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Hawkins v. City of Richmond

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

September 16, 2016

RONALD E. HAWKINS, SR. Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF RICHMOND, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Robert E. Payne Senior United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS PURSUANT TO RULE 12(b)(6) (Docket No. 15), filed by the City of Richmond, the DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS PURSUANT TO RULE 12(b)(6) (Docket No. 33), filed by the City of Richmond Police Department, Earl Fernandez, R.L. Jamison, and Michael Mocello, the AMENDED MOTION TO DISMISS (Docket No. 37), filed by Defendants City of Richmond Magistrate Office, Martesha Bishop, and Gary Woolbridge, and on the MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND COMPLAINT (Docket No. 42), filed by the Plaintiff. For the reasons stated below, the DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS PURSUANT TO RULE 12(b)(6) (Docket No. 15), the DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS PURSUANT TO RULE 12(b)(6) (Docket No. 33), and the AMENDED MOTION TO DISMISS (Docket No. 37), filed by Defendants City of Richmond Magistrate Office, Martesha Bishop, and Gary Woolbridge, will be granted, and the MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND COMPLAINT (Docket No. 42), filed by the Plaintiff, will be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Ronald E. Hawkins, Sr. ("Hawkins") alleges that on August 29, 2014, he was on the porch at his mother's house when two officers, one unnamed and one named R.L. Jamison ("Jamison"), approached and informed Hawkins that he would "have to go with them" because there was "a warrant downtown for the Plaintiff's arrest." (Compl. ¶¶ 13-20, Docket No. 3). The officers did not produce a warrant or inform Hawkins of the charges against him. (Compl. ¶¶ 16-20). With the assistance of a third officer, Earl Fernandez ("Fernandez"), Jamison and Jamison's unnamed partner transported Hawkins to an interrogation room in a police department. (Compl. ¶¶ 21-22).

         Officer Michael Mocello ("Mocello") is alleged to have entered the interrogation room, and also declined to produce a warrant or state the charges against Hawkins. (Compl. ¶¶ 23-29). Mocello allegedly questioned Hawkins about selling an unnamed girl drugs and showing that girl a gun, and insinuated that Hawkins would be "cleared" if it could be determined that this gun had not been fired. (Compl. ¶¶ 30-37). Hawkins, "after being misled [about] the nature of the charge, was compelled to incriminate himself to prove that he didn't shoot anyone, " in the process "giving [away the] location of a gun that he was aware of belonging to his brother." (Compl. ¶ 37).

         Although Hawkins was not shown a warrant, Mocello had, in fact, sought and obtained a warrant for Hawkins's arrest. However, Hawkins argues that "the facts and circumstances were insufficient to establish probable cause to believe that [Hawkins] had committed a criminal offense, " and that "no officer of reasonable competence would have concluded that probable cause existed." (Compl. ¶ 81). Hawkins further alleges that Mocello obtained the warrant by knowingly, deliberately, or recklessly omitting information which was material to the finding of probable cause. (Compl. ¶ 83) . Hawkins alleges that Magistrate Judge Martesha Bishop ("Bishop") acted in concert with Mocello to issue this warrant. (Compl. ¶82).

         After the firearm was retrieved, Mocello informed Hawkins that the charge against him was possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. (Compl. ¶ 38). That charge was nolle prosequi'd by the City of Richmond on October 9, 2014 because a laboratory had not yet returned an unspecified report. (Compl. ¶¶ 42-49). That day, however, Hawkins was shown two indictments dated October 8, 2014, charging him with (1) distribution of a controlled substance, and (2) possession of a firearm while attempting to distribute a controlled substance. (Compl. ¶ 50). Hawkins alleges that the evidence supporting the indictments was taken from the August 29, 2014 interrogation. (Compl. ¶ 51) . On November 5, 2014, Hawkins was indicted "on the same firearm charge" that had been nolle prosequi'd on October 9, 2014. (Compl. ¶ 52). The evidence supporting that indictment was also allegedly taken from the August 29, 2014 interrogation. (Compl. ¶ 52) .

