United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Abingdon Division
MATTHEW G. KRUMTUM, Plaintiff,
STEVEN B. CRAWFORD, ET AL., Defendants.
Matthew G. Krumtum, Pro Se Plaintiff; W. Bradford Stallard
and Nathaniel D. Moore, Penn, Stuart & Eskridge,
Abingdon, Virginia, for Defendants Stephen B. Crawford, John
S. Austin, and Faith Espositio; Maria Kathryn Maybury, Pro Se
Christian Obenshain and Donald E. Jeffrey, III, Office of the
Attorney General, Richmond, Virginia, for Defendant James F.
Foil Russell, Russell Law Firm, Bristol, Virginia, for
Defendants John Bradwell and Jerry Allen Wolfe.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Jones United States District Judge
civil case was removed from state court asserting claims
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law. The plaintiff, a
lawyer suing on his own behalf, complains that he was
wrongfully arrested and prosecuted for violating a domestic
protective order obtained by his former wife. After the
charge was dismissed, he filed the present suit against
everyone in sight, including his former wife, her attorney,
the prosecutor, the arresting police officer, and the
magistrate who issued the warrant. The defendants have all
moved to dismiss. I find, among other things, that on the
undisputed facts there was probable cause to believe that the
plaintiff had violated the protective order, and I will
dismiss the case.
following facts are taken from the plaintiff's Complaint
and incorporated documents, which I am bound at this point to
accept as true.
plaintiff, Matthew Krumtum, a lawyer, was married to
defendant Maria Kathryn Maybury, also a lawyer. The couple
experienced marital problems and separated. On May 15, 2013,
the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court for the City of
Bristol, Virginia, entered a Protective Order against
Krumtum. The Protective Order mandated that he was to have
“no contact of any kind” with Maybury.
(Protective Order 17, ECF No. 1-4.) The Protective Order
provided that it would remain in effect for two years, until
May 15, 2015.
February 28, 2014, the plaintiff delivered a 25-page typed
letter to Maybury's divorce attorney, defendant Faith
Esposito, at the attorney's office. A preface to the
letter stated, “This is a personal letter from me to my
wife. We were schoolmates, we had four children together so
have some decency and allow us to have perhaps this one last
private moment. I would appreciate exercising discretion and
refrain from using, just this once, this communication in
litigation.” (Letter 1, ECF No. 46.) The letter began,
“Dear wife Kathy, This is my letter home.”
(Id.) The letter reminisced about their history
together, included a discussion of their sex life, and urged
Steven Crawford, a sergeant with the Bristol Police
Department, obtained the letter and filed a criminal
complaint against the plaintiff, alleging that the delivery
of the letter constituted a violation of the Protective
Order. Based upon Crawford's complaint, defendant James
Weaver, a Virginia magistrate, issued an arrest warrant
pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 16.1-253.2 upon his finding
that there was probable cause to believe that the plaintiff
had violated the Protective Order. The plaintiff was arrested
pursuant to the warrant on the night of February 28.
Defendant John Bradwell, an Assistant Commonwealth's
Attorney for the City of Bristol, prosecuted the case.
Krumtum pleaded not guilty and the charge was dismissed at
trial by the state court. The record does not reveal the
reasons for the dismissal.
plaintiff then filed this lawsuit in the Bristol Virginia
Circuit Court against John Austin (the Bristol police chief),
Sgt. Crawford, attorney Esposito, Assistant Commonwealth
Attorney Bradwell, Jerry Allen Wolfe (the Commonwealth's
Attorney for the City of Bristol), Magistrate Weaver, Eugene
E. Lohman (the state court judge who dismissed the
prosecution against the plaintiff), Maybury, and three John
Does. He alleged seven causes of action: malicious
prosecution under federal law (Count I); malicious
prosecution under state law (Count II); false imprisonment
under state law (Count III); intentional infliction of
emotional distress (Count IV); § 1983 conspiracy (Count
V); § 1983 violation of constitutional rights (Count
VI); and defamation (Count VII). He asserts each claim
against each defendant.
the case was in state court, defendants Maybury, Austin,
Crawford, Esposito, Wolfe, Bradwell, and Weaver filed
demurrers in an effort to be dismissed. The action was
then removed to this court. After removal, defendants Austin,
Crawford, and Esposito filed motions to dismiss. The
plaintiff has since filed two consolidated responses that
purportedly address all of the demurrers and motions to
dismiss; he has also responded directly to Maybury's
demurrer. Certain of the defendants have filed replies that
address the plaintiff's responses. The matter is now ripe
purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency
of a complaint.” Edwards v. City of Goldsboro,
178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). Rule 12(b)(6) does
“not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, but
only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “[I]t 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).
deciding whether a complaint will survive a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss, the court evaluates it and any documents
attached or incorporated by reference. Sec'y of State
for Defence v. Trimble Navigation Ltd., 484 F.3d 700,
705 (4th Cir. 2007). In ruling, the court must regard as true
all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint,
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), and must
view those facts in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 406
42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides a cause of action against
“[e]very person who, under color of any statute . . .
of any State . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any
citizen . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges,
or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws. . .
.” “The purpose of § 1983 is to
deter state actors from using the badge of their authority to
deprive individuals of their federally guaranteed rights and
to provide relief to victims if such deterrence fails.”
Wyatt v. Cole, 504 U.S. 158, 161 (1992). To state a
claim for relief, the plaintiff must show that he was
“deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or
laws of the United States, and that the alleged deprivation
was committed under color of state law.” Am. Mfrs.
Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49-50 (1999).
Virginia, suits for malicious prosecution are not favored,
and the standard for maintaining such actions is more
stringent than it is for most other tort claims. Lee v.
Southland Corp., 244 S.E.2d 756, 758 (Va. 1978). For the
plaintiff to prevail in his state malicious prosecution
claim, he has the burden of showing that the prosecution was
(1) malicious, (2) instituted by or with the cooperation of
the defendant, (3) without probable cause, and (4) terminated
in a manner not unfavorable to the plaintiff. Id.
Similarly, the Fourth Circuit has recognized a claim that
derives from the Fourth Amendment right to be free from
unreasonable seizures that incorporates elements of the
common law tort of malicious prosecution. See Lambert v.
Williams, 223 F.3d 257, 262 (4th Cir. 2000). However,
the Fourth Circuit has stressed that malicious prosecution is
not an independent cause of action under § 1983.
Id. I will nonetheless recognize the plaintiff's
claim for “malicious prosecution under federal
law” as the type of Fourth Amendment claim discussed in
Lambert and will analyze the plaintiff's claim
using that standard.
malicious prosecution action, malice may be presumed from
lack of probable cause, but “the lack of probable cause
can never be inferred, even from the most express
malice.” W. Union Tel. Co. v. Thomasson, 251
F. 833, 837 (4th Cir. 1918). As has been stated,
Probable cause is based upon a practical assessment of the
totality of the circumstances. There is probable cause for an
arrest when facts and circumstances within the officer's
knowledge are sufficient to warrant a prudent person, or one
of reasonable caution, in believing, in the circumstances
shown, that the suspect has committed, is committing, or is
about to commit an offense. Probable cause requires more than
bare suspicion but requires less than evidence necessary to
convict. In instances where arresting officers take the
additional procedural step of ...