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Jones v. Edmond

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Albany Division

November 7, 2014

TRABIAN JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
VINCENT EDMOND, individually, ERIC BRINSON, individually, and WILEY GRIFFIN, JR., individually, Defendants.

ORDER

W. LOUIS SANDS, District Judge.

Before the Court are Defendant Eric Brinson's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 7), Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint (Doc. 19), and Motion to Stay Discovery (Doc. 20) and Defendant Wiley Griffin, Jr.'s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 22). For the following reasons, Defendant Brinson's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 7) and Motion to Stay Discovery (Doc. 20) are DENIED as moot and Defendant Brinson's Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint (Doc. 19) and Defendant Griffin's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 22) are GRANTED.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Trabian Jones filed his original complaint on February 20, 2014. (Doc. 1.) Defendant Brinson filed his first Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 7), and the Court thereafter granted Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint. (Doc. 14.) In the meantime, the Court granted Defendant Brinson's Motion to Stay Discovery pending resolution of the Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 13.) On April 30, 2014, Plaintiff filed his amended complaint. (Doc. 15.) Subsequently, Defendants Brinson and Griffin filed Motions to Dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint. (Docs. 19, 22.) Defendant Brinson also moved to stay discovery pending resolution of his Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint. (Doc. 20.)

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

In his first amended complaint, Plaintiff Jones alleges that on February 25, 2012 the vehicle in which he was a passenger was stopped at a roadblock/checkpoint in Grady County, Georgia. At least three officers were at the roadblock-Defendants Edmond, a Grady County Sheriff's Deputy; Brinson, a Georgia State Patrolman; and Griffin, a Grady County Sheriff's Deputy. Jones alleges that Brinson was the officer in charge at the roadblock. After the vehicle was stopped, Brinson ordered Jones out of the car and patted him down, finding no drugs or weapons on him. Brinson told Jones the officers smelled marijuana in the vehicle, and Jones responded, saying that was not possible. Another passenger in the vehicle, Chad Smith, was patted down and arrested for driving on a suspended license, though he was not the driver of the vehicle. Brinson placed Mr. Smith in the back of the patrol car. While Griffin watched Jones, another officer gave the driver of the vehicle, Shockasha Adair, a roadside sobriety test, which she passed. Another officer also searched the inside of the vehicle for drugs and weapons and found no contraband or weapons. Then, Edmond conducted another pat down search of Jones and searched the trunk of the vehicle. Again, no contraband or weapons were found on Jones or in the trunk of the vehicle.

In the presence of Griffin and Brinson, Edmond ordered Jones to the front passenger side of Brinson's vehicle and directed Jones to lift his shirt and pull down his pants and underwear. Jones protested but ultimately complied, exposing his genitals to public view. Jones characterizes this incident as a strip search but does not allege that Edmond or any other officer placed his hands on Jones while his body was exposed. When Jones asked Edmond if he was being detained during the strip search, Edmond responded affirmatively. The strip search revealed no contraband or weapons.

After the strip search, either Brinson or Griffin or both told the driver of Jones' vehicle as well as the driver of the vehicle with which they were caravanning to continue on and gave them Jones' cell phone. After Jones' companions drove away, Jones was informed that he was free to go without a citation. The officers allowed Jones to use Mr. Smith's phone to call his friends. Jones alleges that he was detained at the roadblock for an hour to an hour and a half.

DISCUSSION

As an initial matter, the Court DISMISSES Defendant Brinson's first Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 7) as moot because an amended complaint and subsequent motion to dismiss, which the Court now considers, were filed. The Court also DISMISSES Defendant Brinson's Motion to Stay Discovery (Doc. 20) as moot because discovery has remained stayed since entry of the Court's April 22, 2014 Order staying discovery and because the Court now resolves Brinson's second Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 19).

Jones sues the Defendants in their individual capacities only. Jones does not specifically challenge the legality of the roadblock or the pat down searches to which he was subjected. (Docs. 15 at 10; 24 at 5.) Jones does allege that Edmond subjected him to an unlawful search and that the strip search constituted excessive force. Jones alleges that Brinson and Griffin violated his Fourth Amendment rights by failing to intervene in Edmond's unlawful search and use of excessive force and by subjecting him to an unlawful arrest without probable cause. Brinson and Griffin both raise qualified immunity as a defense to Jones' Fourth Amendment claims against them.

I. Motion to Dismiss Standard

Defendants Brinson and Griffin each move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against them based on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Rule 12(b)(6) permits a party to assert by motion the defense of failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. A motion to dismiss a plaintiff's complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) should not be granted unless the plaintiff fails to plead enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible, and not merely conceivable, on its face. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "Dismissal for failure to state a claim is proper if the factual allegations are not enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" Edwards v. Prime, Inc., 602 F.3d 1276, 1291 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Rivell v. Private Health Care System, Inc., 520 F.3d 1308, 1309 (11th Cir. 2008)). "Stated differently, the factual allegations in the complaint must possess enough heft' to set forth a plausible entitlement to relief.'" Edwards, 602 F.3d at 1291 (quoting Financial Securities Assurance, Inc. v. Stephens, Inc., 500 F.3d 1276, 1282 (11th Cir. 2007)).

While the Court must conduct its analysis "accepting the allegations in the complaint as true and construing them in the light most favorable to the [p]laintiff, " Hill v. White, 321 F.3d 1334, 1335 (11th Cir. 2003), in evaluating the sufficiency of a plaintiff's pleadings the Court must "make reasonable inferences in [p]laintiff's favor, but [is] not required to draw [p]laintiff's inference.'" Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola Co., 578 F.3d 1252, 1260 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting Aldana v. Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc., 416 F.3d 1242, 1248 (11th Cir. 2005)), (abrogated on other grounds by Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority, 132 S.Ct. 1702 (2012)). The Supreme Court instructs that in considering a motion to dismiss "a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint;" this principle, however, "is inapplicable to legal conclusions, " which "must be supported by factual ...


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