United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division
TAVARRES J. HENDERSON, Plaintiff,
JOANNA B. MASTNY and JASON R. HASTY, Defendants.
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
K. EPPS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF
an inmate at Valdosta State Prison in Valdosta, Georgia, is
proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis
(“IFP”) in this case filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 regarding events alleged to have occurred in
Richmond County, Georgia. Because he is proceeding IFP,
Plaintiff's 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).
SCREENING OF THE COMPLAINT
names as Defendants: (1) Joanna B. Mastny; and (2) Jason R.
Hasty. (Doc. no. 1, pp. 1, 2.) Taking all of Plaintiff's
allegations as true, as the Court must for purposes of the
present screening, the facts are as follows.
9, 2017, Plaintiff requested grand jury indictment documents
from Richmond County Superior Court regarding his underlying
criminal conviction. (Id. at 5.) These documents
showed there was no grand jury hearing or other documentation
about the presiding judge, courtroom number, date, or grand
jury minutes. (Id.) Plaintiff also learned the grand
jury foreperson was not the same person as the signature on
the true bill of indictment. (Id. at 6.)
notified his public defender, Defendant Jason R. Hasty, of
his findings and requested Mr. Hasty file a motion to permit
discovery on the indictment and a “production of
alleged grand jury subpoena.” (Id.) Mr. Hasty
told Plaintiff a grand jury hearing is not required prior to
indictment and the only requirement is for the foreperson of
the grand jury to sign the true bill of indictment.
(Id. at 6-7.) On July 1, 2017, Plaintiff sent
letters to Mr. Hasty concerning assistant district attorney
Defendant Joanna B. Mastny's handling of the indictment
and again requested Mr. Hasty file motions. (Id. at
7.) Mr. Hasty refused to file any motions and told Plaintiff
he was stuck with him. (Id. at 8.)
November 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed pro se “motions for
production of discovery of grand jury witness testimony and
grand jury hearing transcript.” (Id.)
Plaintiff never received a response from these motions.
(Id.) Prior to the pre-trial hearing on December 4,
2017, Mr. Hasty would not speak to Plaintiff, and at the
pre-trial hearing, Mr. Hasty and Ms. Mastny tried to get
Plaintiff to accept a plea deal for twelve years, which
Plaintiff rejected. (Id. at 8-9.) Plaintiff also
sent grievance letters to the State Bar of Georgia's
consumer assistance program regarding Mr. Hasty's
competence and failure to communicate with Plaintiff.
(Id. at 9.)
December 14, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion to quash the
indictment. (Id.) On January 8, 2018, Richmond
County Superior Court Judge Carl C. Brown held a hearing on
Plaintiff's motion to quash. (Id. at 10.) At the
hearing, Plaintiff requested to speak on his own behalf about
Mr. Hasty's representation of him and have Mr. Hasty
released as his counsel. (Id. at 10-11.) However,
Judge Brown prohibited Plaintiff from speaking at the hearing
about the defective indictment or anything else.
(Id. at 11.) Judge Brown also stated Mr. Hasty would
continue to represent Plaintiff. (Id. at 12.) Also,
at the hearing, Plaintiff asked Ms. Mastny about the
indictment and she told him Georgia law did not require the
indictment be brought before a grand jury as long the
indictment states it is sufficient to prosecute this case.
(Id. at 13.) Ms. Mastny also stated she could
re-indict the case. (Id.)
February 26, 2018, Plaintiff's criminal trial began, and
Plaintiff was forced to defend himself against charges not
properly indicted by a grand jury. (Id. at 14.)
Plaintiff alleges Ms. Mastny's actions constituted a
“bad faith prosecution” by acting in concert with
Judge Brown to deny his motion to quash the indictment. On
February 27, 2018, Plaintiff was convicted of robbery by
intimidation. (Id.; doc. no. 1-1, p. 5.) Due to
being incarcerated, Plaintiff states he is at risk of
physical injury from prison violence and is suffering from
emotional distress. (Doc. no. 1, pp. 15-16.) He alleges
Defendants acted in concert to unlawfully prosecute Plaintiff
based on a faulty indictment, resulting in violations of his
First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Id.)
As relief, Plaintiff seeks a declaration from the Court that
Defendants violated his constitutional rights, $1 in nominal
damages, and $9, 000, 000 total in compensatory and punitive
damages from Defendants. (Id. at 18-19.) On February
20, 2019, Plaintiff filed an affidavit concerning the same
facts as in his complaint, along with additional argument
about the allegedly improper indictment. (Doc. no. 4.)
Legal Standard for Screening
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 Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6).” Wilkerson v. H & S, Inc., 366
Fed.Appx. 49, 51 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Mitchell v.
Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997)).
avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted, the allegations in the complaint must
“state a claim for relief that is plausible on its
face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). That is,
“[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right
to relief above the speculative level.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. While Rule 8(a) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not require detailed
factual allegations, “it demands more than an
unadorned, the defendant unlawfully-harmed-me
accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A
complaint is insufficient if it “offers ‘labels
and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action, '” or if it
“tenders ‘naked assertions' devoid of
‘further factual ...