         Following the October and November indictments, Hawkins was represented by Christopher Bradshaw ("Bradshaw"). (Compl. ¶¶ 53-57) . Hawkins and Bradshaw disagreed on litigation strategy. (Compl. ¶¶ 57-60). Particularly, Hawkins wanted to file a motion to suppress, while Bradshaw, after discussions with prosecuting attorney Davis Powell, believed such a motion would be frivolous. (Compl. ¶¶ 60-65, 72-77). On April 3, 2015, Judge Bradford Cavedo allowed Hawkins to change counsel, and appointed David P. Baugh as Hawkins's attorney. (Compl. ¶¶ 61-65). Judge Cavedo recused himself from Hawkins's case which was then transferred to Judge Beverly Snukals. (Compl. ¶¶ 66).

         A suppression hearing was scheduled in Hawkins's case. (Compl. ¶¶ 77-78). Hawkins "wanted to go forward with the hearing, " but received "a message through his attorney David P. Baugh from a Richmond Police Office[r] Fernandez informing Plaintiff to accept the plea deal" which was being offered. (Compl. ¶¶ 79). "Hawkins felt intimidated and felt that he was not receiving Due Process and had no other choice but to take a [p]lea deal." (Compl. ¶¶ 80). Hawkins was convicted of distribution of cocaine in violation of Va. Code § 18.2-248(c) and sentenced to ten years of incarceration, with nine years and three months suspended for a period of ten years, with credit for time served. (Docket No. 35-1, Ex. 1).

         Hawkins filed this action pro se and in forma pauperis against the City of Richmond ("the City"); the City of Richmond Police Department ("the Police Department"); the City of Richmond's Magistrate Office ("the Magistrate Office"); Richmond police officers Mocello, Fernandez, and Jamison in their official capacities ("the individual officers"); and Richmond Magistrate Judge Martesha Bishop and Chief Magistrate Judge Gary Woolbridge ("the Magistrate Judges"), also in their official capacities. Plaintiff presents six claims: (1) Count One alleges that Plaintiff was arrested without probable cause; in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; (2) Count Two alleges malicious prosecution; (3) Count Three alleges false arrest and false imprisonment; (4) Count Four alleges denial of Due Process, in violation of the Fifth Amendment; (5) Count Five alleges denial of effective counsel, in violation of the Sixth Amendment; and (6) Count Six alleges a violation of plaintiff's right to Equal Protection, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Hawkins seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, unspecified equitable relief, and compensatory damages.

         Between June 8, 2016 and June 24, 2016, all Defendants filed motions to dismiss. (Docket Nos. 15, 33, 37). On June 30, 2016, Hawkins filed a motion for an extension of time to respond to these motions. (Docket No. 40). On July 1, 2016, the Court granted Hawkins's request and ordered that Hawkins submit his responses to the motions by July 26, 2016. (Docket No. 41) . Rather than file a reply, Hawkins filed a motion for leave to amend his Complaint. (Docket No. 42). Defendants have not filed responses to Hawkins's motion for leave to amend.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         In all civil cases, pro se or otherwise, a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Jordan v. Alternative Resources Corp., 458 F.3d 332, 338 (4th Cir. 2006). When deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must "draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff." Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 253 (4th Cir. 2009). However, while the court "will accept the pleader's description of what happened" and "any conclusions that can be reasonably drawn therefrom, " the court "need not accept conclusory allegations encompassing the legal effects of the pleaded facts." Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1357 (3d ed.1998); Chamblee v. Old Dominion Sec. Co., L.L.C., No. 3:13CV820, 2014 WL 1415095, *4 (E.D. Va. 2014). The court is not required to accept as true a legal conclusion unsupported by factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.

         As a threshold matter, the Court recognizes that Hawkins's pro se status entitles his pleadings to a liberal construction. See, e.g., Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citations omitted); Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). Nevertheless, "[e]ven pro se plaintiffs must recognize Rule 8's vision for ya system of simplified pleadings that give notice of the general claim asserted, allow for the preparation of a basic defense, narrow the issues to be litigated, and provide a means for quick dispositions of sham claims.'" Sewraz v. Guice, 2008 WL 3926443, at *2 (E.D. Va. Aug. 26, 2008) (quoting Prezzi v. Berzak, 57 F.R.D. 149, 151 (S.D.N.Y. 1972)). The requirement of liberal construction "does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege ...


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