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Torres v. Saba

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 7, 2017

MARIO TORRES, Plaintiff,
NATALIE SABA, et al., Defendants.


          SUSAN ILLSTON United States District Judge.

         Mario Torres, an inmate at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His complaint and several amendments thereto are now before the court for review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. His second motion for appointment of counsel also is before the court for review. This order requires Torres to file a third amended complaint and denies his motion for counsel.


         A. Procedural Background

         In this action, Torres asserts claims against numerous defendants for alleged misdeeds in connection with criminal cases filed against him. The court required Torres to amend his complaint because he did not provide sufficient information about the criminal cases against him.

The complaint covers such a wide variety of events, many of which are incompletely described, that the court has determined that the best course is to have Torres file an amendment to his complaint to address several basic problems with the complaint. Once the court receives that information, it can better determine whether an amended complaint will be necessary and whether any claims may be dismissed without further leave to amend. The areas Torres will be required to address in his amendment include a potential Heck bar to some or all claims, the immunities available to some defendants, and the lack of state action by some defendants.

Docket No. 4 at 4.

         Torres then filed multiple amendments to the complaint. As of now, Torres' pleading consists of 227 pages of allegations plus 398 pages of exhibits, all of which Torres wants to have read together. See Docket No. 1 (a 146-page complaint with 125 pages of exhibits); Docket No. 6 (a 25-page “first amended complaint to be incorporated to original complaint amendment”); Docket No. 7 (a 3-page “addendum to plaintiff's first amended complaint”); Docket No. 8 (a 4-page “addendum to plaintiff's first amended complaint”); and Docket No. 11 (a 44-page “second amendment to complaint to accompany all previous filings” with 273 pages of exhibits). The exhibits include two 133-page almost-identical affidavits from Torres that describe in diary fashion the course of events in Torres' criminal cases. The original complaint names 35 defendants and the second amendment to the complaint names 24 defendants, with both promising to add more defendants when their names are learned.

         B. The Events and Omissions Giving Rise To The Action

         Several criminal charges were filed against Torres for events on different days: domestic violence against his girlfriend, an assault on Rick Hendricks on November 28, 2012, resisting arrest on July 4, 2012, and possession of a controlled substance. The charges were not all prosecuted at the same time.

         Following a trial in Contra Costa County Superior Court, Torres was convicted and received a six-year prison sentence for assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury and battery on Rick Hendricks. See Docket No. 1-4 (People v. Torres, Cal.Ct.App. Case No. A139734, 12/17/14 opinion at 1).

         Thereafter, Torres was also prosecuted in a separate case, apparently for domestic violence against his girlfriend and/or for resisting arrest. He filed many Marsden motions and represented himself in some of the proceedings. He alleges that judges, the prosecutor, public defenders, court reporters, and probation officers violated his rights during these proceedings.

         On December 17, 2014, Torres' conviction for the assault and battery on Rick Hendricks was overturned on appeal, and the case was remanded “for retrial or other proceedings consistent with this opinion.” Torres, slip opinion at 14. The conviction was reversed because of the cumulative effect of the erroneous admission of hearsay evidence relating to an uncharged assault by Torres upon his girlfriend, failure to give a limiting instruction, and allowance of a cross-examination of the defendant that went far beyond impeachment. Id. at 13. After the reversal, the prosecution decided to retry Torres for the assault on Rick Hendricks.

         After some pretrial proceedings in one or both of the cases, Torres agreed to a plea bargain and entered a guilty plea covering several cases pending against him. See Docket No. 1-2 at 45-48; Docket No. 1-3 at 24-27. The plea agreement apparently covered three cases, and resulted in convictions for inflicting corporal injury on a cohabitant (two counts) and resisting an executive officer (in Case No. 05-131416-0); and convictions for battery causing great bodily injury and assault by force likely to cause great bodily injury (in Case No. 05-131090-3). The abstracts of judgment filed on February 13, 2015 indicate that he received sentences totaling two years, eight months in Case No. 05-131416-0, and six years in Case No. 05-131090-3. There does not appear to be an abstract of judgment for the third case (i.e., Case No. 1-163572-1) supposedly covered by the plea agreement. See Docket No. 11-2 (Exhibit B to second amendment to complaint).

         The complaint alleges numerous problems in Torres' first trial for the assault on Rick Hendricks, including: ineffective assistance of his public defenders; judicial misconduct; prosecutorial misdeeds; alteration or fabrication of the reporters' transcripts of several proceedings[1]; improper denial of Torres' many Marsden motions; and other incorrect judicial rulings in pretrial proceedings and at the trial. The appellate record allegedly is “incorrect” and “fraudulent.” Docket No. 1-1 at 3 (Complaint at 12). Torres also alleges repeatedly that he was denied “discovery” in the criminal case, although the context of those allegations seems to suggest that he means that his public defender would not deliver certain documents to him (and the superior court judges would not order the public defender to do so), rather than that the prosecution would not turn over documents to the defense. See, e.g., Docket No. 1-1 at 10 (Complaint at 19).

         The complaint also alleges that, on July 4, 2012, two Concord police officers beat Torres at his home and later at the police station. Docket No. 1-1 at 5. “[F]raudulent police reports were made” and criminal charges were filed. Id. Public defenders, the prosecutor, judges, the internal affairs office of the police department, and courtroom staff “have done everything in their power to cover this matter up.” Id.

         Torres filed a Government Tort Claim and it was rejected as untimely filed. Docket No. 1-1 at 3. The rejection letter dated August 10, 2016, stated that the “cause of action accrued 12/17/2014, ” and the claim was untimely because it was presented more than one year beyond the date the cause of action accrued. Docket No. 1-4 at 40.


         A. Review of The Complaint, As Amended

         A federal court must engage in a preliminary screening of any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review the court must identify any cognizable claims, and dismiss any claims which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See Id. at ยง 1915A(b)(1), ...

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