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Shotwell v. Sapp

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 6, 2019

MARK J. SHOTWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
CAPTAIN JASON SAPP, et al., Defendants.

          Mark J. Shotwell, Newark, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.

          Michael F. McTaggart, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendants Captain Jason Sapp, Captain Pete Sawyer, Detective Gatti, Sergeant Christopher Martin, and Sergeant Matthew Taylor.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ANDREWS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Mark J. Shotwell filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] (D.I. 2). Plaintiff appears pro se and has paid the filing fee. Before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Captain Jason Sapp, Captain Pete Sawyer, Detective Gatti, Sergeant Christopher Martin, and Sergeant Matthew Taylor ("Defendants"). (D.I. 11). Plaintiff opposes the motion and has filed a combined opposition and motion to amend. (D.I. 13). Briefing is complete.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was arrested at his home on July 3, 2016, and handcuffed behind his back. (D.I. 2 at 7). He alleges that Martin, who was involved in Plaintiff's transport, taunted and shoved him. (Id. at 7-8). When he returned home, he discovered his house and personal effects had been ransacked and his electronics had been seized. (Id. at 8).

         Plaintiff alleges his First Amendment rights were violated when he was wrongfully arrested for posting "terroristic threats" on the internet. (Id. at 8). Plaintiff alleges that his post is protected by the First Amendment. (Id. at 9). Plaintiff further alleges that Taylor used the content displayed on Plaintiff's social media account to "maliciously and unjustifiably compel a judge/magistrate to believe that [Plaintiff] was unlawfully in possession of various firearms, suppressors, swords, and deadly weapons." (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that Taylor laughed at him when Plaintiff complained about Martin's conduct even though Plaintiff had clearly visible ligature marks on his wrist several hours after the handcuffs were removed. (Id. at 10-11).

         Plaintiff alleges his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when officers involved in the raid and search of his residence "chose to disregard [Plaintiff's] rights to an unreasonable search and seizure (sic) and relied on 'general warrants' which were overly broad in scope and unjustly used to 'blanket' [Plaintiff's] entire digital universe." (Id. at 11). Plaintiff alleges the officers searched a locked gun safe that was not included on any of the search warrants. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges the officers performed "overly-invasive searches of all [his] computers, cellular phones, and media storage devices." (Id.). He alleges the investigating officers lacked the necessary probable cause required to obtain a valid search warrant. (Id. at 12). Plaintiff alleges that Taylor "chose to intentionally disillusion a judge/magistrate with misleading information he swore to, and was provided a 'general warrant' which was then used without limitation." (/d. at13).

         Defendants move to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) on the grounds that: (1) the Complaint is legally defective as to Sapp, Sawyer, and Gatti for lack of personal involvement; (2) the wrongful arrest claim is conclusory, is barred by Heck v. Humphrey, and is barred because Plaintiff was arrested pursuant to a valid arrest warrant; (3) the search warrant at issue was not a general warrant and the Fourth Amendment claim fails as a matter of law; (4) to the extent Plaintiff raises an excessive force claim, the allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; and (5) Defendants have qualified immunity.[2] (D.I. 12). Plaintiff opposes the motion to dismiss and moves to amend. (D.I. 13).

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         In reviewing a motion filed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to plaintiff. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). 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, 551 U.S. at 94. A court may consider the pleadings, public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint, and documents incorporated into the complaint by reference. Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion maybe granted only if, accepting the well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and viewing them in the light most favorable to the complainant, a court concludes that those allegations "could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief." BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007).

         "Though 'detailed factual allegations' are not required, a complaint must do more than simply provide 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.'" Davis v. Abington Mem'l Hosp., 765 F.3d 236, 241 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). I am "not required to credit bald assertions or legal conclusions improperly alleged in the complaint." In re Rockefeller Ctr. Props., Inc. Sec. Litig., 311 F.3d 198, 216 (3d Cir. 2002). A complaint may not be dismissed, however, "for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted." Johnson v. City of Shelby, 135 S.Ct. 346, 346 (2014).

         A complainant must plead facts sufficient to show that a claim has "substantive plausibility." Id. at 347. That plausibility must be found on the face of the complaint. Ashcroft v. Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "A claim has facial plausibility when the [complainant] pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the [accused] is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a "context-specific ...


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