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Chapman v. Correctional Officer Bullock

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

February 9, 2016




Louis Ray Chapman, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action.[1] The matter is before the Court on, inter alia, several Motions to Dismiss and the Court's authority to review complaints by individuals proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).[2] For the reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT the Motions to Dismiss and DISMISS Chapman's claims as barred by the relevant statute of limitations.

I. Standard for Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

When an individual is proceeding in forma pauperis, this Court must dismiss the action if the Court determines the action (1) "is frivolous" or (2) "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The first standard includes claims based upon "'an indisputably meritless legal theory, "' or claims where the "'factual contentions are clearly baseless.'" Clay v. Yates, 809 F.Supp. 417, 427 (E.D. Va. 1992) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)). The second standard is the familiar standard for a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

"A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citing 5 A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1356 (1990)). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations are taken as true and the complaint is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Mylan Labs,, Inc. v. Matkari, 1 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993); see also Martin, 980 F.2d at 952. This principle applies only to factual allegations, however, and "a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "require[] only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (second alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Plaintiffs cannot satisfy this standard with complaints containing only "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. (citations omitted). Instead, a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " id. (citation omitted), stating a claim that is "plausible on its face, " id. at 570, rather than merely "conceivable." Id. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl Corp., 550 U.S. at 556). In order for a claim or complaint to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, therefore, the plaintiff must "allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [his or] her claim." Bass v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003) (citing Dickson v. Microsoft Corp., 309 F.3d 193, 213 (4th Cir. 2002); Iodice v. United States, 289 F.3d 270, 281 (4th Cir. 2002)). Lastly, while the Court liberally construes pro se complaints, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), it does not act as the inmate's advocate, sua sponte developing statutory and constitutional claims the inmate failed to clearly raise on the face of his complaint. See Brock v. Carroll, 107 F.3d 241, 243 (4th Cir. 1997) (Luttig, J., concurring); Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

II. Summary of Allegations

On October 14, 2011, Chapman was transferred to the Powhatan Correctional Center ("Powhatan"). Upon arriving at Powhatan, Chapman wrote letters to various state and federal officials complaining about the conditions at Powhatan. According to Chapman, his letter writing campaign angered the staff at Powhatan.

A. The Threats

On "December 30, 2011, [Correctional Officer] Bullock put her fingers to her throat moving them from side-to-side in a cutting motion. This 'death threat' was directed at Chapman Bullock was fraternizing with inmate Dave Young. Young pointed to Chapman telling Bullock, 'He will be getting what he deserves soon.'" (Compl. 6.)[3]

On January 11, 2012, inmates Mike Stewart and Dave Young met with Captain Newcomer. After that meeting, Stewart returned to the dorm and said "he was going to make Chapman squeal like a pig" (Id. at 9.) When Young returned to the dorm, he told Chapman that Captain Newcomer had given Young the "'greenlight, '" i.e., the okay to kill Chapman. (Id.) Thereafter, Stewart and Young threatened and verbally abused Chapman. Other inmates told Chapman that Stewart and Young "were planning something against him." (Id.)

In January of 2012, while correctional officers shopped on the internet, "Correctional Officer (CO) Bullock, inmates Mike Stewart and Dave Young, drug and tobacco dealers, were making death threats against Chapman. Stewart and Young threatened Chapman with death, rape, bodily harm, stalked and assaulted[4] him." (Id. at 4.) On January 17, 2012, Chapman met with Sergeant Bendrick and explained that inmate Stewart and Young were threatening him. Sergeant "Bendrick did nothing." (Id.) On January 26, 2012, Chapman had a meeting with Assistant Warden Aldrige and Sergeant Bendrick concerning the threats by Correctional Officer Bullock, Stewart and Young. (Id. at 5.)

B. The Charge of Possession of Tobacco

On January 21, 2012, Chapman found two pieces of paper in latex glove fingers on the floor of his bed space. Chapman believed these items to be "threatening notes from Stewart and Young, " so he mailed them to the Governor and asked for an investigation. (Id. at 4.)

On January 29, 2012, Chapman sent multiple letters to state and federal officials concerning the threats against his person.

On "January 31, 2012, the two (2) pieces of paper were returned from the Governor's office. Bendrick had Chapman initial them as the two (2) pieces of paper he found on the floor. They were still folded the way he sent them to the Governor." (Id. at 5.) Based on the contents of the paper, "Bendrick admitted [that] he, Jeffrey Dillman, Warden, Eric Aldrige, [Assistant Warden] and Capt[ain] Newcomer agreed between themselves to charge Chapman with Possession of Tobacco." (Id.) "Chapman never saw any tobacco and offered several times to take a polygraph, but was refused." (Id.)

According to Chapman,

Newcomer, to cover for Stewart and Young ... and because Chapman wrote state and federal officials about the poor living conditions at Powhatan, with Dillman, Aldrige and Bendrick, agreed to approve the overt act of Bendrick writing a false charge against Chapman for Possession of Tobacco. Newcomer ordered Chapman's false imprisonment in ...

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