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Sireci v. Garcia

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

May 21, 2019

VERONICA MABEL GARCIA, et al., Defendants.


          Christopher L. Ray, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, Jacob Nathanial Sireci brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against various state officials and private actors involved in his arrest and prosecution. Doc. 1. The Court granted his request to pursue his case in forma pauperis (IFP), doc. 3, and he finally returned the necessary forms. Docs. 6 & 7.[1] The Court now screens the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires the immediate dismissal of any pro se complaint that fails to state at least one actionable claim.[2]

         I. BACKGROUND

         Sireci contends that his indictment was neither stamped nor filed in “open court” in July 2016, and that defense counsel Elizabeth Woods ineffectively failed to advise him that he could request a bench trial or an Alford plea in lieu of the “cohorsed” plea while “under the influence” of someone else's “prescribed drug which visibl[y] impaired [him] on multiple occasions.” Doc. 1 at 4. He (apparently) expected to be sentenced under the Georgia First Offenders' Act but (perhaps) ended up getting a sentence higher than hoped. Id. (“The sentence given was not discussed and agreed upon, I stated I would plea - open end under FOA with no Adjudication of Guilt for 15 y[ea]rs total with the 1st y[ea]r and 6 months to serve . . . probated: however there are adjudications contrary to this agreement and in addi[ti]on 10 y[ea]rs out of the 15 must be completed before balance would be suspended which was not agreed upon.”).[3] He is clear in what he seeks, however:

I am looking to have my sentence amended with no adjudication of guilt: At the least I would like to have my sentence less[e]ned to 5 y[ea]rs total probation with FOA minus the time already served as there is no one I am granting relief to, and I'm the only one suffering.
[ . . . ]
I want my life back I want to go home I want to still become an officer of the law: Please help me I beg you.

Doc. 1 at 6.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Liberally construed, Sireci levies a claim for malicious prosecution, “which remedies detention accompanied not by the absence of legal process, but by wrongful institution of legal process.”. See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 390 (2009). The Eleventh Circuit “has identified malicious prosecution as a violation of the Fourth Amendment and a viable constitutional tort cognizable under § 1983.” Wood v. Kesler, 323 F.3d bound over to superior court), his domestic violence case (State v. Sireci, No. 2016-03-1163 (Chatham Super. Ct. Apr. 11, 2016) (guilty plea entered to disorderly conduct misdemeanor), or his theft case (State v. Sireci, No. 2016-03-1422 (Chatham Super. Ct. Apr. 11, 2016) (guilty plea entered to theft by taking, tacking on an additional 12 months' imprisonment suspended conditioned on no new arrests). He states that his “appeal is for CR16-1252-J6, ” doc. 1 at 5; see also id. at 8 (attaching correspondence from Chatham Superior Court referencing criminal division “CR161252”), but the Court was unable to locate any Chatham Superior Court case matching that number. See, 872, 881 (11th Cir. 2003). But this claim is dead on arrival. First, an essential element of a malicious prosecution claim is the termination of the criminal prosecution in the plaintiff's favor. Id. at 882. There is no allegation that the Chatham County criminal cases have been resolved in Sireci's favor. See doc. 1; see supra, fn. 3. In fact, though the Court can find no record of a 2016 conviction, Sireci affirmatively alleges that a sentence was imposed and that he seeks to be free of it. Doc. 1 at 8. Clearly, there has been no termination in his favor.

         Secondly, any such claim appears to be time-barred. The statute of limitations for § 1983 claims “is that which the State provides for personal-injury torts.” Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387 (2007) (cite omitted). Under Georgia law, the statute of limitations for such claims is two years. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33; see Williams v. City of Atlanta, 794 F.2d 624, 626 (11th Cir. 1986). Generally, the statute of limitations for § 1983 claims begins to run when facts supporting the cause of action are or should be reasonably apparent to the claimant. Brown v. Ga. Bd. of Pardons & Paroles, 335 F.3d 1259, 1261 (11th Cir. 2003) (per curiam). Any such allegations arising from a defective indictment or prosecutorial malfeasance in 2016 are untimely now, signature-filed as they were three years later. Doc. 1 at 6 (signature-filed on March 14, 2019).

         Accordingly, Sireci does not state a timely or meritorious claim for malicious prosecution and any such claim against any of the named defendants should be DISMISSED. Even if he had pled (or could plead) favorable termination, of course, the named defendants are immune from suit.[4]

         Even if not barred by the defendants' various immunities or the statute of limitations, finally, plaintiff's claim is barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) to the extent he seeks to vacate, “less[e]n, ” or “amend” his state conviction and “go home.” Doc. 1 at 6. A challenge to the fact or duration of a prisoner's confinement - regardless of the label the plaintiff places on the action - is properly treated as a habeas corpus claim, McKinnis v. Mosley, 693 F.2d 1054, 1057 (11th Cir. 1982), and those claims simply are not cognizable under § 1983. Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 78 (2005). Because Sireci's claims would plainly impugn the validity of his conviction, which has not been invalidated or otherwise set aside, they are barred under Heck. See e.g., Pritchett v. Farr, 592 Fed.Appx. 816, 817 (11th Cir. 2014). Plaintiff's only recourse is a habeas action, and before he can bring a federal habeas action, he must first exhaust his available state remedies through either a direct appeal or a petition for state collateral relief. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. at 79 (federal More importantly, Sireci's Complaint does not include any allegation connecting either individual to his allegedly tortious confinement. Their mere listing on the Complaint caption is not enough to state a claim. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” to state a claim upon which relief can be granted). Thus, any claim against Cooper and Garcia must also be DISMISSED. “habeas corpus actions require a petitioner fully to exhaust state remedies, which § 1983 does not”); 28 U.S.C. §§ 2254(b), (c).[5]

         III. ...

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