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Petkovich v. Reynolds

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

April 23, 2015

KARL PETKOVICH, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMIE REYNOLDS, in his individual capacity, and GARY HICKS, in his individual capacity, [1] Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

W. HAROLD ALBRITTON, Senior District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This cause is before the court on the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 30) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).[2] Also before the court are the Plaintiff's Response (Doc. # 34) and the Defendants' Reply thereto (Doc. # 35). The court previously dismissed all claims against the City of Montgomery on January 21, 2015 (Doc. # 23). This Motion by the remaining individual Defendants followed on February 24, 2015. For the reasons to be discussed below, the Defendants' Motion is due to be GRANTED.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The court accepts the plaintiff's factual allegations as true, Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984), and construes the complaint in the plaintiff's favor, Duke v. Cleland, 5 F.3d 1399, 1402 (11th Cir. 1993). In analyzing the sufficiency of pleading, the court is guided by a two-prong approach: one, the court is not bound to accept conclusory statements of the elements of a cause of action and, two, where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to entitlement to relief. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). "[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint need not contain "detailed factual allegations, " but instead the complaint must contain "only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. The factual allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 555.

III. FACTS

The Plaintiff alleges the following facts, as summarized by the court in a previous order:

Until the events underlying this litigation occurred, Plaintiff was employed as a City of Montgomery police officer. On August 6, 2002, he was asked to come to the Montgomery Police Department and surrender his badge and weapon. Plaintiff was interviewed, then transported to his home. His home was searched pursuant to a search warrant and his personal computer was seized. The investigatory interview, warrant, and search were based on suspicions that Plaintiff had "sent and/or received salacious images to and/or from a female under the age of eighteen years." (Doc. # 1 at 3 ¶ 10.) Later in the same month, Defendants Reynolds and Hicks (also police officers) and Lt. John McCall came to Plaintiff's home, entered without a warrant, and seized Plaintiff's and his wife's firearms from a locked safe. In September, police department employees released statements about the allegations to the media despite Plaintiff's petition to the District Court to prevent false information from being released. After a hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court, Plaintiff was terminated. The Mayor of Montgomery made statements to the public to the effect that Plaintiff was terminated because child pornography was found on Plaintiff's personal computer.
Plaintiff was indicted on two misdemeanor counts, Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor and Distributing Materials Harmful to Minors, on June 12, 2003. The completion of his criminal case, by agreement with the Montgomery County District Attorney, was delayed while Plaintiff deployed to Iraq on active military duty. Plaintiff returned in February 2005, and the following month the Distributing Materials Harmful to Minors charge was nolle prossed, on March 23, 2005. Two days later, Plaintiff pled guilty, best interest plea with no admission of guilt, to the Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor Charge. He pled guilty because he was scheduled to relocate for a United States Army position and could not do so while the case was pending.
The underlying evidence in the criminal prosecution consisted of images found on Plaintiff's computer, but a witness for the State "testified that the metadata contained in the image indicated that the image was created or modified on August 21, 2002-fifteen days after the disc had been confiscated by the City." (Doc. # 1 at 4 ¶ 20.) The City and its agents were aware that evidence had been fabricated and continued with the prosecution nonetheless.
After the Plaintiff petitioned for post-conviction relief, the trial court found that Plaintiff had been indicted after the applicable statute of limitations had run, meaning that the court had no jurisdiction to accept Plaintiff's plea. After the State appealed, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision.

(Doc. # 23 at 2-4.)

IV. DISCUSSION

The Plaintiff's original Complaint contained three Counts. The court allowed the Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint in response to a Motion to Dismiss filed by the City. The Amended Complaint, to which the instant Motion to Dismiss is addressed, deleted a claim for unreasonable seizure of property which had been included in one of those Counts.

At this stage of the case, two of the Plaintiff's original three claims remain. The first, Count I, is styled "Unreasonable Seizure of Plaintiff's Person in Violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution" and is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. # 18-1 at 2.) Count II was a claim filed only against the City of Montgomery, and has been dismissed. The second remaining claim, Count III, is labeled as a state law ...


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