United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
T. Treadwell, United States District Judge.
Yonah El filed a pro se complaint (Doc. 1), and a motion to
proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) (Doc.
2). The Court previously granted his motion to proceed IFP
and ordered him to amend his complaint to clarify his
allegations. Doc. 6. The Court has reviewed the amended
complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). For the
following reasons, El's Fourth Amendment claim against
Defendant Christopher Thomas Lee is allowed to proceed, and
his remaining claims are DISMISSED.
24, 2018, El, an African-American male, was a passenger in
Pamela R. Stanescu's vehicle. Doc. 12 at 2. While
driving, Stanescu “dozed off behind the wheel and
almost lost control of the car.” Id. She then
pulled into a parking lot for El to drive. Id. As
they were switching seats, a Warner Robins police car drove
past them slowly. Id. Shortly after merging back
into traffic and while obeying the speed limit, El passed the
same police car that was parked on the side of the road.
Id. at 3. The police car immediately started
following El and flashing its lights, and El pulled over.
then “approached the vehicle on the driver's side
and asked where they were coming from.” Id.
El, believing that he was being racially “profiled,
” refused to answer, but Stanescu replied that they
“had left Atlanta earlier that day and [were] traveling
to her home in Warner Robins.” Id. Lee then
asked El for identification, and El asked Lee if he was under
arrest, to which he replied, “No.” Id.
El then asked Lee if he was “free to go, ” and,
again, Lee replied, “No.” Id.
point, El believed he was under arrest because of Lee's
response and three Warner Robins police cars blocking him.
Id. El then asked Lee if he could call his attorney.
Id. Again, Lee replied, “No, ” and
further explained that this was an investigatory stop.
Id. El responded, “You are investigating me,
so I have a [Fifth] Amendment right to remain silent, and if
you wish to ask me any questions, I will call my attorney and
have him mediate the conversation.” Id.
(emphasis in original). Lee, again, asked El for his
identification and told him that if he refused, he would be
arrested. Id. at 4. El, again, refused and instead
“showed [Lee] the highlighted portions in his pocket
Constitution of the appropriate amendments.”
Id. Lee, again, asked for identification, and El
“tried to explain the constitutional issues involved
and again offered to contact his attorney to medicate [sic]
the conversation.” Id. Lee then arrested El.
Doe 1 assisted Lee with searching El. Id. Lee told
El that he was being arrested for obstruction and then added
speeding “as an afterthought.” Id. El
then asked Lee to show him the “read-out of the speed
he had been traveling, ” but Lee declined. Id.
El was taken to the Warner Robins Police Department
(“WRPD”), and he asked to go before a magistrate
judge before being processed because he believed his arrest
was unconstitutional. Id. WRPD refused. Id.
El was then taken to the Houston County Detention Center
(“HCDC”) where he again asked to go before a
magistrate judge before being processed. Id.
“Eventually, Plaintiff was taken before someone who
said they were not there to adjudicate the matter but only to
set bail. Plaintiff stated he did not understand and wanted
to see a real judge.” Id.
following week, El was arraigned by Judge Jason Ashford where
he “challenged the jurisdiction of a state court to
adjudicate the case, as a federal question was involved,
” but the “judge denied the challenge.”
Id. After reading the charge, Judge Ashford asked El
how he wanted to plead. Id. at 5. El “stated
that there was no complaining witness present, and he could
not rebut an unstated presentment, therefore he could not
enter a plea at this time. Judge Ashford stated that he would
enter a plea of not guilty on the Plaintiff's behalf. The
Plaintiff objected vociferously, and stated that entering a
plea was his job or that of his attorney.” Id.
The Plaintiff was then taken out of the courtroom and
returned to HCDC for five weeks until he made bond.
voir dire, El requested a continuance because he had
no motions hearing and had not seen the discovery material.
Id. Judge Ashford told him it was “too
late” but that he could “look at the discovery
material in the Prosecutor's office during lunch.”
