United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division
Timothy M. Cain United States District Judge
David Leon Reeder (“Reeder”), a state prisoner
proceeding pro se, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. (ECF No. 1). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02, D.S.C., this matter was
referred to a magistrate judge for pretrial handling. Before
the court is the magistrate judge's Report and
Recommendation (“Report”), recommending that the
court grant Defendant PFC R. W.Vanpelt's motion for
summary judgment (ECF No. 29). (ECF No. 40). Reeder timely filed
objections to the Report (ECF No. 44). Defendant filed a
reply to Reeder's objections. (ECF No. 46).
Report has no presumptive weight and the responsibility to
make a final determination in this matter remains with this
court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71
(1976). The court need not conduct a de novo review when a
party makes only “general and conclusory objections
that do not direct the court to a specific error in the
magistrate's proposed findings and
recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d
44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In that case, the court reviews the
Report only for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life
& Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir.
complaint, Reeder alleges on December 23, 2017, during a
traffic stop, Defendant asked the driver of the car and
Reeder, who was a passenger, to step out of the vehicle and
conducted a pat down search. (ECF No. 1 at 3). During the
search of the car, officers found drugs and Defendant
searched Reeder and the driver one more time. Id. at
3-4. Reeder alleges that the driver stated the drugs were his
and the officers stated Reeder would be free to leave after
he was searched one more time. Id. at 4. After
Defendant patted Reeder down a third time, he pointed to the
ground at a clear baggy, which had apparently fallen out of
Reeder's pants. Id. Reeder alleges that the
third search was improper and invasive because Defendant
“stuck his hand on and around under my private parts my
penis and testicles . . . .” Id. He contends
that he was traumatized by the search and suffers mental
anguish because he keeps thinking about Defendant
“putting his hand all over [his] private parts with
enjoyment.” Id. Reeder alleges claims of
harassment, sexual misconduct, lewd acts, false arrest,
planting evidence, and illegal search and seizure.
Id. at 2.
noted above, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment
based on qualified immunity. (ECF No. 29). In her Report, the
magistrate judge recommends that Defendant's summary
judgment motion be granted. The magistrate judge determined
that Defendant had probable cause to arrest Reeder and,
therefore, the search of Plaintiff's person was
authorized as a search incident to an arrest citing
Rawlings v. Kentucky, 448 U.S. 98, 111 (1980).
(Report at 14). Additionally, applying Bell v.
Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979), the magistrate judge
determined that the search was not unreasonably sexually
invasive and, thus, did not violate Reeder's
constitutional rights. Id. at 15-16. The magistrate
judge also noted that, in light of Reeder's guilty plea
to the possession charge, any claim that Defendant planted
the drugs would be barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512
U.S. 477 (1994) (holding a state prisoner's claim for
damages is not cognizable under § 1983 when success in
the action would implicitly question the validity of the
conviction or duration of the sentence, unless the prisoner
demonstrates that the conviction or sentence has already been
invalidated). (Report at 16 n.8).
objections, Reeder states that he cannot go to the law
library “to get proper information about [his] case,
” he wants to see the video from Defendant, and he
requests a continuance until he is released on November 1,
2019. (ECF No. 44). He also contends that he did not
“own up to that dope that night because it wasn't
[his], and those police down there are so crooked . . .
immunity protects government officials performing
discretionary functions from civil damage suits as long as
the conduct in question does not “violate clearly
established rights of which a reasonable person would have
known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800,
818 (1982). To determine whether qualified immunity applies,
a court must determine “‘whether the plaintiff
has alleged the deprivation of an actual constitutional right
at all[ ] and . . . whether that right was clearly
established at the time of the alleged violation.'
” Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 609 (1999)
(quoting Conn v. Gabbert, 526 U.S. 286, 290 (1999)).
court determines that the plaintiff has not alleged the
deprivation of an actual constitutional right or the right
was not clearly established at the time of the alleged
violation, it need not consider the other prong of the
qualified immunity analysis. See Torchinsky v.
Siwinski, 942 F.2d 257, 260 (4th Cir. 1991). The Fourth
Circuit has held that officers are immune from § 1983
claims, when a pat-down search involved touching and patting
detainees “on top of their clothing, in certain
sensitive areas.” See Taft v. Vines, 83 F.3d
681, 684 (4th Cir. 1996) (en banc) (holding pat-down on top
of clothing, “in certain sensitive areas” not
unconstitutional and affirming grant of qualified immunity to
officers accused of touching detainee's “breasts
and buttocks” and “between [her] legs in [her]
private parts”). As the magistrate judge determined,
Reeder's allegations regarding the search being sexually
invasive fail to demonstrate Defendant violated Reeder's
constitutional rights, and Reeder has not objected to this
finding. Therefore, Defendant is entitled to qualified
immunity. Additionally, as the magistrate judge noted,
Plaintiff's claims for false arrest and that he was
essentially framed are barred by Heck, 512 U.S. at
486-87 (holding that for a plaintiff to recover damages on
the basis of an allegedly unconstitutional conviction or
imprisonment, the plaintiff must first have the conviction or
sentence “reversed on direct appeal, expunged by
executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal
authorized to make such determination, or called into
question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of
on the foregoing, the court adopts the Report (ECF No. 40).
Therefore, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgement (ECF
No. 29) is GRANTED.
IS SO ORDERED.
It appears that the Defendant's
name may be misspelled, and should be spelled Van Pelt.
(Report at 2 n.3).
Because there was not a docket entry
from the Clerk stating that the Report had been mailed to
Reeder, out of an abundance of caution, the court re-mailed
the Report to Reeder. This reset the time to file objections
and, therefore, the court ...