Steele v. Fulton County et al
OPINION AND ORDER adopting Magistrate Judge John K. Larkins III's Final Report and Recommendation 9 , overruling Plaintiff's Objections 11 and dismissing this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Signed by Judge William S. Duffey, Jr on 8/9/17. (ddm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
EDDIE S. STEELE
FULTON COUNTY et al.,
OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Eddie S. Steele’s (“Plaintiff”)
Objections  to Magistrate Judge John K. Larkins III’s Final Report and
Recommendation  (“R&R”). The R&R recommends this action be dismissed,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), on the grounds that Plaintiff’s allegations fail
to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Plaintiff alleges that, on December 3, 2013, Officer Russel Popham, of the
East Point Police Department, used the false testimony of two witnesses to identify
Plaintiff as the perpetrator of an armed robbery. (Compl.  at 3-5). Plaintiff
further alleges Officer Popham improperly attempted to obtain a positive
identification of Plaintiff from his mother. (Id. at 5-6). The false witness
identifications, according to Plaintiff, led to an improper warrant for his arrest
being issued. (Id. at 6-7).
On April 23, 2014, Plaintiff was indicted for robbery and brandishing a
firearm during it. See United States v. Steele, No. 1:14-cr-147-RWS-LTW
(“Criminal Case”). During his criminal case, Plaintiff unsuccessfully moved to
suppress the identifications. (Criminal Case , ). On December 14, 2016, a
jury found Plaintiff guilty of the charges and he was sentenced to 108 months
imprisonment. (Criminal Case , ). Plaintiff appealed his conviction.
See United States v. Steele, No. 16-17719 (11th Cir. Filed Dec. 21, 2016).
On April 23, 2015, before conclusion of his criminal trial, Plaintiff filed his
pro se Civil Rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983  (“Complaint”), and
an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP”) . In his Complaint,
Plaintiff asserts that the arrest warrant was a “blatant violation of [his] Fourth
Amendment due process right,” including because it was “based on perjured
certifications, tampered evidence, false information, etc.” (Compl. at 4, 6).
Plaintiff seeks $2.5 million in damages. (Id. at 4).
On January 9, 2017,1 the Magistrate Judge granted Plaintiff’s IFP
On April 29, 2015, Magistrate Judge E. Clayton Scofield III issued his
R&R  (“First R&R”) recommending that this action be dismissed without
Application and recommended that this action be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C
§ 1915A(b)(1). (“On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss
the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint is frivolous,
malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted”). (R&R 
at 5). The Magistrate Judge found that Plaintiff fails to state a claim against Fulton
County and the East Point Police Department because Plaintiff does not allege that
an official policy or custom caused a deprivation of his constitutional rights. (Id. at
4). The Magistrate Judge also found that Plaintiff’s claims challenging the arrest
warrant are barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994), because
Plaintiff’s conviction has not been reversed, expunged, or otherwise called into
question, and his claims, if successful, would necessarily question the invalidity of
his conviction or sentence.3
On January 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed his Objections to the R&R 
prejudice because Plaintiff had filed a motion to suppress based on the same facts
alleged in his Complaint. (First R&R  at 1). On October 3, 2016, the Court
found that, because Plaintiff’s motion to suppress was denied, the First R&R was
now moot, and this civil action was re-referred to the Magistrate Judge.
(Oct. 3, 2016, Order ).
Having concluded that Plaintiff fails to state a claim for relief, the Magistrate
Judge also denied Plaintiff’s Motion to Appoint Counsel.
Review of Magistrate Judge’s R&R
After conducting a careful and complete review of the findings and
recommendations, a district judge may accept, reject, or modify a magistrate
judge’s report and recommendation. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Williams
v. Wainwright, 681 F.2d 732, 732 (11th Cir. 1982) (per curiam). A district judge
“shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified
proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1). Where no party has objected to the report and recommendation, the
Court conducts only a plain error review of the record. United States v. Slay, 714
F.2d 1093, 1095 (11th Cir. 1983) (per curiam). In view of Plaintiff’s Objections to
the R&R, the Court conducts a de novo review of the record.
Review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
A federal court must screen “a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner
seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental
entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss the complaint if it
is “frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted,”
or if it “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.”
