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Gathers v. Thomas

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

April 4, 2018

Travis Gathers, #1505721, Plaintiff,
Ryan Thomas, Individually; Luke Boiling, Individually; Daniel Popov, Individually; Paul L. Dillingham; Michael Kendree; York County, Servants, Agents, and Employees; City of Rock Hill Police Department, Servants, Agents, and Employees; City of Rock Hill Municipal Court, Servants, Agents, and Employees; and York County Public Defender, Servants, Agents, and Employees, Defendants.



         Travis Gathers (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, is an inmate incarcerated at York County Detention Center (“YCDC”). He filed this complaint alleging a violation of his constitutional rights by City of Rock Hill Police Officers Ryan Thomas (“Thomas”), Luke Boiling (“Boiling”), Daniel Popov (“Popov”); city attorney Paul L. Dillingham (“Dillingham”); York County attorney Michael Kendree (“Kendree”); and the employees and agents of York County, City of Rock Hill Police Department, City of Rock Hill Municipal Court, and the York County Public Defender.

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review such complaints for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the district judge. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends that the district judge dismiss the complaint in this case without prejudice and without issuance and service of process as to Paul L. Dillingham, Michael Kendree, York County, City of Rock Hill Police Department, City of Rock Hill Municipal Court, and the York County Public Defender.[1]

I. Factual and Procedural Background

         In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges claims of unreasonable search and seizure, violation of due process, cruel and unusual punishment, and equal protection violations. [ECF No. 1]. Plaintiff alleges Thomas accused him of entering a First Citizens Bank on March 14, 2017, at approximately 3:47 p.m., and demanding money from the cashiers at gunpoint. Id. at 7.[2] Thomas alleged the cashiers gave Plaintiff a dye pack and cash that included four $20 bills whose serial numbers had been previously documented. Id. at 10. Thomas claimed Plaintiff then exited the bank and left a gray plastic Walmart bag on the countertop. Id. Plaintiff states Popov collected the plastic grocery bag and tested it at the scene for DNA. Id. at 11. Plaintiff alleges the DNA test was negative for his DNA and contends his DNA was also not found at the scene of the robbery. Id. Plaintiff claims Popov did not report any additional evidence recovered from inside the bag. Id. Plaintiff alleges Rock Hill police detectives located witness Kayla Brown, who told the detectives she noticed a tan SUV “backed in” at the apartment complex near the bank. Id. at 11-12.

         Plaintiff claims on the evening of the robbery, he was parking a gold Ford Explorer at an apartment complex when Boiling approached his vehicle. Id. at 12-13. Plaintiff alleges Boiling falsely told him that he had received information that Plaintiff had been selling drugs at the complex. Id. at 13. Plaintiff claims Boiling asked for his identification and sought permission to search his vehicle. Id. Plaintiff states he did not consent to a search, and Boiling placed him in handcuffs and took him to the rear of the vehicle. Id. Plaintiff claims Boiling indicated he observed an open container of beer in Plaintiff's vehicle and proceeded to search the interior. Id. at 14. Plaintiff states Boiling reported that he found a large sum of money in the passenger seat compartment. Id. Plaintiff claims Boiling also reported that he found .5 grams of cocaine and 2.8 grams of crack in the vehicle. Id. at 15. Plaintiff states Popov responded to the scene and photographed the exterior of the vehicle. Id. at 17. Plaintiff was arrested and subsequently charged with drug offenses. Id. at 16, 19.

         Plaintiff alleges after his vehicle was taken to the police warehouse, where Popov claimed to have recovered $1, 130 from it. Id. at 14. Plaintiff claims Thomas reported that three $20 bills from the bank robbery, matched by serial number, were recovered from the money taken from Plaintiff's vehicle. Id. at 15. Plaintiff claims once the vehicle was at the police warehouse, Popov acted without a warrant and photographed the interior of the vehicle and searched the vehicle a second time. Id. at 17. Plaintiff argues the photographs show that the drugs were never inside the vehicle during the initial search. Id. Plaintiff alleges Popov staged the drugs during the second search of the vehicle. Id.

         Plaintiff states he was processed at the city jail and his possessions, including a pair of black jeans, were placed into property. Id. at 18. Plaintiff argues Thomas indicated a $20 bill was removed from Plaintiff's pants pocket and the $20 bill matched the serial numbers of the money taken from the bank. Id. Plaintiff alleges that on March 15, 2017, he was arraigned on the drug charges and Thomas determined Plaintiff should be charged with the March 14 bank robbery. Id. at 20-21. On March 16, 2017, a Rock Hill Municipal court judge issued three warrants charging Plaintiff with entering a bank with intent to steal, possession of a firearm during a violent crime, and possession of firearm by a person convicted of a crime of violence. Id. at 21. Plaintiff alleges the warrant prepared by Thomas claimed Plaintiff pointed a handgun at a bank employee, demanded money from her, and left with $1, 820. Id. Plaintiff contends Thomas took an oath affirming that he based the warrants on his information and belief. Id. at 22.

         Plaintiff claims on March 16, 2017, detective Robert Smith was informed that an individual made a payment to the Rock Hill electrical central collections department with fifteen $20 bills covered in red dye. Id. Plaintiff states Thomas released the money from police custody without further investigation. Id. Plaintiff claims he was arraigned on the bank robbery charges on this same day. Id. at 22-23. Plaintiff says he was denied bond, with no reason given, and committed to the YCDC on the pending robbery charges. Id. at 23. Plaintiff states he had a subsequent bond hearing on May 4, 2017, and he was again denied bond. Id. at 23-24.

         Plaintiff states a probable cause hearing was conducted on the robbery warrants on October 24, 2017, at which Thomas testified. Id. at 24. Plaintiff states the presiding judge determined that probable cause existed to continue prosecuting Plaintiff on the pending robbery charges. Id. at 25. Plaintiff states that on this same day the presiding judge appointed York County public defender Philip Smith to represent him. Id. at 26. Plaintiff claims he asked Smith to file motions challenging the stop and search of his vehicle, but that Smith told him the public defender's office would not file any motions concerning the illegal search. Id. at 27. Plaintiff says Smith has not replied to any of his correspondence. Id. at 28.

         Plaintiff states that on December 29, 2017, a City of Rock Hill Municipal Court Judge signed fifteen warrants without probable cause to arrest him. Id. Plaintiff claims on January 3, 2018, Thomas charged Plaintiff with seven counts of armed robbery and eight counts of possession of a weapon. Id. Plaintiff states he was again denied bond. Id. at 29. Plaintiff alleges he filed a complaint against Smith on February 8, 2018, concerning his lack of representation and his refusal to schedule Plaintiff's probable cause hearing following his arraignment. Id. at 30.

         Plaintiff contends he has been detained at the YCDC for twelve months due to defendants' conduct. Id. at 30. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages. Id. at 37.

         II. Discussion

         A. ...

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