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Uche Philip Mordi, Federal Inmate #08179-025 v. Todd Ziegler

January 19, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge:


Plaintiff Uche Philip Mordi, is a federal inmate in the Allenwood Federal Correctional Institution in Pennsylvania. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Mordi brings this action against several county and state officials for deprivations of his rights under the United States Constitution and the Vienna Convention. Plaintiff is serving a 120 month federal sentence for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening.-- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.

(b) Grounds for Dismissal.-- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint--

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or

(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact."

Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts "should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

Upon careful review of the complaint, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

The Complaint

Plaintiff is a Nigerian national who was an undergraduate student at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale at the time of his March 12, 2009, arrest (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 9, 17). He was the subject of a traffic stop on Interstate 57 in Effingham County, conducted by Defendants Ziegler and Zerrusen, both Illinois State Police Officers (Doc. 1, p. 14-15). Plaintiff claims that the stop was made because he was unlawfully "profiled" based on his race, age and style of dress.

Plaintiff was issued a warning citation, apparently for a license plate violation. Defendants Ziegler and Zerrusen, along with Defendant Rich, an Effingham County Sheriff's Officer, then unreasonably prolonged the traffic stop after Plaintiff declined to consent to a search, in order to conduct a canine sniff search of Plaintiff's vehicle. The dog alerted, and drugs and cash were found in Plaintiff's duffle bag. Plaintiff and his passenger (named Otesile) were both arrested.

After Plaintiff was taken to the Illinois State Police ("ISP") station in Effingham, Defendants Chance and Healey interrogated him for over eight hours without giving him anything to eat (Doc. 1, p. 15-16). They also refused to remove his handcuffs for this entire time. They were assisted by Defendant Kamminga, also an ISP Officer. Plaintiff became extremely tired and hungry, and states he "supposedly admitted" to purchasing the drugs and intending to deliver them (Doc. 1, p. 16). He was then transported to the Effingham County Jail, where he was placed in a cell and was not fed until the following morning. The next day, state charges were filed against him, however, some weeks later he was charged with the federal drug offense. Thereafter, Defendant Fowler, an Assistant State's Attorney, withdrew the state charges. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Fowler, along with Defendant Deters (the Effingham County State's Attorney), Defendant Chance, and Defendant Effingham County, "traded" Plaintiff to the federal prosecutor in exchange for a better chance to obtain a conviction in federal court, and for the eventual proceeds of the forfeiture of Plaintiff's property.

During all of Plaintiff's interactions with these Defendants, he was never informed of his right under the Vienna Convention to contact a representative of his home country's embassy, despite the Defendants' knowledge that Plaintiff was a Nigerian citizen. Had he been properly informed according to this treaty, he would have availed himself of assistance from a Nigerian representative, and his case may have had a different outcome. As it was, Plaintiff eventually pled guilty to the federal drug charges, which led to the forfeiture of his vehicle and a substantial amount of cash, on top of the substantial prison sentence. Plaintiff alleges he was under pressure to plead guilty to avoid further harassment of ...

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