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Green v. Waystack

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

June 22, 2018

RICHIE GREEN, Plaintiff,
v.
KEAGAN WAYSTACK, DEBRA GOMEZ, GREGORY BUSHWAY, STEPHEN BRADLEY, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS

          TILMAN E. SELF, III, JUDGE

         Defendants Waystack, Bradley[1], and Bushway filed Motions to Dismiss [Docs. 13, 18] Plaintiff's claims against them. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS both motions.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         A. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint [Doc. 4]

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint [Doc. 4][2] sets forth the following facts, which the Court assumes to be true for the purposes of ruling on Defendants' Motions to Dismiss [Docs. 13, 18]. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007).

         Plaintiff Richie Green brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Keagan Waystack and Gregory Bushway, former Assistant District Attorneys for the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit, in their official capacity; Defendant Debra Gomez, Plaintiff's former counsel; and Defendant Stephen Bradley, current District Attorney for the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit, in his official capacity. [Doc. 4, at 2-3]. Plaintiff alleges that all Defendants acted under color of state law and deprived him of his Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights by coercing him to accept an illegal plea agreement. [Doc. 4, at 3, 4, 5].

         On April 20, 2011, Plaintiff, while awaiting trial in the Superior Court of Jones County on charges of child molestation, began negotiating a potential plea agreement with Defendant Waystack[3]. [Id., at 5]. Plaintiff avers that his counsel, Defendant Gomez, made several disconcerting remarks during the negotiation process and encouraged Plaintiff to accept the proposed plea deal. [Id.]. For example, Defendant Gomez stated that Waystack was “going thru [sic] a divorce so she is very serious, ” and informed Plaintiff that “the district attorney said ‘if she has to work on Easter weekend to prepare for [Plaintiff's] trial she is going to recommend a sixty years [sic] sentence.' “ [Id.]. Defendant Gomez also explained to Plaintiff, who had previously suffered a major stroke, that he would not receive adequate healthcare if incarcerated and thus “would not survive in prison.” [Id.]. On April 25, 2011, Plaintiff ultimately accepted a plea deal and pled guilty to three counts of child molestation in exchange for 15 years' probation under the First Offender program. See O.C.G.A. § 42-8-60; [Doc. 4, at 5].

         On March 6, 2013, the Georgia Court of Appeals held that an individual convicted of a sex offense cannot be sentenced as a first offender under O.C.G.A. § 42-8-60. Tew v. State, 739 S.E.2d 423, 426-27 (Ga.Ct.App. 2013). Tew thus invalidated Plaintiff's sentence, rendering it illegal. State v. Hamilton, 517 S.E.2d. 583, 584 (Ga.Ct.App. 1999) (holding that the sentence of an individual who was improperly granted probation under O.C.G.A. § 42-8-60 was “illegal and therefore completely void”). Plaintiff learned of this ruling in November 2015, at which time he sought legal representation to no avail. [Doc. 4, at 5]. Plaintiff eventually retained attorney Michael Katz, who submitted an Extraordinary Motion to Withdraw Plea/Motion to Vacate Conviction/Correct Sentence. [Doc. 1-5, at 11-13]. The Jones County Superior Court granted the motion on December 19, 2017, allowing Plaintiff to withdraw his plea and effectively vacating his sentence. [Doc. 1-5, at 1-3]. At that time, the Assistant District Attorney declined to reinstate charges after the alleged victim submitted an affidavit stating that she would not assist in further criminal prosecution. [Doc. 1-5, at 4-5].

         Following the withdrawal of his plea, Plaintiff brought this action, [4] asserting that he accepted the invalid plea deal under duress. Plaintiff alleges that “Keagan Goodrich[5]use [sic] the threat of sixty years [sic] imprisonment” to force him to assent to the plea agreement's “illusory promise.” [Doc. 4, at 4]. Plaintiff contends that Defendant Bradley, as District Attorney, is equally culpable with regards to the coerced plea. [Id.]. Finally, Plaintiff argues that Defendant Gomez, who advised Plaintiff to accept the plea agreement, was “complaisant [sic] in the fraud and coercion.” [Id.]. As a result of the plea agreement, Plaintiff contends he suffered the stigma of being labeled a sex offender and felon, as well as various financial losses, and seeks removal of his name from the sex offender registry and money damages. [Doc. 4, at 6].

         B. Defendants' Motions to Dismiss [Docs. 13, 18]

         1. Defendant Waystack [Doc. 13]

         Defendant Waystack filed the instant Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 13] on March 28, 2018. Defendant Waystack argues that the doctrine of prosecutorial immunity and the Eleventh Amendment bar Plaintiff's claims against her in her official capacity. [Doc. 14, at 5-9]. Defendant Waystack also asserts that, under § 1983, she is not a “person” against whom Plaintiff may bring a claim, and that, even if the Court construes Plaintiff's action as an individual capacity suit, she is still protected by the doctrine of qualified immunity. [Id., at 9-11].

         2. Defendants Bradley and Bushway [Doc. 18]

         Shortly thereafter, Defendants Bradley and Bushway filed a similar Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 18], [6] raising, inter alia, Eleventh Amendment immunity. Specific to their respective Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 18], Defendants Bradley and Bushway also contend that Plaintiff fails to state a claim for Defendant Bradley's supervisory liability and fails to make any factual allegations against Defendant Bushway. [Doc. 18-1, at 6-7].

         C. Plaintiff's Response to Defendant Waystack and Defendants Bradley and Bushway's Motions to Dismiss [Doc . 24]

         Plaintiff subsequently filed a Response to Defendants' Motions to Dismiss [Doc. 24]. Therein, Plaintiff restated many of his allegations from the Amended Complaint [Doc. 4]. [Id., at 1-2]. Plaintiff also argued that Defendants Waystack, Bradley, and Bushway are not entitled to prosecutorial immunity because they fulfilled administrative, investigative, and legislative functions while negotiating the plea deal. [Id., at 3]. Finally, Plaintiff presented new claims that Defendants violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and are therefore not protected from suit in federal court by the Eleventh Amendment. [Id., at 1, 4].

         D. Defendants' Replies to Plaintiff's Response [Docs. 26, 29]

         1. Defendant Waystack

         Defendant Waystack filed a Reply to Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Motions to Dismiss [Doc. 29], arguing that Plaintiff may not further amend his complaint by bringing new allegations in a responsive brief. [Doc. 29, at 1-2]. Defendant Waystack also refuted Plaintiff's argument that she performed administrative, investigative, and legislative activities with regards to the plea agreement. [Id., at 2-3].

         2. Defendants Bradley and Bushway

         Defendants Bradley and Bushway submitted their own Reply to Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Motions to Dismiss [Doc. 26], asserting, like Defendant Waystack, that Plaintiff may not further amend his Amended Complaint [Doc. 4] via subsequent brief, and that Defendants did not act outside the scope of their prosecutorial roles. [Doc. 26, at 1, 2]. Also in their Reply [Doc. 26], Defendants Bradley and Bushway maintain that Plaintiff failed to rebut their arguments regarding the ...


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