United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Elizabeth K. Dillon United States District Judge
Nancy Blanchard brings this action against Scott Prater, an
investigator for the Smyth County Sheriff's Office;
Jonathan Tabor, Special Agent for the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); Doug Tuck, a deputy
with the Wythe County Sheriff's Office; and Adam
Williams, an investigator for the Wythe County Sheriff's
Office. Blanchard brings claims for
defendants' violation of her Fourth Amendment rights and
for malicious prosecution. This matter is before the court on
two motions: 1) defendant Jonathan Tabor's motion to
dismiss the amended complaint under Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1), and 2) defendants Scott
Prater, Doug Tuck, and Adam Williams' motion to partially
dismiss the amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), or, in the alternative, for summary
judgment. The motions have been fully briefed and argued
before the court. For the reasons set forth below, the court
will grant in part and deny in part Tabor's motion to
dismiss, and it will grant Prater, Tuck, and Williams'
motion to partially dismiss.
Blanchard (Blanchard) is an owner and resident of a home
located on Apple Orchard Road in Wythe County, Virginia.
Robert Blanchard (Mr. Blanchard), Blanchard's husband,
was a truck driver who would occasionally stay at the Apple
Orchard Road address. Mr. and Mrs. Blanchard
“maintain[ed] separate areas, and use[d] separate
entrances to gain entry into their respective living
areas” at the address. (Compl. ¶ 5.)
night of January 9, 2014, law enforcement officers arrested
Mr. Blanchard on gun and drug possession charges. Later that
night, defendants Prater, Tabor, Tuck, and Williams proceeded
to the Blanchard home, where they established a perimeter and
refused to permit anyone to enter or leave the property.
Several hours after they arrived, defendants began a thorough
search of the Blanchard home and curtilage. Prater, Tabor,
and other law enforcement officers, at defendants'
direction, seized Blanchard and would not allow her to leave
the property until they removed her to question her about
alleged illegal activity. Tuck informed Blanchard that a
search warrant had been obtained and that he would give her a
copy. Nevertheless, at that time “no search warrant had
been obtained.” (Id. ¶ 15.)
hours after” the search began, Williams prepared and
presented an affidavit for search warrant to a magistrate,
who issued a search warrant. (Id. ¶ 17.) The
affidavit listed as defendant a person other than Mr. or Mrs.
Blanchard, it erroneously described the house as blue with a
white porch, and it “lacked necessary facts to support
the reliability of a confidential informant whose testimony
was relied upon.” (Id. ¶ 18.) In the
meantime, defendants removed property that they failed to
record on the search warrant inventory list and damaged
property within the home.
defendants questioned Mr. Blanchard, he refused to state the
identity of his drug supplier. Defendants “threatened
to obtain criminal charges against Mrs. Blanchard despite
there being no evidence that she had done anything illegal,
” (id. ¶ 21), but Mr. Blanchard still
refused to provide the information.
April 21, 2014, Williams testified before the grand jury for
the Circuit Court for Wythe County. “Upon information
and belief, ” Williams provided “misleading and
false testimony, ” which included that Blanchard
“possessed Methamphetamine, possessed Methamphetamine
with the intent to distribute and/or sell it, and possessed a
firearm while engaged in distributing Methamphetamine.”
(Id. ¶ 27.) The testimony was misleading and
false because “absolutely no evidence existed, or now
exists, ” that would support it. (Id. ¶
35.) Also “[u]pon information and belief, ”
defendants Prater, Tabor, and Tuck “assisted
Williams” in providing this misleading testimony.
(Id. ¶ 28.) Blanchard was subsequently
indicted-for the offense date of January 9, 2014-on three
counts of possessing or using a firearm while committing or
attempting to commit the illegal distribution of drugs in
violation of Virginia Code § 18.2-308.4.C and one count
of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
Blanchard was arrested on the indictments on April 24, 2014,
and she was incarcerated at the New River Valley Regional
Jail-in solitary confinement because a family member worked
there-until May 19, 2014. The charges were nolle
prosequied on March 2, 2015.
April 21, 2015, again based on Williams' testimony, the
grand jury indicted Blanchard on two of the same counts. She
was arrested on April 29, 2015, and the charges were
dismissed on March 2, 2016.
Standard of Review
survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), a plaintiff's allegations must
“state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). This standard “requires the
plaintiff to articulate facts, when accepted as true, that
‘show' that the plaintiff has stated a claim
entitling him to relief, i.e., the
‘plausibility of entitlement to relief.'”
Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir.
2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). The
plausibility standard requires more than “a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
determining whether the plaintiff has met this plausibility
standard, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded
facts in the complaint and in any documents incorporated into
or attached to the complaint. Sec'y of State for
Defence v. Trimble Navigation Ltd., 484 F.3d 700, 705
(4th Cir. 2007). Further, it must “draw all
reasonable factual inferences from those facts in the
plaintiff's favor, ” Edwards v. City of
Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999), but it
need not “accept legal conclusions couched as facts or
‘unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or
arguments, '” Wag More Dogs, LLC v.
Cozart, 680 F.3d 359, 365 (4th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir.