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Pleasant v. Turner

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 13, 2015



GARY S. AUSTIN, Magistrate Judge.


Plaintiff Terry Pleasant ("Plaintiff"), appearing pro se, filed a First Amended Complaint (the "FAC") on January 6, 2014, after his initial Complaint was dismissed with leave to amend. ECF No. 10 (the "First Screening Order"). The FAC alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 1985, and 18 U.S.C. § 241 against Michelle Turner, Dominic Lara, Ryan Rasmussen, Paul Lyon, and Matthew Serratto (collectively, the "Defendants").[1] Id. The Court has screened the Complaint and RECOMMENDS that the complaint be DISMISSED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND.


Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court must conduct a review of a complaint to determine whether it "state[s] a claim on which relief may be granted, " is "frivolous or malicious, " or "seek[s] monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." If the Court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim, it must be dismissed. Id. Leave to amend may be granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by amendment. Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995).

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). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice ." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 2017state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusion are not. Id. at 678.

In determining whether a complaint states an actionable claim, the Court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Trs. of Rex Hospital, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe pro se pleadings liberally in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000), and resolve all doubts in the Plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). Pleadings of pro se plaintiffs "must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (holding that pro se complaints should continue to be liberally construed after Iqbal ).


a. Procedural Posture

Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at the California State Prison in Corcoran. Plaintiff was prosecuted in Merced County Superior Court for: (1) sodomy by threat (California Penal Code § 286(c)(2)(A)); (2) threatening great bodily injury (California Penal Code § 422); (3) battery with serious bodily injury (California Penal Code §§ 243(d)); (4) assault by force likely to cause great bodily injury (California Penal Code § 245(a)(4)); and (5) false imprisonment (California Penal Code §§ 236, 237). Criminal Information, ECF No. 1, Exh. G. Plaintiff was eventually convicted of: (1) threatening great bodily injury; (2) battery with serious bodily injury; and (3) assault by force likely to cause great bodily injury. FAC ¶ 29. Plaintiff was found "not guilty" of the false imprisonment and sodomy by force charges.[2]

Plaintiff filed his original complaint on March 7, 2013. In that Complaint, he alleged a single claim of malicious prosecution against Michelle Turner, the victim in his criminal case, Ryan Rasmussen, the police officer who investigated his criminal case, and Matthew Serratto, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted his criminal case. The original Complaint was dismissed with leave to amend on October 28, 2013. ECF No. 10. The First Screening Order also contained detailed instructions on how Plaintiff could re-plead his claims as a § 1983 claim against the named Defendants.

Plaintiff has now filed the FAC and adjusts his allegations to fit more comfortably within the framework provided in the First Screening Order. He has also named two additional defendants: Dominic Lara, the victim's next-door neighbor, and Paul Lyon, the deputy public defender who represented Plaintiff in his criminal case.

b. Factual Allegations

The FAC is a lengthy recitation of facts designed to establish that the named defendants conspired to investigate, and later prosecute Plaintiff for criminal charges of which he was innocent. At some point during 2012 or 2013, Plaintiff alleges that he was living with Turner, the victim.[3] FAC ¶¶ 11, 18. In April 2012, Turner was injured and required medical treatment at a local hospital. Id. at ¶ 11. At the hospital, Turner told staff that she had fallen, injuring her knee. She received a number of stitches as a result. At some later date, while Plaintiff was sleeping, Turner went next door to Lara's house. Lara then called 911 to report "that Turner is [sic] being held hostage inside her resident [sic] but had managed to escape while Plaintiff was asleep."[4] Id. at ¶19. Plaintiff alleges that he "believes that the three of them had already previously conspired to have Plaintiff arrested, jailed and permanently removed from [Turner's] resident [sic]."[5] Id. at ¶ 18.

After Lara called 911, Rasmussen was contacted by a police dispatcher and arrived at Turner's residence, where he was greeted by Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 20. Plaintiff gave Rasmussen "a false name believing that he had a pending warrant for his arrest." Id. Rasmussen then spoke with Turner, who told him that Plaintiff had: (1) held her captive against her will for the past week; (2) "sodomized her for the purpose of teaching her a lesson"; (3) pushed her into a bed, injuring her knee; (4) injured her knee after it had been treated, reopening the stitches she had received; (5) thrown scalding water on her; and (6) told her that "he would beat her ass and break every bone in her body." Id. at 22. Turner declined Rasmussen's offers to meet with a victim's advocate from the Valley Crisis Center (a local domestic violence center).

Rasmussen took the Plaintiff into custody after determining that Plaintiff had provided a false name to him. After discussing Turner's allegations with Plaintiff, Plaintiff became agitated and Rasmussen placed him under arrest. After Plaintiff was booked into county jail, Rasmussen offered to connect Turner with a local Sexual Assault Response Team to undergo a medical exam. Turner declined the offer. Plaintiff concludes by stating that Rasmussen "acted malicious [sic] and with ill will" by arresting Plaintiff without probable cause because he arrested Plaintiff despite the facts that:

• Turner's story about her knee injury was inconsistent with what she had told earlier told hospital staff;
• Turner refused Rasmussen's offer to introduce her to an advocate from the Valley Crisis Center; • Turner declined Rasmussen's offer to undergo a SART exam;
• Turner is a drug user; and,
• Turner has a criminal history.

Shortly thereafter, Deputy District Attorney Serratto filed a criminal complaint against Plaintiff. Plaintiff claims that Serratto "fabricated evidence" by allowing Turner to testify against Plaintiff at trial, despite the fact that the aforementioned facts impinged on Turner's credibility. In addition, he cites a jailphone call (the transcript of which he attaches to the FAC) in which he asserts his innocence of the charged offenses, which he believes should have demonstrated to Serratto that Turner's allegations were false. Plaintiff then alleges that Serratto "knew from the outset that the felony charges were baseless and lack [sic] probable cause... he conspired with the defendants and directed a joint action against plaintiff for the purpose of obtaining a [sic] illegal conviction."[6] Id. at ¶ 51.

Deputy Public Defender Lyon was appointed to represent Plaintiff. In the course of the representation, Lyon attempted to negotiate a favorable plea bargain with Serratto. Serratto informed Lyon and Plaintiff that if Plaintiff did not plead guilty to the charges, he would be pursuing additional criminal charges against Plaintiff. He also informed them that he was confident that Turner would testify against Plaintiff and that if Plaintiff continued to "push this case to a jury trial... he will lose." Id. ...

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