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Williams v. Brown

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

March 30, 2015

KENYEN R. BROWN, et al., Defendants.


BERT W. MILLING, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

This action is before the Court on Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 16), Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Memorandum in Support (Doc. 20), Plaintiff's Response in Opposition thereto (Doc. 25), and Defendants' Reply to Plaintiff's Response. (Doc. 26). Upon careful consideration and for the reasons set forth herein, it is recommended that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss be granted, and Plaintiff's Amended Complaint be dismissed with prejudice.

I. Facts and Proceedings

The instant action stems from an action for forfeiture in rem, which Plaintiff is presently contesting under the Civil Rights Action codified in 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The underlying forfeiture action was based on an extensive undercover investigation and successful criminal prosecution of illegal drug (crack cocaine) activity on the premises of 801 East Franklin Avenue, Foley, Alabama, which belonged to Plaintiff at that time. On March 12, 2012, the United States by and through Kenyen R. Brown, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, and Alex F. Lankford, IV, Assistant United States Attorney, filed a complaint for forfeiture in rem against Plaintiff's property in United States v. One Parcel of Real Property and All Improvements Thereon Located at 801 East Franklin Ave., Foley, Ala., C.A. No. 13-117-CG-B. It was alleged that the subject real property was being used to commit or to facilitate the commission of a violation of the Controlled Substances Act, which is punishable by more than one year's imprisonment. (Doc. 20-1 at 1).[1] According to records in the Office of the Judge of Probate, Baldwin County, Alabama, Plaintiff Beverly Heard, also known as Beverly Williams, held title to the defendant property. (Id. at 2).

The crack dealers who regularly operated from a shed on the property were Clifton Heard, Sr. (Plaintiff's ex-husband), and Plaintiff's two sons, Clifton Fidele Heard, and Jesse Heard. (Id. at 3, 5). Each dealer was arrested and plead guilty to conspiring with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine, an offense punishable with a term of imprisonment or more than one year, namely, not less than 5 nor more than 40 years. (Doc. 20-1 at 9).

Other dealers selling drugs on the property were also arrested, namely, Richard Holmes, who told investigators that Plaintiff Beverly Williams, Jesse Heard's mother, knew about the drug transactions at 801 East Franklin. (Id. at 5). Clifton Fidele Heard claimed that he and his brother, Jesse, never sold drugs in front of his mother or sister, and Clifton Fidele Heard further advised that his mother moved from 801 East Franklin Avenue due to an argument with Jesse Heard over his illicit drug activity. (Id. at 6). Jesse Heard denied ever selling drugs in front of his mother, but did admit that his sister knew of the drug sales and she conspired with him to conceal his drug proceeds by allowing vehicles bought and owned by Jesse to be registered in her name. (Id. at 9).

Once the prosecution for the drug offenses were concluded, counsel for the United States filed, served and posted according to statute[2] its Verified Complaint for Forfeiture In Rem and subsequently filed its Acknowledgement of Service on March 15, 2013. (Doc. 20-2 at 1). Despite receiving adequate notice, Plaintiff Beverly Heard Williams failed to file a claim and the required responsive pleadings, thereby, forfeiting her opportunity to assert an innocent owner defense.[3] (Doc. 20-3 at 3). As a result, this Court entered an order resolving all matters and issues joined in that action, and for the premises to be forfeited by Plaintiff Beverly Heard Williams to the United States according to law pursuant to Title 21, U.S.C. § 881(a)(7) and Title 18, U.S.C. § 985(c)(1)(A). (Id. at 6).

On June 24, 2014, Plaintiff Beverly Heard Williams filed the present § 1983 Civil Rights Act action against Defendants United States Attorney Kenyen R. Brown and Assistant United States Attorney, Alex F. Lankford. (Doc. 1). After requesting leave, Plaintiff filed her Amended Complaint, (Doc. 16), to which Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 20). Plaintiff filed her Response in Opposition thereto, and Defendants filed their Reply. (Docs. 25, 26). Being fully briefed, the Motion is ripe for consideration. The facts of the present case are as follows.

