United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
Jotham R. Simmons, Plaintiff,
Jeremiah Beam, H. Eric Cohoon, and the City of Myrtle Beach, Defendants.
Bryan Harwell United States District Judge
Jotham R. Simmons, a federal prisoner proceeding pro se,
commenced this action by filing a complaint pursuant to both
42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named
Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388
(1971), against the three above-named Defendants alleging
violations of his constitutional rights. See ECF No.
1. The matter is now before the Court for review of the
Report and Recommendation (R & R) of United States
Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West, who recommends summarily
dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint without
prejudice. See R & R, ECF No. 9.
Plaintiff has filed timely objections to the R & R.
See Pl.’s Objs., ECF No. 11.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court.
The Magistrate Judge’s recommendation has no
presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final
determination remains with the Court. Mathews v.
Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The Court must
conduct a de novo review of those portions of the R & R
to which specific objections are made, and it may accept,
reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of
the Magistrate Judge or recommit the matter with
instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
Court must engage in a de novo review of every portion of the
Magistrate Judge’s report to which objections have been
filed. Id. However, the Court need not conduct a de
novo review when a party makes only “general and
conclusory objections that do not direct the [C]ourt to a
specific error in the [M]agistrate [Judge]’s proposed
findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v.
Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence
of specific objections to the R & R, the Court reviews
only for clear error, Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc.
Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005), and the
Court need not give any explanation for adopting the
Magistrate Judge’s recommendation. Camby v.
Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199-200 (4th Cir. 1983).
other allegations in his complaint,  Plaintiff alleges that on
October 22, 2012, Defendant Jeremiah Beam (a narcotics
detective for Defendant City of Myrtle Beach) stopped
Plaintiff’s vehicle “on an alleged
‘active’ arrest warrant for Distribution of
Marijuana, ” searched the vehicle and found marijuana
in the glove box, placed him under arrest, and transported
him to jail. ECF No. 1 at 3-5. Plaintiff claims that his
October 22 arrest was not actually based on the
“active” arrest warrant for marijuana
distribution, the marijuana found in the vehicle, or any
other criminal offense, and that he “was never charged
and booked for any type of criminal offense by [Defendant
Beam] on October 22, 2012.” Id. at 3. He
further alleges Defendant Beam “moved to unlawfully
justify the arrest and detention” by obtaining arrest
warrants from a state magistrate judge the next day, October
23, 2012.Id. Plaintiff asserts claims for
false arrest, false imprisonment, and “bad faith
prosecution.” Id. at 2.
Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court summarily dismiss
the complaint as to all three of Plaintiff’s claims. As
for false arrest, the Magistrate Judge takes judicial notice
of the records from Plaintiff’s federal criminal
proceeding in this Court, United States v. Simmons,
Crim. No. 4:12-910-RBH (D.S.C.); notes Defendant H. Eric
Cohoon’s affidavit in support of the criminal complaint
shows the October 22, 2012 traffic stop was based on a
facially valid arrest warrant for marijuana distribution; and
therefore recommends finding Plaintiff’s conclusory
assertion of false arrest does not state a plausible claim
for relief against any defendant. R & R at 4-5. As for
all three of Plaintiff’s claims, the Magistrate Judge
recommends finding they are barred by Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Id. at 5-8.
objects to the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation
regarding his claims for false arrest and false
imprisonment. Regarding the false arrest claim,
Plaintiff objects to the following sentence in the R & R:
“Although Plaintiff urges that the arrest warrant was
not properly ‘executed’ because he was never
formally indicted on the state marijuana distribution charges
that were lodged against him on the day after his arrest, . .
. he does not allege that the arrest warrant was invalid on
its face.” Pl.’s Objs. at 1-2 (quoting R & R
at 5). Plaintiff contends that, contrary to the Magistrate
Judge’s finding, he in fact has alleged the
arrest warrant was “invalid, null and
void.” Id. at 2. Regarding both the
false arrest and the false imprisonment claims, Plaintiff
contends Heck does not bar either claim.
Id. at 3.
the Court takes judicial notice of the records from
Plaintiff’s criminal case that indicate his October 22,
2012 arrest was based on an arrest warrant for distribution
of marijuana. See United States v. Simmons, Crim.
No. 4:12-910-RBH (D.S.C.). Defendant Cohoon, an agent for the
Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives,
swore in his affidavit in support of the federal criminal
complaint that a confidential informant bought marijuana from
Plaintiff on July 30, 2012, and that law enforcement obtained
an arrest warrant for distribution of marijuana for Plaintiff
based on this purchase. See Simmons, Crim. No.
4:12-910-RBH, at ECF No. 1-1 ¶ 5. Defendant Cohoon
indicated law enforcement officers stopped Plaintiff’s
vehicle on October 22, 2012, and arrested him based on the
arrest warrant for distribution of marijuana. Id. at
¶ 6. Although Plaintiff claims (somewhat confusingly) he
was not arrested on that warrant or any other valid warrant,
Court need not resolve this factual discrepancy in light of
the Court’s conclusion that Heck bars all of
Heck, the Supreme Court held that to recover damages
for an allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment,
or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would
render a conviction invalid, a plaintiff bringing a §
1983 claim must establish that the conviction or sentence has
been reversed, expunged, or otherwise declared
invalid. 512 U.S. at 487 (1994). In 2013, Plaintiff
pled guilty to two felony federal firearm offenses, and this
Court sentenced him to an aggregate term of 138 months’
imprisonment. See R & R at 1 (taking judicial
notice of this Court’s records from Plaintiff’s
criminal case); United States v. Simmons, Crim. No.
4:12-910-RBH (D.S.C.). Although the initial state charges on
which Plaintiff was arrested were ultimately dismissed, it
was because his criminal liability was pursued by the United
States Attorney’s Office for the District of South
Carolina in federal court. In fact, Plaintiff pled guilty
pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement that dismissed other
counts in the federal indictment-which stemmed from
Plaintiff’s conduct on October 22, 2012. See
Simmons, Crim. No. 4:12-910-RBH, at ECF Nos. 17 (federal
indictment) & 44 (plea agreement). It is clear from the
record in Plaintiff’s criminal case that his federal
convictions were based on the same facts and evidence as the
dismissed state charges. Thus, the dismissal of the state
charges does not qualify as a favorable termination. The
Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that Heck
bars Plaintiff’s claims because success on them would
necessarily imply the invalidity of his federal convictions
and sentences, which have not been overturned or otherwise
called into question. See Young v. Nickols, 413 F.3d
416, 417 (4th Cir. 2005) (“Heck . . . bars a
prisoner’s § 1983 claim if the relief sought
necessarily implies the invalidity of his criminal
judgment.”). Accordingly, the Court overrules
Court has reviewed the entire record, including
Plaintiff’s complaint, the Magistrate Judge’s R
& R, and Plaintiff’s objections, and the Court has
applied the relevant law. The Court has conducted a de novo
review of the R & R and finds no merit in
Plaintiff’s objections. For the reasons stated in this
Order and in the Magistrate Judge’s R & R, the
Court overrules Plaintiff’s objections and adopts and
incorporates the R & R [ECF No. 9] by reference.