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Wilson v. Vanalstine

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

June 27, 2017

CHRISTOPHER B. WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
JIM VANALSTINE, Police Officer, Roswell Police Dept., FULTON COUNTY, THEODORE JACKSON, JOHN DOE, CITY OF ROSWELL, ROSWELL CHIEF OF POLICE, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM S. DIJFFEY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Magistrate Judge J. Clay Fuller's Non-Final Report and Recommendation [11] (“R&R”). The R&R recommends allowing Plaintiff Christopher B. Wilson's (“Plaintiff”) false arrest and false imprisonment claims to proceed against Defendant Jim Vanalstine (“Officer Vanalstine”), and dismissing Plaintiff's remaining claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Facts

         Plaintiff alleges that, on June 9, 2015, he was arrested during a traffic stop by Officer Vanalstine, of the Roswell Police Department, for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, willful obstruction, fleeing and eluding, driving on a suspended license, improper U-turn, reckless driving, and failure to yield. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 7, 13). Officer Vanalstine, in his police report, described the incident that led to Plaintiff's arrest:

As [Plaintiff] opened his [truck] door, I reached up with my left hand and grabbed it. . . . As the truck accelerated having the door in my hand I squeezed it in an attempt to keep from falling. As [Plaintiff] continued to accelerate I was loosing [sic] my footing and trying to regain it before getting knocked to the ground and being ran [sic] over. As the truck began to turn right, I was able to release the door. . . . The truck continued to accelerate as it headed right for Officer Carroll. Officer Carroll was outside his vehicle on a traffic stop.

(Am Compl. ¶¶ 21, 23). Officer Vanalstine further stated, in his arrest warrant affidavit, that Plaintiff “drag[ed] [him] behind” the truck while Officer Vanalstine “had a hold of the driver's side door.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 24).

         Plaintiff claims that Officer Vanalstine's dash-cam video includes exculpatory information that contradicts the officer's version of events. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 20-24, 35, at 13). Specifically, Plaintiff claims the dash-cam video shows (1) that it was Officer Vanalstine, not Plaintiff, who opened the truck door, (2) that Officer Vanalstine “did not fall down and was not being dragged behind Plaintiff's vehicle, ” and (3) that Officer Carroll was inside, not outside, his vehicle. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 22, 29, 31). Plaintiff claims that, although a Roswell law enforcement official[1] reviewed the dash-cam video on June 18, 2015, “law enforcement concealed the dash-cam video from Plaintiff, the courts and district attorney for over 18 months.” (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 14-15).

         On July 1, 2016, a Fulton County grand jury returned an indictment charging Plaintiff with “willful obstruction of law enforcement officer by use of threats or violence or violence-felony.” (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 25, 32). The dash-cam video was not presented as evidence to the grand jury. (Am. Compl. ¶ 34). On August 17, 2016, the Fulton County district attorney requested the dash-cam video from “Julienne Brumann, the evidence custodian, ” who stated he was unable to locate the video. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 16-17). Plaintiff obtained the video approximately two and a half months later. (Am. Compl. ¶ 19).

         On October 31, 2016, the state court issued an order granting Plaintiff bond. (Am. Compl. ¶ 34). Plaintiff alleges that this order was not transmitted to the Fulton County Jail, where he was confined, until November 25, 2016, and that he thus was wrongfully incarcerated from October 31, 2016 to November 25, 2016. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6, 34). Plaintiff currently is incarcerated in Cobb County Jail and his criminal case is ongoing. (Am. Compl. ¶ 5).

         B. Procedural History

         On January 25, 2017, Plaintiff filed his pro se Civil Rights Complaint Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [1]. On March 4, 2017, Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint [10] (“Complaint”), asserting a variety of claims against Defendants Officer Vanalstine, City of Roswell, and the Roswell Chief of Police (together, the “Roswell Defendants”), and Fulton County, Theodore Jackson-the Fulton County Sheriff-and an unnamed individual who failed to timely send Plaintiff's bond order to the Fulton County Jail (together, the “Fulton County Defendants”).[2]

         Plaintiff asserts § 1983 claims against Officer Vanalstine for false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, a Fifth Amendment violation on the grounds that Officer Vanalstine acted in “bad faith, ” and an Eighth Amendment violation on the grounds that Plaintiff was subject to cruel and unusual punishment. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 35-38, 41). Plaintiff also asserts claims, under Georgia law, against Officer Vanalstine for false arrest, false imprisonment, perjury, intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious prosecution, and “tampering with evidence.” (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 38-40, 42, 51). Plaintiff asserts § 1983 malicious prosecution claims against Roswell City and the Roswell Chief of Police on the grounds that they “concealed” the dash-cam video and thus “contributed to [Plaintiff's] excessive and unlawful confinement.” (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 43-46, at 12, 15). Plaintiff asserts § 1983 claims against the Fulton County Defendants for his “excessive confinement” from October 31, 2016 to November 25, 2016. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 47-50). Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief, an injunction restraining his state law prosecution, compensatory damages, and punitive damages. (Am. Compl., Prayer for Relief).

         On April 25, 2017, the Magistrate Judge screened Plaintiff's Complaint and issued his R&R, recommending that Plaintiff's § 1983 false arrest and false imprisonment claims be allowed to proceed against Officer Vanalstine. The Magistrate Judge recommended staying these claims pending resolution of Plaintiff's criminal case, and dismissing Plaintiff's remaining claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Plaintiff did not file objections to the R&R.

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Frivolity Review Under 28 ...


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