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Wallace v. County of Calhoun

April 14, 2010

THOMAS JAMES WALLACE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF CALHOUN ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Robert J. Jonker

OPINION

This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and Plaintiff has been directed to pay the initial partial filing fee when funds become available. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, PUB. L. NO. 104-134, 110 STAT. 1321 (1996), the Court is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b). The Court must read Plaintiff's pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff's allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, Plaintiff's action will be dismissed for failure to state a claim.

Discussion

I. Factual allegations

Plaintiff Thomas James Wallace presently is incarcerated at the Parnall Correctional Facility. He sues the following Defendants: Calhoun County; 10th District Court Judge (and former Calhoun County Prosecutor) John A. Hallacy; Assistant Calhoun County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey A. Kabot; Calhoun County Deputy Guy Picketts; and Kimberly Delaet.

According to Plaintiff's lengthy and hyperbolic statement of facts, Defendants negligently and wrongfully investigated and prosecuted allegations that Plaintiff had engaged in criminal sexual conduct with Mindy Delaet on September 12, September 15 and October 10, 2003. Plaintiff contends that Defendants used improper questioning techniques, displayed an improper photographic lineup, obtained an illegal search warrant, conducted an illegal search, failed to produce res gestae witnesses at trial, and coerced a nolo contendere plea to one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC), MICH. COMP. LAWS § 750.520d(1)(a), and three counts of distributing or promoting child sexually abusive materials, MICH. COMP. LAWS § 750.145c(3). On May 24 and June 11, 2003, Plaintiff was sentenced to one term of six years and three months to fifteen years on the CSC conviction and three terms of eleven months to seven years on the child-sexually-abusive-materials convictions.

Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants' conduct in obtaining the convictions demonstrates their propensity toward false allegations, false documentation, conspiracy to violate civil rights, and fraud upon the courts. He contends that the circumstances leading to the acceptance of his plea caused Defendants to file a second criminal complaint against Plaintiff, which ultimately was dismissed. The second complaint arose from Defendant Kimberly Delaet's June 12, 2006 report to Defendant Picketts that Plaintiff was contacting Delaet's then-17-year-old daughter by mail. On June 12, 2006, Defendant Delaet delivered two letters allegedly written by Plaintiff to Mindy Delaet in May and the first week of June, 2006. According to Plaintiff, the content, handwriting and return address of the letters contained clear indications that the letters were not written by Plaintiff, but Defendants nevertheless continued to investigate and prosecute the offense. Picketts interviewed Mindy Delaet, who stated that the letters were in Plaintiff's handwriting and contained information only Plaintiff would know. Picketts then allegedly spoke with Plaintiff's sister, accusing her of criminal activity and threatening her with prosecution for forwarding the letters to Mindy Delaet. Picketts also allegedly made contact with Assistant Deputy Warden Haas of the Kinross Correctional Facility, advising Haas that Plaintiff had been illegally in contact with Mindy Delaet, in violation of his judgment of sentence. Only after the prison had been contacted did Picketts send the letters for fingerprint analysis, which subsequently found no fingerprint belonging to Plaintiff. Plaintiff contends that it should have been obvious that the Delaets' allegations were false.

Following Pickett's contact with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), Plaintiff was required to meet with a prison official to answer questions. Plaintiff denied the accusations as slanderous, and reminded the prison official that MDOC outgoing mail policy would have prohibited the mailing of the items. At the time, Plaintiff was housed at a minimum-security facility. Two weeks later, he was transferred to the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility (JMF), a medium-security facility, to answer felony charges of aggravated stalking that had been lodged by Defendants Hallacy and Kabot. As a result of the transfer, Plaintiff had more restrictions on his prison employment and other conditions of confinement, and he allegedly was exposed to a greater risk of harm from higher security prisoners.

At the preliminary examination on the charges, Plaintiff was represented by the same attorney who represented him on his prior felony convictions, and his case was presided over by the same judge. Counsel allegedly encouraged Plaintiff to accept a "generous" plea offer guaranteeing a 19 to 38-month minimum sentence and an agreement to drop a third-habitual-offender enhancement. Plaintiff rejected the offer and observed that the letters obviously were written with the skill and style of a teenager. Plaintiff also directed his attorney to a sample of his own handwriting that did not correspond to the documents. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants had in their possession records of letters received by Plaintiff from the Delaets on June 12 and 21, 2006, demonstrating that the allegations were false. Plaintiff alleges that Hallacy and Kabot's failure to discipline Picketts for pursuing the charge was tantamount to approving Picketts' illegal actions. Plaintiff argues that, in light of the available information, Defendants' plea offer was an attempt to extort a plea from Plaintiff, despite the fact that Defendants lacked probable cause to prove the offense. At Plaintiff's insistence, defense counsel filed motions for production of discovery and for appointment of a handwriting expert. The motions were heard by the court on October 16, 2006, and both were granted. On November 20, 2006, defense counsel argued two additional motions: a motion to compel discovery of the fingerprint analysis and a motion in limine to exclude mention of Plaintiff's prior convictions at trial. Those motions also were granted. On December 8, 2006, following the grant of Plaintiff's motion in limine and receipt of the fingerprint analysis, Defendants dismissed the complaint for lack of evidence.

Plaintiff contends that Defendants' actions constitute malicious prosecution and improper investigation of the charges based on a "pervasive pattern of corruption" and "conspiracy" by Defendants to fabricate false charges and violate Plaintiff's civil rights. (Am. Compl., docket #6 at 23.) For relief, he seeks millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages, together with the following preliminary injunctive relief:

A. Assert jurisdiction over this action;

B. Order the appropriate protections of this Honorable Court to the Plaintiff with regards to actual retaliation, implied retaliation by the defendants, and/or use by the defendants of their public officers and places of employment to effect any type or inclination of retaliation by any agency of the State of Michigan and it's [sic] employees;

C. Order to deny defendant Hallacy from effecting the office of District Court Judge, on any judicial bench, or from sitting in judg[]ment of any individual throughout the entire cour[]se of this litigation, order to be effective immediately;

D. Order to deny defendant Kabot from performing any duty associated with the functions of a legal officer of the court/assistant prosecutor, representing either the state or the federal government in any criminal proceeding throughout the entire course of this litigation, order to be effective immediately;

E. Order to deny defendant Picketts from fulfilling the functions associated with his employment as a Calhoun County Sheriff's Deputy/Employee, or even assisting any member of any police department, sheriff's department, or law enforcement agen[c]y or agent, state or federal, or assisting any state or federal prosecuting attorney's office in any type of law enforcement ...


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