Id. After reviewing the documents, El complained to
Judge Ashford that he had never been given discovery
materials and was thus unable to call or subpoena rebuttal
witnesses. Id. Judge Ashford ignored El's
complaints and proceeded with the trial. Id.
the trial, the prosecution misrepresented documents.
Id. El objected, and Judge Ashford overruled him.
Id. El proceeded to make multiple objections
throughout the prosecution's case, which were all
overruled. Id. When Lee was called to the stand, Lee
stated that El told him that he was a “sovereign
citizen” and “did not need a license to
drive” when Lee stopped him for speeding on May 24.
Id. The tape from Lee's body cam was then played
for the jury, and El claims that the tape “confirmed
that the Plaintiff never said that he would not give the
officer his ID, but instead had exercised his [Fifth] and
[Sixth] Amendment constitutional rights. The Plaintiff used
Officer Lee's body cam to confirm that Officer Lee had
perjured himself when he said the Plaintiff had said that he
was a sovereign citizen and a fellow traveler and that he did
not need a license to drive.” Id. On
cross-examination, El asked Lee if he had any proof
“other than his word” that Lee was speeding, and
Lee said he did not. Id. At the end of the trial,
Judge Ashford did not allow El to use legal arguments in his
closing argument and did not instruct the jury regarding
Lee's false testimony. Id. at 6. The jury found
El guilty of obstruction and two traffic offenses.
his sentencing, El “beseeched Judge Ashford that, based
on his age and his back injury which requires the Plaintiff
to use morphine, to wear a back brace, and to sleep on [a]
special bed, and given the low level of his misdemeanor, that
a jail sentence would be cruel punishment, and requested
probation. . . . The Plaintiff also explained he was in the
process of setting up a Youth Financial Literacy Program. . .
.” Id. Judge Ashford sentenced El to six
months in prison “with no good time” and three
years of probation, plus court fees and fines. Id.
serving at HCDC, El was given “no access to documents
for filing an appeal, ” but was ultimately able to file
one. Id. El claims that Judge Ashford “sat on
the appeal for 30 days and never responded to the Plaintiff,
” even though El contacted his chambers “several
times.” Id. Judge Ashford denied El's
appeal without stating why. Id. El then filed an
appeal with the Georgia Court of Appeals, and the prosecutor
challenged it, “stating the timeline had
expired.” Id. El claims that the initial
appeal was filed in a timely manner, but “Judge
Ashford's action of sitting on the appeal for 30 days ran
out the clock.” Id. The Court of Appeals then
“instructed the Plaintiff that though they could not
hear the case, there was a process in place to force Judge
Ashford to forward the information to the superior court for
review. By the time this information had been fully divulged
to the Plaintiff, he had two weeks remaining on his
sentence.” Id. El ultimately chose not to file
an appeal. Id.
filed his complaint with the Court, alleging that his Fourth,
Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights were violated by Lee, John
Doe 1, and John Doe 2; that Lee, John Doe 1, and John Doe 2
violated 18 U.S.C. § 241 and § 242; that WRPD and
Warner Robins Chief of Police Brett Evans are
“co-conspirators and party to the suit;” that he
was denied access to legal materials at HCDC; that he was
denied “access to an absentee ballot” at HCDC;
that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when his
“numerous books and $24.18 in cash” were seized
at HCDC; and that “Probation Officer S[.] McClendon of
CSRA . . . became a co-conspirator to violate the
Plaintiff's constitutional rights under 18 USC 241 and 18
USC 242 by using false, erroneous and misleading information
to secure an illegal arrest warrant against the Plaintiff on
April 25, 2019. . . .” Id. at 1-2,
El states that after he filed his complaint, he was, again,
“incarcerated in Houston County, [and] he is faced with
the same situation regarding lack of access to legal
information, material, etc.” Id. at 6-7. El
seeks $470 million in damages. Id. at 7.