United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
JOHNNIE L. BRYANT, III, Plaintiff,
TOWN OF BLUFFTON, JOHN DESTASIO, and CHRISTIAN GONZALES, Defendants.
C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the court on United States Magistrate Judge
Bristow Marchant’s report and recommendation
(“R&R”) that the court grant the
defendants’ motion for summary judgment and the case be
dismissed, ECF No. 45. For the reasons set forth below, the
court adopts the R&R, grants the motion for summary
judgment and dismisses the case with prejudice.
R&R ably recites the facts, and its statement of the
facts is uncontested. See ECF No. 50 at 2
(“The facts are described in full by the Magistrate and
Plaintiff agrees they are substantially set out in the light
most favorable to him . . .”). Therefore, the court
will only briefly summarize the facts as they appear in the
R&R for the purpose of aiding an understanding of its
Johnnie Bryant’s (“Bryant”) claims arise
out of his arrest by defendants John Destasio
(“Destasio”) and Christian Gonzales
(“Gonzales”) and subsequent prosecution. On the
night of January 5, 2014, Bryant approached his
neighbors’ home about an unidentified car that was
parked near his apartment. Bryant, a reserve deputy with the
Hampton County Sheriff’s Office, brought his weapon
with him. Bryant’s neighbor, Tracey Asbill, answered
the door with his pit bull in tow. It did not take long for
the interaction to become tense and the pit bull aggressive.
Fearful of the dog, Bryant removed his weapon from the back
of his pants. Around this time, Laura Quigley, the other
resident of the home, involved herself in the interaction,
screaming and cursing at Bryant. Here, the recollections of
the parties and witnesses involved diverge. Asbill and
Quigley contend that Bryant pointed his gun at them. Bryant
claims that at all times he kept his gun pointed to the
ground or at the pit bull.
arrived while the scene was deescalating and gathered
statements from the parties and witnesses. Gonzales arrived
shortly after. Destasio and Gonzales radioed the station and
explained the circumstances to their superior, who informed
the officers that there was probable cause to arrest Bryant
under South Carolina’s “point and present”
law, S.C. Code Ann. § 16-23-410, et seq.
Destasio and Gonzales arrested Bryant, who was released after
posting bond the following day. On February 20, 2014, a grand
jury issued an indictment for the charge against Bryant.
However, Bryant’s charge was later dropped.
initiated this action in the South Carolina Court of Common
Pleas, Beaufort County, alleging a state law claim for
malicious prosecution against the Town of Bluffton
(“Bluffton”) and federal claims pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1983 against Destasio and Gonzales, for
unlawful seizure and “wrongful prosecution.” On
the basis of Bryant’s federal claims, the defendants
removed the case to the United States District Court.
Subsequently, the defendants moved for summary judgment
pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, ECF No. 36. Bryant responded
to the defendants’ motion, ECF No. 39, to which the
defendants replied, ECF No. 44. On June 14, 2019, the
Magistrate Judge issued its R&R, recommending that the
defendants’ motion for summary judgment be granted and
the case be dismissed, ECF No. 45. On July 8, 2019, Bryant
made objections to the R&R, ECF No. 50.
magistrate judge makes only a recommendation to the court.
Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 (1976). The
recommendation carries no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
court. Id. at 270-71. The court may “accept,
reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or
recommendations made by the magistrate judge . . . or
recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with
instructions.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court is
charged with making a de novo determination of any
portion of the R&R to which a specific objection is made.
Id. However, de novo review is unnecessary
when a party makes general and conclusory objections without
directing a court’s attention to a specific error in
the magistrate judge’s proposed findings. Orpiano
v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the
absence of a specific objection, the court reviews the
R&R only for clear error. Diamond v. Colonial Life
& Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir.
2005) (citation omitted). “A finding is ‘clearly
erroneous’ when although there is evidence to support
it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with
the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
committed.” United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co.,
333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948).
Motion for Summary Judgment
judgment shall be granted if the pleadings, the discovery and
disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.
R. Civ. P. 56(c). “By its very terms, this standard
provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual
dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material
fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 247–48 (1986). “Only disputes over
facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary
judgment.” Id. at 248. “[S]ummary
judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is
‘genuine,’ that is, if the evidence is such that
a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Id. “[A]t the summary judgment
stage the judge’s function is not himself to weigh the
evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to
determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Id. at 249. The court should view the evidence in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all
inferences in its favor. Id. at 255.
party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden
of demonstrating to the district court that there is no
genuine issue of material fact.” Major v.
Greenville Hous. Auth., 2012 WL 3000680, at *1 (D.S.C.
Apr. 11, 2012). Nevertheless, “when a properly
supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse
party ‘must set forth specific facts showing that there
is a genuine issue for trial.’” Id.
(quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). The plain language of
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) “mandates the
entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery
and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “[C]onclusory
allegations or denials, without more, are insufficient to
preclude the granting of the summary judgment motion.”
Major, 2012 WL 2000680, at *1.