Toney v. Featherson et al
ORDER : claims against defendants Charles Featherson, Daniel Stewart, Freddie Parks and Andrew Watson, are dismissed without prejudice; claims against Anthony Biddle are dismissed with prejudice. Signed by Honorable Susan O. Hickey on March 9, 2018. (cnn)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
RICKY EUGENE TONEY
Civil No. 4:18-cv-04016
CHARLES FEATHERSON, Officer
Hope Police Department; ANTHONY
BIDDLE, Attorney Public Defender’s
Office; DANIEL STEWART, Sergeant
Hope Police Department; ANDREW
WATSON, Detective Hope Police
Department; and FREDDIE PARKS,
Hope Police Department
This is a civil rights action filed by Plaintiff pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff
proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis. The case is before the Court for preservice screening under
the provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the
Court has the obligation to screen any complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a
governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
Plaintiff filed his Complaint on January 31, 2018. (ECF No. 1). On February 15, 2018,
Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint but failed to include two pages of the document. (ECF No.
7). Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint on February 26, 2018. (ECF No. 11). Plaintiff
alleges that Defendants Charles Featherson, Daniel Stewart, Freddie Parks and Andrew Watson
unlawfully arrested him on January 2, 2015. Plaintiff claims these Defendants conspired against
him, tampered with evidence and planted drugs in his vehicle. (ECF No. 11, p. 4).
Plaintiff has also named his public defender, Anthony Biddle, as a Defendant. With regard
to Defendant Biddle, Plaintiff claims:
Attorney Biddle withheld the Motion of discovery until about five minutes before
I stood before the judge. He never reviewed the evidence only stated that they were
offering five years probation. Plea under duress I would have never plead guilty if
I had saw there evidence. Harm caused felony conviction; currently serving
probation; inadequate counsil...Attorney Biddle stated to the judge that I had drugs
in my pocket when I accepted the plea for probation. Harm caused – Admission of
false testimony Defamation…
(ECF No. 11, pp. 5-6).
Plaintiff’s Complaint does not indicate whether he is suing Defendants in their individual
or official capacities. Plaintiff alleges that he is entitled to compensatory and punitive damages.
(ECF No. 11, p. 7).
II. APPLICABLE LAW
Under the PLRA, the Court is obligated to screen the case prior to service of process being
issued. The Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion of it, if it contains claims that: (1) are
frivolous, malicious, or fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or, (2) seeks
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
A claim is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact.” Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A claim fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it
does not allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “In evaluating whether a pro se plaintiff has asserted
sufficient facts to state a claim, we hold ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded . . . to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.’” Jackson v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537,
541 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)). However, even a pro
se Plaintiff must allege specific facts sufficient to support a claim. Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d
1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985).
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Featherson, Stewart, Parks and Watson tampered with
evidence and unlawfully arrested him in 2015, and that he pleaded guilty to charges arising from
that arrest “under duress.” (ECF No. 11, p. 5). The United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Heck
v. Humphrey bars Plaintiff’s Section 1983 lawsuit. 512 U.S. 477 (1994). The Heck court held:
[I]n order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or
imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would
render a conviction or sentence invalid a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the
conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive
order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination,
or called into question by a federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, 28
U.S.C. § 2254.
Id. at 486-87. The Heck bar has been applied to claims for injunctive or declaratory relief and
damages. See Smith v. Norris, 40 Fed. App’x 305 (8th Cir. 2002); Rosendahl v. Norman, 242 F.3d
376 (8th Cir. 2000).
As previously stated, Plaintiff pleaded guilty in 2015 and is now challenging the validity
of his conviction in this § 1983 action. A ruling in Plaintiff’s favor relating to his claims of
tampering with evidence and false arrest would potentially render his conviction invalid. Plaintiff
has not demonstrated that his conviction has been reversed, expunged or declared invalid by a state
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s allegations fail to state cognizable § 1983 claims against
Defendants Featherson, Stewart, Parks and Watson.
In addition, Plaintiff has failed to state a cognizable claim against his public defender,
Defendant Biddle. A § 1983 complaint must allege that each defendant, acting under color of state
law, deprived plaintiff of “rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws”
of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see also DuBose v. Kelly, 187 F.3d 999, 1002 (8th
Cir.1999). A public defender is not acting under color of state law while representing a plaintiff
in his criminal proceeding. Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 324 (1981) (“a public defender
does not act under color of state law when performing a lawyer’s traditional functions as counsel
to a defendant in criminal proceedings.”).
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants Charles Featherson, Daniel
Stewart, Freddie Parks and Andrew Watson, are hereby DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
In addition, Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant Anthony Biddle are DISMISSED WITH
IT IS SO ORDERED, this 9th day of March, 2018.
/s/ Susan O. Hickey
Susan O. Hickey
United States District Judge
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