Hefner v. Jones et al
ORDER: Defendants Johnathan Heath Jones and Kimberly Osborne's 32 Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is DENIED. The Clerk is respectfully instructed to correct the Defendant's name in the Court's record by substituting Kimberly Osborne for Kimberly Osborne-Evans. Signed by Chief Judge Martin Reidinger on 11/21/2022. (Pro se litigant served by US Mail.) (maf)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
CIVIL CASE NO. 1:21-cv-00227-MR
RICKY L. HEFNER,1
JOHNATHAN HEATH JONES, et al., )
DECISION AND ORDER
THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants Johnathan Heath
Jones and Kimberly Osborne’s2 Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [Doc.
The incarcerated Plaintiff Ricky L. Hefner (“Hefner” or simply, “the
Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.3
According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety’s (NCDPS) website, the
Plaintiff is also known as “Richard Lee Hefner.” See chrome-extension://hehijbfgiekmj
0&listurl=pagelistoffendersearchresults&listpage=1 (last accessed Nov. 10, 2022); Fed.
R. Evid. 201.
“Kimberly Osborne-Evans” in the Second Amended Complaint. [Doc. 19 at 1]. The Clerk
will be instructed to update the Court’s record to reflect her correct name.
The Plaintiff is presently incarcerated in the North Carolina Department of Public Safety
(NCDPS) at the Tabor Correctional Institution.
Case 1:21-cv-00227-MR Document 35 Filed 11/21/22 Page 1 of 7
The Second Amended Complaint [Doc. 19] passed initial review on claims
that the Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights. [Doc. 21].
The Defendants have now filed a Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Thereafter, the Court entered an Order in accordance with
Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising Plaintiff of his
right to respond to the Defendants’ Motion. [Doc. 34: Roseboro Order]. He
was cautioned that the “[f]ailure to file a timely response will likely lead to the
dismissal of this lawsuit.” [Id. at 1]. The Plaintiff has not filed a response to
the Defendants’ Motion and the time to do so has expired. Having been fully
briefed, this matter is ripe for disposition.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that “[a]fter the
pleadings are closed – but early enough not to delay trial – a party may move
for judgment on the pleadings.” A Rule 12(c) motion tests only the sufficiency
of the complaint and does not resolve the merits of the plaintiff’s claims or
any disputes of fact. Drager v. PLIVA USA, Inc., 741 F.3d 470, 474 (4th Cir.
2014). A motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) is
analyzed under the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Federal
Rule of Civil Procure 12(b)(6).
See id.; Burbach Broadcasting Co. of
Case 1:21-cv-00227-MR Document 35 Filed 11/21/22 Page 2 of 7
Delaware v. Elkins Radio Corp., 278 F.3d 401 (4th Cir. 2002). Thus, a claim
must be dismissed under Rule 12(c) when a claimant’s allegations fail to set
forth a set of facts which, if true, would entitled the claimant to relief. Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombley, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 679 (2009).
A court thus accepts all well-pled facts as true and
construes the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff as the
nonmoving party. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir.
1999). However, a court does not consider “legal conclusions, elements of
a cause of action, and bare assertions devoid of further factual
enhancement.” Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com. Inc., 591
F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009). Nor does a court accept as true “unwarranted
inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” Wahi v. Charleston
Area Med. Ctr., Inc., 562 F.3d 599, 615 n. 26 (4th Cir. 2009). The key
difference between Rule 12(b)(6) and Rule 12(c) is that, in ruling on a Rule
12(c) motion the court is to consider the answer as well as the complaint.
See Hartford Cas. Ins. Co. v. Gelshenen, 387 F.Supp.3d 634, 637 (W.D.N.C.
2019), aff’d, 801 F. App’x 915 (4th Cir. 2020); see, e.g., Massey v. Ojaniit,
759 F.3d 343, 347 (4th Cir. 2014).
Case 1:21-cv-00227-MR Document 35 Filed 11/21/22 Page 3 of 7
Viewing the Plaintiff’s well-pled allegations as true, the following is a
summary of the relevant facts. On June 12, 2018, Officer Jones observed
the Plaintiff going into a Walmart store. Officer Jones asked the Plaintiff
“[w]hen did you get out,” and the Plaintiff responded: “about three weeks
ago.”4 [Doc. 19 at 5]. The Plaintiff went into the store, saw a friend whom
he asked for a ride, accompanied the friend to a vehicle, and got into the
backseat. [Id.]. An acquaintance in the vehicle asked the Plaintiff to go back
into the store to buy batteries for him, and the Plaintiff agreed. [Id.]. The
Plaintiff went into the store, then returned to the vehicle, and handed the
driver a pack of batteries. [Id. at 6]. Defendant Osborne walked up to the
vehicle’s window, asked the Plaintiff to step out of the vehicle with a
backpack, and searched the Plaintiff’s belongings.
