United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
J. Michelson, District Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
STEVEN WHALEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Charles James Miller is a prison inmate in the custody of the
Federal Bureau of Prisons at the Federal Prison Camp in
Tucson, Arizona. On April 24, 2018, he filed a pro
se civil complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging
that the Defendants violated his rights under the Fourth
Amendment during the execution of a search warrant. Before
the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss [Doc. #15],
which has been referred for a Report and Recommendation under
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). For the reasons discussed
below, I recommend that the motion be GRANTED and that
Plaintiff's complaint be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
alleges that on October 2, 2013, Defendant Ronald Wise, a
detective with the Lincoln Park, Michigan Police Department,
along with other officers, executed “an otherwise valid
warrant to search for narcotics and weapons” at his
home. Complaint [Doc. #1], Pg. ID 3. He alleges that
although the particularized scope of the warrant was limited
to drugs, drug paraphernalia, and weapons, the officers
exceeded that scope by seizing a digital camera, electronics,
and other items listed in Appendix A of his complaint.
Id. He states that “[t]he items seized
did not have an apparent criminal character, nor could the
said items be linked to any criminal activity at the time of
the seizure.” Id. He bases his § 1983
claim on an alleged Fourth Amendment violation.
states that he filed a habeas motion challenging the seizure of
his property, and that his final federal appeal of that
action was denied on January 7, 2018. Id. He seeks
the alleged value of the property ($24, 290) plus $500, 000
in punitive damages. Id. Pg. ID 3-4.
on images that the officers observed in the camera, two
additional state search warrants and a federal search warrant
were issued and executed. Plaintiff was then charged
federally with production and possession of child
pornography, possession with intent to distribute controlled
substances, possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug
trafficking offense, and felon in possession of a firearm.
United States v. Charles Miller, E.D. Mich. No.
13-20928 (“the criminal case”). In the course of
the criminal case, Plaintiff filed a motion to suppress based
on the argument that the initial search-which is the subject
of the present civil case-exceeded the permissible scope of
the search warrant. Criminal Case, Doc. #16. On July
23, 2014, the Honorable Robert H. Cleland denied the motion
to suppress in a written opinion and order. Id. Doc.
alleged in the motion to suppress, and Judge Cleland's
opinion denying the motion, show that during the initial
search, Detective Wise briefly examined a digital camera that
was found in a so-called “control room” among
drugs, scales, and a loaded gun. He found an image consistent
with child pornography, and immediately turned off the
camera. Id. Doc. #26, Pg. ID 247. Judge Cleland
found that viewing the contents of the camera fell within the
scope of the search warrant:
“Given the proximity of the camera to evidence of
illicit activity, it was objectively reasonable for an
officer in that position to believe that a digital camera
might be related to or contain a record of the kind of
activity that prompted the search warrant. Additionally, as
the government proffers and the Defendant does not
meaningfully controvert, law enforcement officers commonly
know that drug traffickers take photographs of themselves
with their drugs, money, and firearms.” Id.,
Doc. #26, Pg. ID 250 (citing United States v. Lucas,
540 F.3d 168, 177 (6th Cir. 2011)).
on what Detective Wise observed on the digital camera, the
additional search warrants were issued, and the other items
that Plaintiff lists in Appendix A of his complaint,
including the computer equipment, were examined pursuant to
those subsequent warrants.
criminal case, Plaintiff pled guilty to one count of
production and one count of possession of child pornography.
His Rule 11 plea agreement contained a appeal waiver
provision. Id. Doc. #49. On August 2, 2016,
Plaintiff filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct
sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, claiming ineffective
assistance of counsel related to his lawyer's handling of
the motion to suppress. Id. Doc. #77. On March 31,
2017, Judge Cleland denied the motion, holding that
“[f]or the same reasons articulated in this court's
earlier opinions, those actions [related to the search] were
not unconstitutional.” Id. Pg. ID 773.
Subsequent appeals to the Sixth Circuit and the Supreme Court
STANDARD OF REVIEW
12(b)(6) provides for dismissal of a complaint “for
failure of the pleading to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted.” In assessing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion,
the court accepts the plaintiff's factual allegations as
true, and asks whether, as a matter of law, the plaintiff is
entitled to legal relief. Rippy v. Hattaway, 270
F.3d 416, 419 (6th Cir. 2001).
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombley, 550 U.S 544 (2007),
the Court, construing the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2), held that although a complaint need not contain
detailed factual allegations, its “[f]actual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level...on the assumption that all the
allegations in the complaint are true.” Id.,
at 555 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
Further, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the
grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.”
Id. (Internal citations and quotation marks
omitted). See also Association of Cleveland ...