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Royalty v. Williams

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

March 30, 2018

GARRATT EUGENE ROYALTY, Plaintiff,
v.
ALFONZO WILLIAMS, Sheriff, Individual Capacity and Official Capacity, et al., Defendants.

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BRIAN K. EPPS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee at Burke County Jail in Waynesboro, Georgia, has submitted to the Court for filing an amended complaint brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Because he is proceeding in forma pauperis (“IFP”), Plaintiff's amended complaint must be screened to protect potential defendants. Phillips v. Mashburn, 746 F.2d 782, 785 (11th Cir. 1984); Al-Amin v. Donald, 165 Fed.Appx. 733, 736 (11th Cir. 2006).

         I. SCREENING OF THE AMENDED COMPLAINT

         A. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff names as Defendants: (1) Sheriff Alfonzo Williams; (2) Major John Bush; (3) Major Chester Huffman; (4) Captain Cassandra Haynes; (5) Sergeant J. Wright; and (6) Investigator Ben Harmon. (Doc. no. 1, pp. 2-4.) Taking all of Plaintiff's factual allegations as true, as the Court must for purposes of the present screening, the facts are as follows.

         On October 22, 2017, Plaintiff was arrested and taken to the Burke County Detention Center (“BCDC”). (Id. at 14.) Mrs. Priscilla Dann arrived at BCDC and asked for the keys to Plaintiff's vehicle. (Id.) Sgt. Wright asked Plaintiff if Mrs. Dann could have the keys. (Id.) Plaintiff asked Sgt. Wright why he would give Ms. Dann the keys when he was “locked up” and told Sgt. Wright to tell Mrs. Dann he “still love[s] her.” (Id.) Plaintiff did not give Sgt. Wright permission to give her the keys and did not sign a property release form. (Id.)

         On October 27, 2017, Plaintiff found out from his mother Mrs. Dann was driving his vehicle. (Id.) Plaintiff began to file grievances and to request charges against Sgt. Wright. (Id.) Plaintiff's mother called the Burke County Sheriff's Office to report the vehicle stolen. (Id.) On October 30, 2017, Plaintiff filed a grievance to Major Huffman stating Sgt. Wright was negligent and in violation of jail regulations by giving his property away without his permission and a signed release. (Id.) Plaintiff's grievance was “marked received and closed.” on November 1, 2017. (Id.) On November 2, 2017, Sgt. Wright pulled Plaintiff into the hall where no cameras were located, shook Plaintiff's grievance in his face, and tried to intimidate and “coach” Plaintiff into saying he had given Sgt. Wright permission. (Id. at 15.) Plaintiff repeated he did not give Sgt. Wright permission. (Id.) Plaintiff reported anxiety attacks at sick call as a result of the deprivation. (Id.) Plaintiff wrote additional grievances to Major Bush requesting forms for “Administrative Remedy Program relief.” (Id.)

         On November 7, 2017, Plaintiff asked Sherriff Williams for some time to talk about his vehicle, but Sheriff Williams ignored Plaintiff. (Id.) Thirty minutes later, Sgt. Wright took Plaintiff to Major Bush and Captain Haynes. (Id.) Plaintiff explained his grievance. (Id.) Captain Haynes attempted to call Plaintiff's “children's mother” and then Mrs. Dann but did not receive a response from either. (Id.)

         On November 8, 2017, Plaintiff met Ben Harmon, an investigator from the Burke County Sheriff's Office. (Id. at 16.) Inv. Harmon told Plaintiff his vehicle was now in the stolen vehicle database and asked Plaintiff if he knew how to contact Mrs. Dann. (Id.) Plaintiff said the only way was through Facebook, so Inv. Harmon logged onto Plaintiff's Facebook account and attempted to contact Mrs. Dann. (Id.) Mrs. Dann then called and told Inv. Harmon she had Plaintiff's vehicle and offered to leave it at the Albany Fairgrounds to be towed. (Id.) Inv. Harmon told Mrs. Dann not to leave the truck and informed her there was an internal investigation about the vehicle. (Id.) Inv. Harmon did not attempt to contact law enforcement in Albany to obtain the vehicle. (Id.) Inv. Harmon admitted a policy violation occurred. (Id. at 17.)

         Plaintiff's grievances were closed on November 8, 2017, indicating Plaintiff had met with Inv. Harmon, there was no violation of criminal law, and the policy violation was being addressed. (Id. at 16.) On November 19, 2017, Major Huffman responded to Plaintiff's grievance by saying Plaintiff would not receive privileged information about any disciplinary actions that may occur and directing him to contact Inv. Harmon about the matter if he wanted additional information. (Id.) Major Hoffman admitted an administrative violation occurred. (Id.)

         On December 1, 2017, Deputy Thomas told Plaintiff he would speak to someone about Plaintiff “want[ing] to sign a warrant” regarding his vehicle, but Captain Haynes told Deputy Thomas not to because the matter was being handled. (Id.) On December 9, 2017, Officer Tyler told Plaintiff he knew Sgt. Wright gave away Plaintiff's truck “illegally” because regulations require signed permission and do not allow officers to remove individual items from sealed property bags, as Sgt. Wright did here with Plaintiff's keys. (Id.) On February 27, 2018, Lieutenant Williams asked Plaintiff. “what the jail was doing about [his] vehicle.” (Id.) Plaintiff requests “administrative relief” in the amount of $60, 000 in compensation for his vehicle and personal belongings. (Id. at 18.)

         B. DISCUSSION

         1. Legal Standard for Screening.

         The amended complaint or any portion thereof may be dismissed if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune to such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b). A claim is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). “Failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard as dismissal for failure to state a claim under ...


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