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Jones v. Mooney

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 24, 2017

CORBIN D. JONES, # 01-30-1989-46, Plaintiff,
v.
NEILL MOONEY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. PHIL GILBERT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at the Jefferson County Justice Center (“the Jail”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that the Mt. Vernon Police Officer who arrested him violated several of his constitutional rights. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A .

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         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). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). 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). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross “the line between possibility and plausibility.” Id. at 557. 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, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), 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 Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         After fully considering the allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint, the Court concludes that some of Plaintiff's claims are subject to dismissal pursuant to § 1915A, and others must be stayed until the State criminal matter is concluded.

         The Complaint

         The Complaint is made up of several piecemeal sections. Plaintiff begins with the 1-page police report authored by Mooney, describing the events leading up to Mooney's arrest of Plaintiff on February 14, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 3). Plaintiff marked up this document and made several notations in the margins indicating possible claims, including “illegal search and seizure, ” “officer without warrant forced entry into my upstairs bedroom, ” “freedom of speech, ” and indicates several of Mooney's statements were “false.” Id. His next page consists of the “Supplemental Report” of Officer Greenwood, who was also present at Plaintiff's arrest. (Doc. 1, p. 4). Plaintiff also includes a copy of a photograph of an alleged controlled substance found in his room on February 14, 2017, with his own annotations claiming that the material is not meth, but is in fact sea-salt. (Doc. 1, p. 6). On this paper, Plaintiff also wrote, “false report, ” “destroying evidence improperly, ” “false allegations, ” “tampering with evidence, ” “cruel and unusual punishments, ” and “failure to read me my Miranda rights before or after arrest.” Id. The Complaint concludes with a 4-page narrative including factual allegations and some claims against Mooney. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-10).

         The following factual summary can be gleaned from these statements: Mooney and other officers were called to Plaintiff's mother's residence, where Plaintiff occupied an upstairs bedroom. (Doc. 1, pp. 3, 8, 10). Plaintiff was on probation at the time. (Doc. 1, pp. 3, 9). Mooney was “escorted into the residence, ” presumably by Plaintiff's mother, and encountered Plaintiff on the stairs leading to his bedroom. (Doc. 1, pp. 3, 8). The officers asked Plaintiff to leave the house for the evening, in accordance with his mother's request. (Doc. 1, pp. 3). Plaintiff agreed to leave. Either Mooney or Officer Greenwood supervised Plaintiff in his bedroom while he gathered his belongings. (Doc. 1, pp. 3, 7). Greenwood and Mooney saw small crumbs of cannabis on a table in the bedroom (Plaintiff disputes which officer saw the cannabis first). (Doc. 1, pp. 3, 7).

         According to Mooney, Greenwood asked Plaintiff where the rest of the cannabis was, and Plaintiff took a metal pipe out of his pocket. Greenwood also found a small black plastic bag containing small crystal-like rocks. (Doc. 1, p. 3). Plaintiff was arrested and searched, and officers found a rolled cigarette containing cannabis. (Doc. 1, p. 3). Plaintiff claims the statement about finding the cannabis cigarette is untrue, and notes the item was not photographed and was either destroyed or kept by Greenwood. (Doc. 1, p. 7). He also asserts that the “so- called crack-cocaine/meth is sea-salt” that was in a small bottle with a twist-top grinder, and that the substance was never tested for drug content. Id. Some item that would have been materially exculpatory evidence (Plaintiff does not specify which item) was destroyed by Greenwood. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-9).

         Plaintiff further asserts that he was not told his Miranda rights either before or after his arrest; Mooney forced his way into Plaintiff's bedroom and searched it without a warrant; Mooney's police report is false; and Plaintiff was wrongfully arrested and is being falsely imprisoned. (Doc. 1, p. 8). He claims that his former attorney (Featherson) is now a State's Attorney who has made statements against him, and this presents a conflict of interest. (Doc. 1, p. 9). He makes reference to freedom of speech, and claims he “received cruel and unusual punishments” on February 14, 2017, in his home; excessive bail was imposed; and was subjected to “excessive force from Officer C. Greenwood.” (Doc. 1, p. 10).

         Plaintiff seeks money for pain and suffering and asks for his freedom, but closes with the notation, “mainly money.” (Doc. 1, p. 11).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Mooney violated Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights by forcing his way into Plaintiff's room to conduct a search ...

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