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Hickman v. Cornwell

United States District Court, D. Delaware

August 25, 2014

STEVEN O. HICKMAN, also known as STEVEN L. HICKMAN, Plaintiff,
CAPT. JOHN G. CORNWELL, et al., Defendants.

Steven O. Hickman, Sussex Correctional Institution, Georgetown, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.


RICHARD G. ANDREWS District Judge.

Plaintiff Steven O. Hickman, a pretrial detainee at the Sussex Correctional Institution, Georgetown, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 5, 7, 9). The Court proceeds to review and screen the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(a).

Plaintiff has a pending criminal matter in State Court and is represented by Defendants William Bill Moore and Brendan O'Neill, attorneys from the Office of the Public Defender of the State of Delaware, on multiple charges that he allegedly he sexually assaulted Defendant Doe (an individual with intellectual disabilities) on January 27, 2014. Plaintiff alleges that Moore failed to provide adequate representation and O'Neill allowed it.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant police officer Captain John G. Cornwell, learned of the alleged sexual assault from Defendant Beebe Healthcare Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Nurse Doe. Cornwell filed a criminal complaint and a warrant issued on January 28, 2014. (D.I. 2, ex.). Plaintiff alleges that it is clear from the face of the probable cause affidavit that there was no probable cause for a warrant to issue, other than Plaintiff's race. (D.I. 2, ex., at 3, contradicts this allegation). Plaintiff alleges that Cornwell "intentionally falsely reported rape, arrested, detained, and incarcerated Plaintiff knowing there was no rape", and that Cornwell did not read Plaintiff his Miranda rights. (D.I. 1, ¶¶ IV. (4), (5)). Cornwell testified at a February 6, 2014 preliminary hearing, basing his testimony on the victim's statement ( Id. at ¶ 7.) Plaintiff alleges that Nurse Doe coached the victim to say that she was raped.

Plaintiff also alleges that on January 27, 2014, he was denied his right to stop questioning, apparently in retaliation for a citizen complaint that he filed against the Milton Police Department on July 11, 2013, ( Id. at ¶ 7 and ex. A). The citizen complaint claims that Defendant police officer Cpl. Castro had no probable cause to charge, arrest, and incarcerate Plaintiff for possession of cocaine on May 18, 2013. ( Id. ) Plaintiff seeks damages from Castro because she tried to get Plaintiff to do something wrong so that she could beat Plaintiff. The Complaint alleges that Cornwell is the officer who investigated the citizen's complaint

Plaintiff further alleges that he asked Defendant Milton Mayor Marion Steward to go with him to the police station because he was afraid that he would be threatened. The Mayor called the police station and asked for a copy of the complaint. Plaintiff alleges that the Mayor is aware of misconduct at the Milton Police Department.

The complaint names Delaware Attorney General Joseph R. Biden, Ill. as a defendant because "he is over the mayor and the Milton Police Department." Plaintiff also named as defendants Drs. Melissa Arzadon and Elisa Montrose Lopez, both physicians at Bayhealth, for lack of medical practices and lack of medical procedures due to false report of rape. Finally, the Complaint names Delaware Family Commissioner Andrew Southmayd as a defendant because Plaintiff was not represented by counsel when Plaintiff appeared before the Commissioner on February 10, 2014, and he sentenced Plaintiff to sixty days VOP until Plaintiff paid the child support he owes.

Legal Standards

This Court must dismiss, at the earliest practicable time, certain in forma pauperis and prisoner actions that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(02) (in forma pauper's actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in which prisoner seeks redress from a governmental defendant). The Court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to a pro se plaintiff. See Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008).

The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to § 1915(02)(13)(ii) and § 1915A(b)(1) is identical to the legal standard used when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions. See Tourscher McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999). However, before dismissing a complaint or claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and 1915A, the Court must grant Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint, unless amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp, 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002).

A well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). The assumption of truth is inapplicable to legal conclusions or to "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported by mere conclusory statements." iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. When determining whether dismissal is appropriate, the court must take three steps: "(1) identify[] the elements of the claim, (2) review[] the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) look[j at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluat[e] whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged." Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011). Elements are sufficiently alleged when the facts in the complaint "show" that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

Because Plaintiff proceeds pro se, his pleading is liberally construed and his Complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, ...

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