United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division
J.RANDAL HALL CHIEF JUDGE
the Court is Defendant Art Villegas's Partial Motion to
Dismiss. (Doc. 4.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendant
Villegas's motion is GRANTED IN PART, DENIED IN PART.
1, 2015, Plaintiff removed Defendant Kevin
Bessent from supervising roofing work being
performed by Sweet Onion Construction, Inc. ("Sweet
Onion") on behalf of the Housing Authority of the City
of Lyons, Georgia ("HAL"). (Compl., Doc. 1 at 9-20,
¶ 10.) On May 8, 2015, Defendant Bessent conspired with
Defendants Villegas and Robert Daniel Dismuke to make a false
report to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation
("GBI") that, on or about April 8, 2015, Plaintiff
had attempted to provide illegal drugs to Defendant Bessent.
(Id. ¶ 13.) When the GBI did not act on that
false report, Defendants Bessent, Dismuke, and Villegas
conspired to plant drugs in Plaintiff's work vehicle.
(Id. ¶ 14.) Accordingly, Defendants Bessent,
Dismuke, and Christopher Anthony Gino Harrison planted illegal
drugs in Plaintiff's work vehicle, Defendant Bessent
filed a false report with the Lyons Police Department, and
Defendant Villegas created a false incident report.
(Id. ¶¶ 15-17.) Defendants Bessent,
Dismuke, Harrison, Villegas, and Terry Smith then further
conspired to have Defendant Smith make a false report to the
GBI that, on the morning of May 8, 2015, Plaintiff had
attempted to sell drugs to Defendant Harrison. (Id.
¶¶ 18-19.) "Based on the false information
provided by Defendants, the GBI searched [Plaintiff's]
vehicle on May 8, 2015 and found the illegal drugs that had
been planted by Defendant Harrison" and Plaintiff was
subsequently arrested as a result thereof. (Id.
¶¶ 20-22.) On September 15, 2015, the relevant
district attorney dismissed the charges against Plaintiff.
(Id. ¶ 23.)
September 13, 2017, Plaintiff initiated this action against
Defendants in the Superior Court of Toombs County, Georgia,
No. 17CV00469. In his instant complaint, Plaintiff asserts
seven counts, namely: (1) False Imprisonment pursuant to
O.C.G.A. § 51-7-20; (2) Malicious Arrest pursuant to
O.C.G.A. § 51-7-1; (3) Malicious Prosecution pursuant to
O.C.G.A. § 51-7-40; (4) Punitive Damages; (5)
Attorney's Fees; (6) False Arrest pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983; and (7) Malicious Prosecution pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. (Id ¶¶ 25-56.) On
October 20, 2017, Defendants removed this action to this
Court. (Doc. 1, at 1-8, 88-90.) That same day, Defendant
Villegas filed his instant partial motion to dismiss. (Doc.
4.) On January 3, 2018, Plaintiff's claims against
Defendant Smith were dismissed with prejudice pursuant to
their stipulation. (Doc. 26; see also Doc. 24.)
considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
Court tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint, not
whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail on the merits.
Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The
Court must accept as true all facts alleged in the complaint
and construe all reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. See Belanger v. Salvation
Army, 556 F.3d 1153, 1155 (11th Cir. 2009). Conversely,
the Court need not accept the complaint's legal
conclusions as true - only its well-pleaded facts.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009).
complaint also must "contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, "to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'" Id. at 678
(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
570 (2007)). The plaintiff is required to plead "factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged." Id. "The plausibility standard
is not akin to a 'probability requirement, ' but it
asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully." Id.
partial motion to dismiss, Defendant Villegas moves to
dismiss the first (False Imprisonment pursuant to O.C.G.A.
§ 51-7-20) and sixth (False Arrest pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983) counts of Plaintiff's complaint, as well as
any conspiracy claims that Plaintiff may have
"embedd[ed] . . . into other counts contained in his
[c]omplaint." (See Doc. 5, at 4-9; see
also Doc. 17, at 3 ("[Defendant] Villegas generally
asserts that to the extent Plaintiff has embedded conspiracy
into his [c]omplaint, including his malicious prosecution
claims under § 1983, these claims should be dismissed
because [Plaintiff] improperly alleges throughout that
[Defendant] Villegas was engaged in a conspiracy without
providing sufficient facts or details to sustain a conspiracy
claim.").) While Plaintiff opposes Defendant
Villegas's motion to the extent that it seeks the
dismissal of his conspiracy allegations, Plaintiff does not
oppose the dismissal of the first and sixth counts of his
complaint. (See doc. 13, at 4.) Because Plaintiff
consents to the dismissal of the first and sixth count of his
complaint, Defendant Villegas's motion to dismiss is due
to be granted as to those claims.
