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Sweigert v. Goodman

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

August 24, 2018

D. George Sweigert, a/k/a David George Sweigert, Plaintiff,
Jason Goodman, Defendant.


          Bristow Marchant, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This is a civil action filed by the D. George Sweigert, also known as David George Sweigert, pro se, and is before the Court for pre-service review. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); In re Prison Litigation Reform Act, 105 F.3d 1131, 1134 (6th Cir. 1997)[pleadings by non-prisoners should also be screened]. Although Plaintiff is not proceeding in forma pauperis, this filing is nonetheless subject to review pursuant to the inherent authority of this Court to ensure that a plaintiff has standing; that subject matter jurisdiction exists; and that a case is not frivolous.[1] See Ross v. Baron, 493 Fed.Appx. 405, 406 (4th Cir. Aug. 22, 2012); Fitzgerald v. First East Seventh St. Tenants Corp., 221 F.3d 362, 363-64 (2d Cir. 2000); see also Pillay v. INS, 45 F.3d 14, 16-17 (2d Cir. 1995)[noting that although 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d) was not applicable where a pro se party filed an appeal and paid the filing fee, the court had "inherent authority, wholly aside from any statutory warrant, to dismiss an appeal or petition for review as frivolous"]. Therefore, this Complaint is subject to review pursuant to the inherent authority of this Court to ensure that subject matter jurisdiction exists and that the case is not frivolous. See, e.g., Carter v. Ervin, No. 14-0865, 2014 WL 2468351 (D.S.C. June 2, 2014). appeal dism'd, 585 Fed.Appx. 98 (4th Cir. 2014); Cornelius v. Howell, No. 06-3387, 2007 WL 397449, *3 (D.S.C. Jan. 8, 2007), adopted by, 2007 WL 4952430 (D.S.C. Jan. 30, 2007), aff'd, 251 Fed.Appx. 246 (2007). cert. denied, 553 U.S. 1057 (2008).

         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 complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow for the development of a potentially meritorious case. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)); Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980). Even so, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that a 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 Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for "all civil actions"]. The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so; however, a district court may not rewrite a complaint to include claims that were never presented, Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128 (10th Cir: 1999), construct the plaintiffs legal arguments for him, Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411 (7th Cir. 1993), or "conjure up questions never squarely presented" to the court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).


         In his rambling Amended Complaint, Plaintiff appears to be attempting to assert claims pursuant to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968. Plaintiff, a citizen of California, states that Defendant Jason Goodman, a citizen of New York, is the owner of Multimedia System Design, Inc., which operates the CrowdSource the Truth (CSTT) internet website. Plaintiff alleges that there is a racketeering pattern of a CSTT journalist claiming to have specialized access to sensational information, an assertion that a reporter/researcher is in danger from deep state operatives because of the research efforts, broadcasts by CSTT of the need for money, targeting of those who question the need for funds with actions directed to ruin the questioner's reputation, and financial gain by the enterprise from silencing its critics. Amended Complaint, ECF No. 5 at 4.

         Plaintiff discusses a "dirty [radioactive] bomb" threat made concerning an inbound container ship (the Maersk Memphis) at the Wando Terminal of the Charleston, South Carolina port on June 14, 2017. He alleges that the United States Coast Guard (USCG) shortly thereafter attributed the bomb threat to a "Midwestern conspiracy theorist" (Id. at 2), but failed to find the true perpetrator of the bomb hoax. Plaintiff claims that Goodman and his "associates," including Plaintiff s brother George Webb Sweigert (also known as George Webb) and CSTT were responsible for spreading information and rumors that lead to the bomb threat (allegedly based on information provided to George Webb Sweigert by a contract FBI informant). Plaintiff contends that the Defendant and others (Plaintiff has not named any of these other persons as defendants to this action) pose as investigative journalists, intelligence experts, or researchers, and that they fabricate news reports or "junk science" and coordinate attacks on individuals. Plaintiff claims that the Defendant and his associates have harassed and humiliated him[2] by discrediting Plaintiffs articles and a book he wrote about the Charleston Port incident, wrongly accusing him of committing crimes, and wrongly accusing him of protecting pedophiles. Id. at 40, 42. He requests injunctive relief and monetary damages. Id. at 41 -42.


         This court can raise the issue of venue sua sponte. See Feller v. Brock, 802 F.2d 722, 729 n. 7 (4th Cir. 1986); Magic Toyota. Inc. v. Southeast Toyota Distribs., Inc., 784 F.Supp. 306, 321 (D.S.C.1992). Plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient facts to indicate that venue is proper in the District Court for the District of South Carolina. In general, venue is only proper in:

(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located;
(2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated; or
(3) if there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought as provided in this section, any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to such action.

28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).

         A plain reading of the Amended Complaint reveals that the District of South Carolina does not satisfy any of the subsections of 28 U.S.C. § 1391 (b) for venue to be proper in this District. Defendant is alleged to be a citizen of New York. Although Plaintiff complains about the dirty bomb hoax at the Wando port, the only allegations of activities taken by the Defendant in South Carolina are that the Defendant allegedly placed a telephone call to the USCG on June 14, 2017. While Plaintiff also asserts claims about incidents that occurred both prior to and after the bomb threat, the majority of the Defendant's alleged actions were taken in or from New York, with other incidents allegedly occurring in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and places other than South Carolina.

         In a RICO action, the general venue provision as well as the RICO venue provision apply. Because venue is not proper here pursuant to § 1391 and because Plaintiff also purports to bring a RICO claim, [3] venue ...

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