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Coleman v. Hammad

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

July 23, 2013

Douglas Hiram Coleman, Plaintiff,
v.
Randy Khalil Hammad et al, Tessa Huber, Columbia Heights Police Officer, individually and in her official capacity, Defendants.

Douglas Hiram Coleman, pro se.

Ryan M. Zipf, Esq., League of Minnesota Cities, for Defendant Huber.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

LEO I. BRISBOIS, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge on Defendant Huber's motion to dismiss [Doc. No. 16]. The case has been referred to this Court for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rule 72.1. For the reasons discussed below, the Court recommends that Defendant Huber's motion to dismiss be granted; and the claims against Huber be dismissed without prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

This case arises out of an incident in a tobacco shop that resulted in Plaintiff's arrest for felony terroristic threat, and his subsequent guilty plea to a lesser charge of gross misdemeanor terroristic threat. (Am. Compl.) [Doc. No. 6.] According to Plaintiff, on March 6, 2012, the police were called when he entered a tobacco shop for the second time that day. (Id. ¶ 7(b)). The owner of the store, Defendant Hammad, told the police that Plaintiff threatened him with a knife. (Id. ¶ 7(e)). Columbia Heights Police Officer Tessa Huber investigated the report and signed a complaint against Plaintiff but she failed to take into evidence the March 6, 2012 surveillance video from the store. (Id.).

Plaintiff alleges Defendant Huber conspired with Hammad to fabricate a crime and violate Plaintiff's civil rights. (Id.).[1] Plaintiff asserts Defendant Huber falsely charged him with a felony terroristic threat, because she watched the surveillance video and did not see Plaintiff holding a nine-inch knife, as Hammad reported. (Id.) Plaintiff was held in Anoka County jail pending the charge against him, causing him to be evicted from his apartment and becoming homeless upon his release. (Id.)

The Anoka County Attorney dropped the felony charge to a gross misdemeanor when they could not produce the surveillance video. (Id. ¶ 7(f)). Plaintiff pled guilty "under duress" he asserts, because he could not secure bond and was promised release that day, April 25, 2012, for his guilty plea. (Id.). His public defender did not respond to his requests to make a timely motion to withdraw his plea, and the trial court denied his pro se petition. (Id.) For relief, Plaintiff is seeking money damages and an order stopping racial profiling and discrimination against people of color by the Columbia Heights Police Department. (Am. Compl. at 4.)

Defendant Huber filed the present motion to dismiss, arguing that Plaintiff's civil rights claim against her is barred by Heck v. Humphrey , 512 U.S. 477 (1994) because Plaintiff disputes the validity of a conviction that has not been reversed, expunged or declared invalid. (Def. Tessa Huber's Mem. of Law in Supp. of her Mot. to Dismiss at 4-5) [Doc. No. 20]. Plaintiff responded that Huber's motion should not be granted because she assisted Defendant Hammad[2] in destroying the video evidence that would exonerate him. (Opp. to Def's Mot. to Dismiss) [Doc. No. 34]. On January 18, 2013, Defendant Huber replied that Plaintiff's claims against her are barred by Heck because Plaintiff's conviction still has not been reversed, expunged or declared invalid. (Defendant Tessa Huber's Reply Mem. of Law in Supp. of her Mot. to Dismiss at 2-3) [Doc. No. 42].

II. DISCUSSION

A complaint survives a motion to dismiss if it contains sufficient facts, accepted as true, to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible when the facts alleged create a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Id . (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556.)

In Heck, the Supreme Court held,

in order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, ...

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