to violate another person's constitutional rights
violates section 1983." Rowe v. City of Fort
Lauderdale, 279 F.3d 1271, 1283 (11th Cir. 2002)
(citations omitted). "To prevail on a § 1983
conspiracy claim a plaintiff must show that an agreement
between two or more people ... to violate his constitutional
rights resulted in an actual violation of those rights."
Am. Fed'n of Labor & Cong, of Indus.
Organizations v. City of Miami, 637 F.3d 1178, 1191
(11th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted); see also Bailey v.
Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs of Alachua Cty., 956 F.2d 1112,
1122 (11th Cir. 1992) ( [T]he linchpin for conspiracy is
agreement, which presupposes communication ..") [A]n
agreement may be inferred from the relationship of the
parties, their overt acts and concert of action, and the
totality of their conduct . . . ." Am. Fed'n of
Labor & Cong. of Indus. Organizations, 637 F.3d at
1192 (internal quotations and citations omitted).
plaintiff claiming a conspiracy under § 1983 must make
particularized allegations that a conspiracy exists."
Pittman v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 662
Fed.Appx. 873, 880 (11th Cir. 2016) (citing GJR
Investments, Inc. v. County of Escambia, 132 F.3d 1359,
1370 (11th Cir. 1998)). "Mere conclusory, vague and
general allegations of conspiracy are not sufficient to
survive a motion to dismiss; rather, a defendant must be
informed of the nature of the conspiracy which is
alleged." Gibbons v. McBride, 124 F.Supp.3d
1342, 1379 (S.D. Ga. 2015) (internal quotations omitted)
(citing Fullman v. Graddick, 739 F.2d 553, 557 (11th
Cir. 1984)). Indeed, Mt]he claims must include enough factual
allegations to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level." Pittman, 662 Fed.Appx. at 880 (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 554) .wAs a guide,
our sister court has found that a plaintiff alleges
sufficient facts to state a claim for § 1983 conspiracy
where: (1) plaintiff alleged all defendants actively
participated in the events leading up to the alleged
constitutional violation, (2) plaintiff alleged all
defendants 'acted in concert' when the constitutional
violation was committed, and (3) 'the Amended Complaint
is replete with allegations that the Defendants communicated
with one another and actively participated with one another
leading up to and during the event in question."
Gibbons, 124 F.Supp.3d at 1379 (internal quotations,
citations, and alterations omitted)).
the Court concludes that the conspiracy allegations in
Plaintiff's instant complaint are sufficiently pled to
withstand Defendant Villegas's present motion to dismiss.
While Defendant Villegas asserts that Plaintiff's
conspiracy allegations are conclusory, vague, or general in
nature, Plaintiff has identified the parties to each
conspiracy, the date each conspiracy was formed, the
underlying agreement of each conspiracy, the rights violated
by each conspiracy, and the methods, manners, and
conspiratorial acts of each party to each conspiracy. Taking
these allegations as true, Defendant Villegas and the other
relevant Defendants would be liable to Plaintiff under
Section 1983 and other law. Indeed, a reasonable review of
Plaintiff's complaint would put Defendant Villegas and
the other Defendants on sufficient notice of the nature and
methods of the plausible conspiracies alleged, and that is
all Defendants are entitled to at this stage.
attached as a stand-alone exhibit to Defendant Villegas's
reply in support of his motion to dismiss is a police
incident report he purportedly prepared on June 10, 2015 in
connection with the events described in Plaintiff's
complaint. (See Doc. 17-1 (the
"Exhibit").) In his reply, Defendant Villegas
posits that this Exhibit is the same “false incident
report" referred to by Plaintiff in his complaint and
argues that the Exhibit - because it is dated after the date
of Plaintiff's arrest and does not include
Plaintiff's complete name - contradicts any allegations
of Defendant Villegas's involvement in the alleged
conspiracies. (See Doc. 17, at 5-6.) Yet this
argument depends upon the Court making several factual
assumptions in favor of Defendant ...