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Richards v. United States

September 11, 2009

TERENCE BRUCE RICHARDS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, COUNTY OF LAKE, CITY OF WAUKEGAN, FEDERAL DEFENDER PROGRAM, HSBC TECHNOLOGY & SERVICES USA, INC., MANUEL BARBOSA, JAMES E. STEVENS, DANIEL KLEINHUBERT, DETECTIVE SZUCHNICKI, PAUL FLYNN, SUSAN HANSON, JAMES HARRINGTON, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable David H. Coar

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Terence Richards, pro se, has filed a 93-page, 34-count complaint, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), along with various state-law claims, against thirteen state, federal, corporate, and individual defendants. The defendants have filed separate motions to dismiss Richards's complaint. For the following reasons, those motions are GRANTED. Richards's complaint is dismissed with prejudice.

(I) BACKGROUND

Over the last five years, Terence Richards has filed an extraordinary number of lawsuits: seventeen previous suits in this court alone, plus fourteen appeals in the Seventh Circuit, and numerous suits in the Illinois state courts.*fn1 These suits have all arisen from the events surrounding Richards's prior bankruptcy and criminal proceedings (Nos. 03 B 71403, 07 CR 233). In his latest omnibus complaint, Richards alleges that many of the defendants to his previous suits and two new defendants, acting individually and as members of various overlapping conspiracies, "scapegoated" him for the "sins" of his "acquaintance," Donald Harrington, to whom Richards lost tens of thousands of dollars; illegally convicted and incarcerated him; "embezzled" his money through bankruptcy proceedings; and generally destroyed his life. Over the course of Richards's prodigious litigation, other courts have set forth the admittedly unfortunate series of events that has given rise to his repeated complaints. Thus, the court provides only a capsule summary, to help put Richards's claims into some perspective.

From the fall of 2002 through the spring of 2003, Richards went on a "manic shopping spree" for the benefit of Donald Harrington. Perhaps as a result of this "spree," Richards filed for bankruptcy in March 2003. In April of that year, Richards withdrew over $45,000 from his retirement account, but Harrington stole his money before Richards could deposit it in his bank account. Harrington was charged with felony theft; he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft. The plea agreement, negotiated by Assistant State's Attorney Daniel Kleinhubert, did not include restitution to Richards, and the bankruptcy court was unable to recover the funds Richards had lost to Harrington.

On June 4, 2004, Detective Szuchnicki arrested Richards for violating an emergency order of protection, issued on June 2, 2004, which prevented Richards from approaching Donald Harrington or his wife, Lourdes Harrington. Richards was tried in the Circuit Court of Lake County and acquitted on May 10, 2005. As a result of these events, Richards filed two state-court suits against Detective Szuchnicki and the City of Waukegan on April 25, 2005 and June 8, 2005 (Nos. 05 L 369, 05 L 4592, which were consolidated). Richards alleged, as he does in the present suit, that Detective Szuchnicki framed him by lying, in the police report, about Richards's whereabouts at the time of his arrest. After these complaints were dismissed as insufficient in law, Richards reiterated his allegations against the detective in this court (No. 07 C 2656). His complaint was dismissed with prejudice on January 29, 2008.

Meanwhile, in February 2005, as Richards's state-court criminal trial approached, Bankruptcy Judge Manuel Barbosa revoked Richards's bankruptcy discharge. Richards blamed his bankruptcy trustee, James E. Stevens, for the court's decision, and sent him threatening letters. Richards also sent threatening letters to Kleinhubert, expressing his anger over the perceived leniency of Donald Harrington's plea agreement and its lack of restitution to Richards. On April 3, 2006, Richards was arrested by FBI Agent Karen Hanson, who was "tipped off" by James Harrington, Donald Harrington's father. In November 2006, Richards pleaded guilty to two counts of transmitting a threatening communication in interstate commerce, see 18 U.S.C. § 875(c), and received a 30-month sentence. On April 20, 2007, another prisoner attacked Richards after discovering that he is gay; he suffered two black eyes as a result of the attack. Richards also claims he was sexually assaulted on January 8, 2008, in the Ashland Correctional Center, but he does not say who attacked him.

While in prison, Richards sued the U.S. attorney; the district judge who sentenced him; his court-appointed defense attorney, Paul Flynn; the bankruptcy judge, Manuel Barbosa; and the bankruptcy trustee, James E. Stevens, alleging, inter alia,that they conspired to violate his constitutional rights and caused him to be illegally convicted and sentenced. This court screened his complaint, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, and dismissed it for failure to state a claim. Richards now alleges that Agent Hanson and James Harrington also participated in this conspiracy.

Until March 15, 2004, Richards was employed as a computer programmer at HSBC Technology & Services USA, Inc. ("HSBC"), a financial services company. Richards left what he describes as a "false letter" "in plain view" on his desk. His supervisor, Robert Barry, discovered it on March 9, 2004. In this letter, Richards wrote to Stevens that he had defrauded various financial institutions in connection with his bankruptcy proceedings. Richards was fired, and Barry sent the letter to Stevens. Richards promptly filed three separate complaints against HSBC (Nos. 04 M 3001489, Circuit Court of Cook County; 04 C 50290, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Western Division; 04 C 5122, this court), all premised on the allegedly wrongful and discriminatory termination of his employment. HSBC and Richards settled these suits with a written settlement agreement, which contained a global release of all claims that Richards may have had against HSBC. Richards has never alleged that HSBC breached any term of the settlement; nevertheless, he filed a fourth complaint, in this court, on March 23, 2007 (No. 07 C 01646). It was dismissed for failure to prosecute.

Some claims and some defendants in this case have already been dismissed. Pursuant to Richards's own motions, Judge Barbosa (named in Counts II, XV-XXIV) was dismissed as a defendant on June23, 2009; Kleinhubert (named in Counts I, II, XII, XIII, and XIV) and County of Lake (named in Counts XXVI, XXIX, XXXIII) were dismissed as defendants on June 18, 2009; and Counts XXVII (Monell liability against City of Waukegan) and XXI (cruel and unusual punishment) were dismissed on April 20, 2009. This opinion resolves the remaining defendants' motions to dismiss the remaining claims.

(II) ANALYSIS

(a) Failure to State a Claim

To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009) (applying Twombly to "all civil actions"). A claim is plausible on its face if it contains well-pleaded factual allegations that, accepted as true, allow the court to draw a "reasonable inference" that the defendant is liable for the conduct alleged; the "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully" is not enough. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. Factual allegations need not be "detailed" in order to be well-pleaded, but they must comprise more than "labels and conclusions" if they are to give the defendant fair notice of the "grounds of [the plaintiff's] entitlement to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). Thus, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements" are not well-pleaded factual allegations and are not entitled to an assumption of veracity. Iqbal 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

Complaints by pro se plaintiffs "are to be liberally construed and not held to the stringent standards expected of pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); see also Gil v. Reed, 381 F.3d 649, 658 n.2 (7th Cir. 2004). But the problem with Richards's complaint is not just his inartful drafting. For many if not all of his claims, Richards points to no factual content ...


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