Plaintiff's sixty-eight page Amended Complaint states, in sum, that Defendants violated her civil rights when they "abuse[d] their power of authority by executing the claim of forfeiture of real property" against her home. (Doc. 16 at 2). She contends she has "never been implicated in any illegal activities nor narcotic sales or distribution, " and there are no records that she was ever charged or convicted of such. (Id. ). Plaintiff states there is no proof that she had the property as "straw holder" for her sons to sell and/or distribute narcotics. (Id. ). Plaintiff further contends that Defendants, "through false representation of facts and evidence" caused this action, which substantially violated her civil and constitutional rights as an American citizen, when they asserted that Plaintiff violated the controlled substance act by knowing about and allowing the ongoing drug activity to occur. (Id. ). In support, she states she was "never investigated for [drug activity], no criminal complaint was ever filed against [her], the defendants [sic] own sworn account of the information demonstrates that no narcotics were sold from the house itself but from the shed and yard." (Id. ).

For part of her Amended Complaint, Plaintiff utilized a form complaint; attached to the form, though, is a repetitive and lengthy rendition of her allegations already set out in the form. According to the form, Count I of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is titled, "Illegal Seizure of Home and Property that Belongs to Plaintiff." She alleges that "Mr. Alex Lankford and Mr. Kenyen Brown wrongfully stated that my home was simply a [sic] holding title as a straw' for my sons. And that my sons were the beneficial owners of my home and property which was misreprentation [sic] of the actual facts." (Doc. 16 at 6).

Count II is titled, "Pain and Suffering Caused by Unlawful Seizure of My Home and Property, " and states that "Mr. Lankford and Mr. Kenyen Brown knowingly caused me undue hardship and pain when they made me homeless along with my grandchildren. Mr. Lankford would not allow me to get the necessary items out of my home such as medicine, the baby breathing machine, the children [sic] medicine, and no clothing. Count III is titled, "Destruction of non replaceable personal property of sentimental value. My deceased children [sic] photos[.]" (Id. ). "Mr. Lankford and Mr. Brown did systematically caused [sic] the destruction and displacement of the family. Many valuable items of which can never be replaced." (Id. at 6-7). For her injuries, Plaintiff states that she has "been made homeless and displaced resulting from the actions of the defendants. The irreversible damage and disfunction [sic] placed upon my family when defendants maliciously disregarded my civil and criminal constitutional rights as an American citizen." (Id. at 7).

For relief, Plaintiff requests "complete compensation for lost [sic] of home and property through illegal seizure. Financial compensation for the lost [sic] of home, property and damages." (Id. ). In a separate portion of her Amended Complaint, Plaintiff requests seven remedies: "1) declaratory judgment that the defendants [sic] solicitation policy and associated practices facially and as applied violated the plaintiff [sic] rights under the 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments, 2) a declaratory judgment that defendants solicitation of the plaintiff's sons, daughter and associated deprivement [sic] of property and civil liberty, facially and as applied violated plaintiff [sic] 5th, 6th, 8th, and 14th amendment [sic] of the constitutional [sic] of the United States, 3) a declaratory judgment that the defendants' abridgement of plaintiff [sic] cemetery [sic] of innocence violated plaintiff [sic] rights under the 5th 6th, 8th and 14th amendments of the constitutional [sic] of the United States. 4) a preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants, their agency, officials and any other person acting in [sic] their behalf from enforcing solicitation and associated practices which are challenged in this complaint, 5) compensatory and nominal damages for the violations of plaintiff [sic] 5th, 6th, 8th, and 14th amendments rights under the constitutional [sic] of the United States, 6) Plaintiff [sic] reasonable attorney [sic] fees, any cost, and other cost and disbursements in this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 [sic], 1985 [sic] Civil Rights, 7) all other further release to which plaintiff may be entitled." (Id. at 14).

Attached to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint are three affidavits. First is Plaintiff's own affidavit, which states in pertinent part that Plaintiff was "never in no way [sic] involved directly or indirectly in illegal drug activities at [her] home, ... mortgage payments were being made by Katie Fairley because I had borrow [sic] money on my home from the equity of my home to help her to improve her business..." and when Fairley got in a bind paying on the mortgage, Plaintiff's uncle stepped in and paid it based on prior debt he owed to Plaintiff; that "furniture, appliance and other household items were purchased by money [Plaintiff] received from [her] deceased husband [sic] insurance policy settlement and funds earned from years of employment, ... [and] there were many wall paintings and other things in [her] home that were ill-replaceable...." (Id. at 68).

The second affidavit by Katie Fairley states that she received a loan from Plaintiff through her line of equity and that Fairley was making the monthly mortgage payments until May or June of 2013, when Plaintiff's uncle began making them instead. (Id. at 17). The last affidavit is from Andrew Thomas, Plaintiff's uncle, and he states that he has known Plaintiff his entire life, that she is a model citizen trying to make an earnest living. (Id. at 18). ...

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