Osborne and Jones searched the vehicle5 and “supposedly” found a black
egg-shaped container near where the Plaintiff had been sitting. When Jones
told Osborne that the container had heroin in it, Osborne said to the Plaintiff
Jackson County District Court records reflect that the Plaintiff had committed a
methamphetamine offense and communicated threats on February 16, 2018, for which
he was sentenced to 120 days, Case No. 18CR050286. See Fed. R. Evid. 201.
The Court found in the Order on initial review that the Plaintiff lacks standing to object
to the search of the vehicle and its contents. [See Doc. 21 at 6].
Case 1:21-cv-00227-MR Document 35 Filed 11/21/22 Page 4 of 7
“uh, you blew it,” which statement the Plaintiff alleges shows the officers’
“malice to prosecute [him] wrongfully.” [Id. at 6-7]. The Plaintiff alleges that
he was wrongly arrested and charged based on “officer fabrication … and
plant[ed] evidence.”6 [Id. at 7]. Those charges were ultimately dismissed in
the Plaintiff’s favor.7 [Id.].
The Court found in the Order on initial review that the Plaintiff had
stated plausible Fourth Amendment claims for false arrest, false
imprisonment and malicious prosecution. [Doc. 21].
Viewing the allegations in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, the
Court concludes that the Plaintiff has plausibly stated § 1983 claims for
In their Answer, the Defendants deny inter alia that Osborne asked the Plaintiff to get
the backpack and step out of the vehicle, that any evidence was falsified or planted, and
that the Plaintiff was wrongfully arrested. [Id. at 2-3]. Because these denials conflict with
the Plaintiff’s allegations, they will be disregarded for the purposes of this discussion. See
Pledger v. N.C. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs., 7 F.Supp.2d 705, 707 (E.D.N.C. 1998)
(factual allegations in an answer are taken as true to the extent that they have not been
denied, or do not conflict with the complaint). Defendant’s Memorandum of Law is replete
with arguments concerning what evidence the Plaintiff may or may not be able to adduce.
Such arguments, of course, have no place with regarding to a motion pursuant to Rule
Jackson County Superior Court records reflect that the Plaintiff was charged for the
incidents of June 12, 2018 in Case Nos. 18CRS51081 and 19CRS000133, and that the
charges in both cases were resolved on May 28, 2021. At least eight other cases were
also disposed of on May 28, 2021 in Jackson County District and Superior Courts,
including Case No. 18CRS052362 for which the Plaintiff is presently serving between 10
and 13 years’ imprisonment. See also Case Nos. 21CR700601, 21CR700602,
21CR700603, 19CRS000132, 19CRS000393, 19CRS000506, 19CRS000507. However,
the specific circumstances of these cases’ resolutions are not presently before the Court.
Case 1:21-cv-00227-MR Document 35 Filed 11/21/22 Page 5 of 7
violations of his Fourth Amendment rights. The Plaintiff has plausibly alleged
that his initial interaction with Defendant Osborne was not consensual. See
Santos v. Frederick Cnty. Bd. of Com’rs, 725 F.3d 451 (4th Cir. 2013)
(officer’s gesture that unambiguously directed motorist to remain seated
converted a consensual encounter into a seizure). Further, the Plaintiff has
plausibly alleged that Defendant Osborne did not have a reasonable,
articulable suspicion to justify either her request for the Plaintiff to exit the
vehicle or her search of his belongings.
See, e.g., United States v.
Drakeford, 992 F.3d 255 (4th Cir. 2021) (no reasonable suspicion to support
a stop and frisk where officers observed a handshake between officers and
another man, but they never observed drugs changing hands and an
informant’s tip was not corroborated); United States v. Sprinkle, 106 F.3d
613, 617 (4th Cir. 1997) (officer’s knowledge of an individual’s prior criminal
record and that the individual had recently finished a sentence for a drug
conviction was, without more, insufficient to support a reasonable suspicion).
The Court further finds that the Plaintiff has plausibly stated claims for false
arrest and malicious prosecution based on his allegations that the
Defendants fabricated and planted evidence in the vehicle, that the
Defendants maliciously arrested and charged him, and that those charges
Case 1:21-cv-00227-MR Document 35 Filed 11/21/22 Page 6 of 7
were terminated in his favor.
Accordingly, the Defendants’ Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings is denied.
IT IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED that Defendants Johnathan Heath
Jones and Kimberly Osborne’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [Doc.
32] is DENIED.
The Clerk is respectfully instructed to correct the Defendant’s name in
the in the Court’s record by substituting Kimberly Osborne for “Kimberly
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Signed: November 21, 2022
Case 1:21-cv-00227-MR Document 35 Filed 11/21/22 Page 7 of 7
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