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Brooks v. Johnson

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

January 20, 2016

Altony Brooks, Plaintiff,
Michael Johnson, Sheriff, Brenda Lambert, Detective; Justin Whack, Detective; Berkeley County Sheriff's Office; Wayne DeWitt, Sheriff; Lonnie Allen Mizzelle, Detective; Danny Mizzelle, Detective; John Doe, Officer; Kimberly Barr, Solicitor; Sharon W. Staggers, Clerk; M. Morris, Clerk; sued in their individual and official capacities, Defendants.


BRISTOW MARCHANT, Magistrate Judge.

The Plaintiff, Altony Brooks, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He is an inmate at the Perry Correctional Institution, part of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC). Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants[1] have violated his constitutional rights, and also alleges claims under South Carolina law. On May 6, 2015, Plaintiff filed an amendment to his Complaint, and thereafter filed a supplement to his amended complaint on May 19, 2015.[2] ECF Nos. 10, 13.

Plaintiff alleges claims concerning his arrests in September of 2008. Records from Williamsburg County, South Carolina indicate that Plaintiff was arrested on one count (J991210) of assault and battery with intent to kill (ABWIK) on September 3, 2008, [3] and on two counts of ABWIK (J991200, J991216), three counts of possession of a weapon during a violent crime (J991209, J 991218, J991210[4]), and one count of grand larceny of five thousand dollars or more on September 4, 2008. See Williamsburg County Third Judicial Circuit Public Index, http://publicin &Casenum=J991198&CaseType=C(ABWIK); Index/CaseDetails.aspx?Covanty=45&CourtAgency=45001&Casenum=J991200&CaseType=C(A BWIK); &CourtAgency=45001 &Casenum=J991206&CaseType=C(Larceny); http://publicindex.sccourts, org/Williamsburg/PublicIndex/CaseDetails.aspx?County=45&CourtAgency=45001&Casenum=J 991209&CaseType=C(Weapons); Details.aspx?County=45&CourtAgency=45001 &Casenum=J991216&CaseType=C (ABWIK); geney=45001&Casenum=J991218&CaseType=C (Weapons)(last visited Jan. 15, 2016).[5]

These records from Williamsburg County and the records submitted by Plaintiff indicate nolle prosequi dispositions as to all charges on December 8, 2010. See id.; see also ECF No. 13-1, at 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 15, 17, Records from Berkeley County and the SCDC indicate that Plaintiff is currently serving a sentence of ten years for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature (ABHAN) and two years for aiding escape for incidents which occurred on May 4, 2008.[6] See Berkeley County 9th Judicial Circuit Publiclndex, aspx?County=08&CourtAgency=08001&Casenum=H924125&CaseType=C(ABHAN), http://pub Casenum=H924132&CaseType=C (aiding escape); SCDC, Inmate Locator, http://public.doc.state, [Search Inmate "Anthony Brooks"[7] (last visited January 15, 2016).

Plaintiff, in his Complaint and amendment, appears to allege claims pursuant to § 1983 for false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and abuse of process. He also appears to allege numerous claims under South Carolina law, including claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress (outrage), gross negligence/failure to protect, failure to protect, libel and slander, defamation of character, conspiracy, illegal search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment, deliberate indifference, arrest without probable cause, and fraud.

According to the Complaint, on September 3, 2008, Defendants Justin Whack and Brenda Lambert, detectives employed by the Williamsburg County Sheriffs Office, questioned Plaintiff (Plaintiff went to the police station for a hearing concerning an unrelated trespassing ticket) about an incident that had occurred in Williamsburg County. Plaintiff claimed he did not know anything about the incident. Complaint, ECF No. 1 at 2-4. Thereafter, on September 4, 2008, Defendants Lonnie and Danny Mizelle, detectives employed by the Berkeley County Sheriffs office, arrested Plaintiff on the Williamsburg County charges discussed above (three counts of ABWIK, three counts of possession of a weapon during a violent crime, and one count of grand larceny of five thousand dollars or more). Plaintiff claims that Lonnie Mizzelle and Danny Mizzelle subjected him to excessive force by slamming his head on a police vehicle repeatedly, spraying him with chemical munitions, and pushing and yanking him. Defendant Lambert allegedly told Plaintiff that she had warned Plaintiff that she would "get him, " and Plaintiff refused to talk to Lambert. Plaintiff was taken to the Williamsburg County Detention Center, where he was allegedly served warrants as to the charges and was questioned by Defendant Michael Johnson (Sheriff of Williamsburg County). Id. at 4-8.

