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Bradley v. Franklin

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division

March 11, 2019

LEON W. BRADLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
ANA FRANKLIN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendant Ana Franklin formerly served as the sheriff of Morgan County, Alabama. Plaintiff Leon W. Bradley worked as the warden of the Morgan County jail. Mr. Bradley alleges that Sheriff Franklin and three other Morgan County Sheriffs Office employees-Robert Wilson, Blake Robinson, and Justin Powell-violated his constitutional rights. The defendants ask the Court to dismiss Mr. Bradley's fourteen claims against them. (Docs. 8, 9).[1] For the reasons stated below, the Court denies the defendants' motions.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Rule 12(b)(6) enables a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Pursuant to Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Generally, to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss and meet the requirement of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), “a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, but the allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Speaker v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 623 F.3d 1371, 1380 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007)). “Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a district court must view the allegations in a complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Sun Life Assurance Co. v. Imperial Premium Fin., LLC, 904 F.3d 1197, 1207 (11th Cir. 2018). A district court must accept well-pleaded facts as true. Little v. CRSA, 744 Fed.Appx. 679, 681 (11th Cir. 2018). Consistent with this standard, the Court describes the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to Mr. Bradley.

         II. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

         In 2003, Mr. Bradley became the warden of the Morgan County jail. (Doc. 1, p. 3, ¶ 9). At the time, Ana Franklin was the Sheriff of Morgan County, and Robert Wilson, Blake Robinson, and Justin Powell were employees of the Morgan County Sheriff's Office. (Doc. 1, pp. 3-4, ¶¶ 12-14).[2] Based on his observations as warden, Mr. Bradley believed that Sheriff Franklin used inmate “trustee” labor improperly, engaged in nepotism and racial discrimination in hiring practices, mistreated inmates, violated ethical obligations, and misappropriated jail food money. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5, ¶ 19).

         Mr. Bradley alleges that he “had personal knowledge that [Sheriff] Franklin invested Morgan County jail food funds, and other MCSO funds, into private businesses for personal gain.” (Doc. 1, p. 5, ¶ 23). Mr. Bradley asserts that each defendant benefitted from investments in and involvement with Priceville Partners, a used-car dealership, and the defendants worked together to conceal these investments from the public. (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 15, ¶¶ 32, 82, 90). Mr. Bradley asserts that the defendants received bribes, kickbacks, and other personal benefits from Priceville Partners. (Doc. 1, p. 20, ¶ 91(f)).

         Mr. Bradley began communicating with Glenda Lockhart about his concerns about the defendants. (Doc. 1, p. 5, ¶ 25). Ms. Lockhart regularly wrote about Sheriff Franklin and the Sheriffs Office's involvement in purported public corruption on her online blog, the “Morgan County Whistleblower.” (Doc. 1, p. 6, ¶¶ 26, 32).[3] Ms. Lockhart began to publicize and investigate Mr. Bradley's allegations. (Doc. 1, p. 8, ¶ 36).

         After the Whistleblower Blog began exposing Sheriff Franklin and the defendants' alleged corruption, Sheriff Franklin told Mr. Wilson, Mr. Robinson, and Mr. Powell that she wanted to “shut down the Whistleblower Blog and punish everyone involved, ” including Mr. Bradley. (Doc. 1, p. 8, ¶ 38). The defendants worked together to identify and terminate every Morgan County Sheriffs Office employee who cooperated with Ms. Lockhart. (Doc. 1, p. 21, ¶ 95).

         Based on a conversation he had with Daniel Lockhart, Ms. Lockhart's grandson, Mr. Robinson suspected that Mr. Bradley provided information to the Whistleblower Blog. (Doc. 1, p. 8, ¶ 41). Mr. Robinson told Sheriff Franklin, Mr. Wilson, and Mr. Powell of his suspicion. (Doc. 1, p. 9, ¶ 42). The defendants then coerced Daniel Lockhart into cooperating in their search for the Whistleblower Blog informants with cash payments and threats of criminal prosecution. (Doc. 1, p. 9, ¶¶ 43-46).

         The defendants instructed Daniel Lockhart to obtain information related to the blog. (Doc. 1, p. 10, ¶ 48). Daniel Lockhart installed a universal serial bus drive containing “Ardmax Keylogger 4.6” software onto Ms. Lockhart's computer. (Doc. 1, p. 10, ¶ 49). The defendants told Daniel Lockhart that the purpose of accessing Ms. Lockhart's computer system was to terminate any Morgan County employee cooperating with Ms. Lockhart. (Doc. 1, p. 22, ¶ 95(f)). Using information obtained through the Keylogger software and Daniel Lockhart, the defendants requested search warrants targeting Mr. Bradley and Ms. Lockhart. (Doc. 1, p. 10, ¶ 52).

         Relying on false information that the defendants provided to him, Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson signed a search warrant for Mr. Bradley's residence. (Doc. 1, p. 10, ¶¶ 53, 57). The Morgan County Sheriff's Office Drug Task Force executed the search warrant and raided Mr. Bradley's residence. (Doc. 1, p. 11, ¶ 54). The search exceeded the scope of the search warrant. (Doc. 1, p. 11, ¶ 57). Following the search, Sheriff Franklin and “others” interrogated Mr. Bradley for several hours. (Doc. 1, p. 11, ¶ 60). The defendants used the information and data to initiate judicial proceedings against Mr. Bradley. (Doc. 1, p. 23, ¶ 95(j)). Eleven months after the search of Mr. Bradley's residence, he was charged with misdemeanor tampering with governmental records. (Doc. 1, p. 12, ¶ 62).[4] In October 2016, Sheriff Franklin terminated Mr. Bradley. (Doc. 1, p. 12, ¶ 67).[5]

         III.ANALYSIS

         Mr. Bradley asserts the following claims against the defendants: (1) § 1983 violation of First Amendment rights, (2) § 1983 violation of Fourth Amendment rights due to unreasonable search and entry, (3) § 1983 violation of Fourth Amendment rights due to unreasonable seizure and false arrest, (4) § 1983 violation of Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights due to malicious prosecution, (5) § 1983 violation of Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, (6) § 1983 conspiracy to deprive constitutional rights, (7) acquisition and maintenance of an interest in and control of an enterprise engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961(g), 1962(b), (8) conduct and participation in a RICO enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961(5), 1962(c), (9) conspiracy to engage in a pattern of racketeering activity under 18 U.S.C. § 1961(5), 1962(d), (10) violation of Electronic Communications Privacy Act, (11) state law invasion of privacy, (12) state law malicious prosecution, (13) state law conspiracy, and (14) conspiracy to violate ...


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