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Vasser v. Town of Leesburg

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

November 14, 2019

BILLY JOE VASSER, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TOWN OF LEESBURG, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KARON OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This Section 1983, conspiracy, and malicious prosecution matter comes before the court on three motions to dismiss. (Docs. 39, 41, and 43).

         Plaintiffs Billy Joe Vasser and Vicki Vasser allege that law enforcement officers and several individuals conspired to falsely prosecute Mr. Vasser for criminal coercion. Three of the Defendants alleged to be a part of the conspiracy-the deputy sheriff who investigated the crime that Mr. Vasser was accused of coercing, Josh Summerford; the victim of the crime, Jeannie Nichols; and her daughter, Marcie Foster-have moved to dismiss some of Plaintiffs' claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the following reasons, the court will grant Mr. Summerford's motion to dismiss and deny in part and grant in part Ms. Nichols's and Ms. Foster's motions to dismiss.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion to dismiss challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a defendant can move to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” The complaint will survive the motion to dismiss if it alleges “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). For a complaint to be “plausible on its face, ” it must contain enough “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). And the court accepts as true the factual allegations in the complaint. Id.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs make the following factual allegations in their amended complaint that the court accepts as true for purposes of Defendants' motions to dismiss. (See Doc. 32).

         Defendant Kaleb Howard Hamilton secretly filmed Defendant Jeannie Nichols changing clothes in private and posted the videos on a pornography website. The Chief of Police of the Town of Leesburg, Alabama, Defendant Brian Gilliland, and Cherokee County deputy sheriff Josh Summerford investigated the crime. Mr. Hamilton admitted to law enforcement that he recorded Ms. Nichols; then Chief Gilliland, Mr. Summerford, Ms. Nichols, and her daughter, Defendant Marcie Foster, directed Mr. Hamilton to falsely accuse Plaintiff Billy Joe Vasser of coercing Mr. Hamilton to record Ms. Nichols. At the direction of the other Defendants, Mr. Hamilton falsely stated that Mr. Vasser threatened to post a sexually explicit video of Mr. Hamilton online if he did not record Ms. Nichols.

         Based on Mr. Hamilton's false statement, the Cherokee County magistrate issued a warrant for Mr. Vasser's arrest on the charge of criminal coercion. Law enforcement arrested Mr. Vasser on December 6, 2016.

         The Cherokee County District Court scheduled a bench trial for the criminal coercion charge for January 23, 2017. Mr. Vasser made discovery requests to the district attorney prosecuting his case, but the district attorney responded that he had no discovery materials. The district attorney moved to dismiss the criminal coercion case on January 13, 2017 and the judge dismissed the case on January 17, 2017.

         From these factual allegations, Plaintiffs bring six Section 1983 claims and three state law tort claims in their amended complaint:

• Count One: Section 1983 claim for “Policymaker Liability - Deliberate Indifference” against Chief Gilliland;
• Count Two: Section 1983 claim for unlawful arrest against Chief Gilliland and Mr. Summerford;
• Count Three: Section 1983 claim for “Failing to Prevent Unlawful Arrest - Deliberate Indifference” against ...

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