged in conclusory fashion that he was the victim of a host of torts. Compl. at 10-12. Plaintiff named as defendants the FBOP, the PWCPD, FCI Petersburg Correctional Officer Simmons, and PWCPD Detective Masterson. As relief, plaintiff sought a total of $20 million in compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief removing the individual defendants from their professional positions.

Subsequently, plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. Dkt. 12. In it, plaintiff acknowledged that he had received a letter from the FBOP on June 17, 2011, in response to his FOIA request. Am. Compl. at 1. Enclosed with the letter was a copy of the search warrant, partially quoted above, that was obtained by the PWCPD and used in the seizure of plaintiff's property. Id . Plaintiff asserted in the amended complaint that warrant was unlawfully vague and overly broad, such that it was "insufficient" to protect defendants from liability for their actions in this matter. Am. Compl. at 2.

By Order dated August 2, 2012, plaintiff's claim that his rights under the IADA was dismissed for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, and his claim that his rights under FOIA were violated was dismissed as moot. Dkt. 7. In addition, the Prince William County Police Department ("PWCPD") and the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") were dismissed as parties to the action for failure to state a claim, and it was directed that the action would proceed solely on plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim against Detective Masterson of the PWCPD and Officer Simmons of the BOP, as well as on plaintiff's pendent state tort claims. On August 21, 2012, plaintiff moved for reconsideration of the August 2 Order, contending that dismissal of his IADA claim was error and seeking to add additional defendants. Dkt. 10. By Order dated January 17, 2013, the Motion for Reconsideration was denied, and service of the complaint was ordered on defendants Detective Masterson and ...

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