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Franklin v. Reynolds

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division

October 30, 2018

Dumarcus Antonio Franklin, Plaintiff,
v.
Donald Reynolds, Matthew Veil, Circuit 8 Solicitors, Attorneys and Staff, and Sgt. Wheels, Defendant.

          REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          KEVIN F. MCDONALD, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The plaintiff, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his constitutional rights. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in cases filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         BACKGROUND

         The plaintiff is a pretrial detainee at the Johnson Detention Center (“JDC”) in Laurens, South Carolina (doc. 1). He filed this action on September 18, 2018, naming as defendants Sheriff Donald Reynolds and Sgt. Matthew Veil of the Laurens County Sheriff's Department, Sgt. Wheels at the JDC, and “Circuit 8 Solicitors, Attorneys and Staff.”[1] In his complaint, the plaintiff appears to raise claims of false arrest, evidence and mail tampering, prosecutorial misconduct, and ineffective assistance from defense counsel.

         The plaintiff alleges that Sgt. Veil “indicted” him on October 30, 2017, for drug distribution in case number 17017548 (Id. at 6, 8).[2] The plaintiff suggests that Sgt. Veil altered an exculpatory surveillance video by ending the tape “right before the C.I. was about to re-confirm she smoked up the entire evidence” (Id.). The plaintiff alleges that since there was no longer any evidence, Sgt. Veil improperly obtained evidence from another drug investigation to “forge on a distribution warrant” (Id.).

         The plaintiff also alleges that after his arrest, he mailed a letter to Sheriff Reynolds, intending it for another law enforcement officer, in which he accused Sgt. Veil of being corrupt. Thereafter, he contends that Sheriff Reynolds and Sgt. Veil came to the JDC “angry and highly upset, ” and “incriminated [him] verbally, ” telling him that “they were going to make sure” he received a 25-year prison sentence (Id. at 5-6). The plaintiff claims Sgt. Wheels tampered with the jail surveillance tape showing this “unconstitutional meeting” by muting out the sound as a means of “decapitating my evidence of favour . . . .” (Id. at 6).

         As to the prosecuting attorneys, the plaintiff asserts a claim for prosecutorial misconduct arising out of their failure to dismiss his charges after viewing the surveillance video (Id. at 7-8). The plaintiff suggests that the public defender's staff has also been ineffective due to their failure to successfully challenge his prosecution (Id. at 7).

         On October 12, 2018, the undersigned filed an order informing the plaintiff that his complaint contained deficiencies which could subject it to summary dismissal (doc. 11). The court directed the plaintiff to file an amended complaint within 14 days of its order, along with any appropriate service documents (Id.). The time provided in the court's order to file an amended complaint has passed, and the plaintiff failed to do so. As such, for the reasons set forth herein, the undersigned recommends that the case be dismissed with prejudice and without service of process.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the informa pauperis statute which permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit. This statute authorizes the District Court to dismiss a case if it is satisfied that the action “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” is “frivolous or malicious, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         As a pro se litigant, the plaintiff's pleadings are accorded liberal construction and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007) (per curiam). However, even under this less stringent standard, the pro se pleading remains 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).

         DISCUSSION

         This complaint is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which “is not itself a source of substantive rights, ‘but merely provides ‘a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.'” Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n. 3 (1979)). A civil action under § 1983 “creates a private right of action to vindicate violations of ‘rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws' of the United States.'” Rehberg v. Paulk, 132 S.Ct. 1497, 1501, (2012). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law.

         Prosecuting Attorneys ...


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