28 U.S.C. § 1914A(b). A claim is frivolous, and must be dismissed, where it
“lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Miller v. Donald, 541 F.3d 1091,
1100 (11th Cir. 2008).
Plaintiff filed his Complaint  pro se. “A document filed pro se is to be
liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be
held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”
Erickson v. Padrus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Nevertheless, a pro se plaintiff must
comply with the threshold requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
See Beckwith v. Bellsouth Telecomms. Inc., 146 F. App’x 368, 371 (11th
Cir. 2005). “Even though a pro se complaint should be construed liberally, a
pro se complaint still must state a claim upon which the Court can grant relief.”
Grigsby v. Thomas, 506 F. Supp. 2.d 26,28 (D.D.C. 2007). “[A] district court does
not have license to rewrite a deficient pleading.” Osahar v. U.S. Postal Serv., 297
F. App’s 863, 864 (11th Cir. 2008).
Plaintiff does not assert any specific objections to the R&R. He simply
“ask[s] these courts to move forward with suit because there [is] no reason to
dismiss the case.” (Objections  at 4). Plaintiff further states, “Officer Popham
conduct [sic] deprived me a right to face my accusers, due process, equal
protection of the law, etc. . . .” (Id. at 3).
Plaintiff’s objections are vague and conclusory and the Court is not required
to consider them. See Marsden v. Moore, 847 F.2d 1536, 1548 (11th Cir. 1988)
(“Parties filing objections to a magistrate’s report and recommendation must
specifically identify those findings objected to. Frivolous, conclusive or general
objections need not be considered by the district court.”). In view of Plaintiff’s
pro se status, however, the Court conducts a de novo review of the record.
Claims Against Fulton County and City of East Point Police
Plaintiff asserts a § 1983 claim against Defendants Fulton County and East
Point Police Department, alleging that “Fulton County supports the East Point
Police Department, East Point Police Department supported Officer Popham[‘]s
corrupt actions at the time of my arrest.” (Compl.  at 7). “A government entity
is liable under § 1983 for its employees’ actions only when an employee executes
the ‘government’s policy or custom.’” Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436
U.S. 658, 694 (1978). “A policy is a decision that is officially adopted by the
municipality, or created by an official of such rank that he or she could be said to
be acting on behalf of the municipality. A custom is a practice so settled and
permanent that it takes on the force of law.” Cooper v. Dillon, 403 F.3d
1208, 1221 (11th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks, ellipsis, and citation
omitted). Plaintiff fails to allege in his Complaint or his Objections facts to
indicate a government policy or custom caused his alleged harm. Plaintiff fails to
state a claim for relief against Fulton County and the East Point Police Department
and these claims are dismissed.
Claims Against Officer Popham
Plaintiff asserts a § 1983 claim alleging that Officer Popham violated his
Constitutional rights by coercing witnesses into identifying Plaintiff,
inappropriately attempting to persuade Plaintiff’s mother to identify him and
improperly obtaining an arrest warrant using the identifications obtained.
(R&R  at 3). When reviewing a claim under § 1983, “the district court must
consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the
invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be
dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has
already been invalidated.” Heck, 512 U.S. at 487. Plaintiff acknowledges, in the
Objections, that “the claims in this suit is [sic] the reason the plaintiff los[t] his
criminal case.” (Objections  at 3). Plaintiff thus seeks relief that “necessarily
impl[ies] the invalidity of his conviction or sentence,” and his claims are barred
under Heck. Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87; see also Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74,
81-82 (2005) (holding that a prisoner’s civil rights action “is barred (absent prior
invalidation)-no matter the relief sought (damages or equitable relief), no matter
the target of the prisoner’s suit (state conduct leading to conviction or internal
prison proceedings)-if success in that action would necessarily demonstrate the
invalidity of confinement or its duration”). Plaintiff currently is appealing his
armed robbery conviction, no facts indicate that his conviction has been reversed,
expunged or invalidated, and pursuant to Heck, Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted. (R&R  at 3). The Court, having conducted a
de novo review of the R&R, agrees that this action is required to be dismissed
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
For the foregoing reasons,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Magistrate Judge John K. Larkins III’s
Final Report and Recommendation  is ADOPTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Objections  are
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this action is DISMISSED under 28
U.S.C. § 1915A.
SO ORDERED this 9th day of August, 2017.
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