Plaintiff alleges that the next day he was taken before a Williamsburg County magistrate who allegedly denied him bond (since Plaintiff also states that he was unable to post the bond, it appears that bond was set as to these charges). ECF No. 1 at 9. On September 16, 2008, Plaintiff's bonds on his pending (unrelated) criminal charges in Berkeley County were revoked and Plaintiff's pretrial detention continued. Id. at 10. Plaintiff alleges that he was convicted on some of the Berkeley County charges and incarcerated in the SCDC in January 2009. Id. at 12.

In August 2009 and January 2010, Plaintiff was represented on the Williamsburg County charges by Public Defender Legrand Cairo way. Plaintiff alleges that he rejected plea offers as to the charges, insisting that he was innocent, and was returned to SCDC custody. ECF No. 1 at 13-14, In September 2012, Plaintiff wrote to the Clerk of Court for Williamsburg County and requested a complete file of warrants and "any statements in their possession, " but he received no responsive documents. Plaintiff alleges that on December 31, 2012, he requested a "complete case file" of cases J991206 and J991205, as well as warrants as to his ABWIK and weapon charges. He received a response "indicating J99-12061 J991205, etc indictment # 2009-GS-45-77, " and appears to have been told that he needed to provide a self-addressed stamped envelope to receive the requested documents. Plaintiff alleges that on March 8, 2013, he received copies, which were stamped by Defendant Staggers as certified true copies, but which did not have a "clerk dated stamped filed copy indicating] when or if the clerk of court ever received a true copy." Plaintiff claims that docket sheets signed by Defendant Barr were missing certain disposition dates and he requested, on March 15, 2013, that Defendant Staggers send him all statements pertaining to all cases. In response, the Williamsburg County Clerk of Court directed Plaintiff to contact his attorney or the Sheriffs office where the alleged statements were made or the case investigated. Plaintiff appears to assert that the lack of certain dates on documents shows that Defendants Barr and Staggers conspired to falsify the documents to avoid a civil suit. ECF No. 1 at 15-18.

Plaintiff requests a declaration that his rights were violated under the United States Constitution and South Carolina law, and an unspecified amount of monetary damages. ECF No. 1 at 34.


Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se Complaint pursuant to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and § 1915A, the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub.L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), and in light of the following precedents: Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25 (1992), Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989), Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972), Nasim v. Warden. Maryland House of Corr, 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir. 1995), and Todd v. Baskerville, 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983). Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), and a federal district court is charged with liberally construing a pro se complaint to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)).

However, even when considered pursuant to this liberal standard, for the reasons set forth herein below this case is subject to summary dismissal. The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of' Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) [outlining pleading requirements under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure].

Statute of Limitations

Initially, the undersigned is constrained to note that Plaintiff's § 1983 claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, excessive force, malicious prosecution, and abuse of process are barred by the applicable statutes of limitations, [8] State law concerning limitation of actions applies in claims brought under § 1983; see Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 266 (1985), partially superseded by statute as stated in Jones v. R. R. Donnelly & Sons, Co., 541 U.S. 369, 377-380 (2004); and in South Carolina, the applicable statute of limitations is generally three years. See S.C. Code Ann. § 15-3-530. Therefore, Plaintiff must have filed suit on these claims within three (3) years of a cause of action having arisen. Federal law governs the question of when a cause of ...

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