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Gibson v. State

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division

January 24, 2017

TRAVIS W. GIBSON, Plaintiff,
STATE OF MISSOURI, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Travis Gibson alleges that he entered an “Alford plea” to a charge of felony indecent exposure in Tulsa County, Oklahoma, but he says his judgment and sentence were misstated on his paperwork, which resulted in various problems when he later moved his probation to Missouri. The series of events that followed gave rise to plaintiff's filing a petition for relief in Stoddard County, Missouri against the State of Missouri, the Missouri Department of Corrections (“MDOC”), the Missouri Highway Patrol, Roxanne Cook, JoAnn Snider (collectively, the “Missouri defendants”) and Rick Cook.[1] The defendants removed the case to this Court, citing this Court's federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 in light of plaintiff's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The defendants have filed motions to dismiss (#7, #11). Plaintiff has filed a Response to Notice of Removal (#9), which this Court will construe as a motion to remand.

         I. Background

         According to the complaint, plaintiff entered an Alford plea on May 22, 2000 to a charge to felony indecent exposure in Oklahoma and was given a five-year suspended sentence and placed on probation. Although the plea was entered to the charge of indecent exposure pursuant to Oklahoma Statutes, Title 21, § 1021-A1, he says the judgment and sentence erroneously cited Title 21, § 1021-B1, which is for the offense of solicitation or aid of a minor to perform a sex offense against a minor child. The latter offense, under § 1021-B1, required registry as a sex offender in Missouri, which plaintiff says he discovered when he moved to Missouri.

         Plaintiff received an initial visit from Missouri probation officers Joann Snider and Roxanne Cook at his home sometime in 2001. He says that they informed him that he would need to cooperate with a mandatory sex offender program; plaintiff told them they had the wrong information about the crime for which he was sentenced. Plaintiff alleges that Snider and Cook told him he would have to leave the state if he refused to cooperate.

         Plaintiff states he did not hear any more about the matter until 2007. Sometime during 2007 or 2008, he says he was charged with felony failure to register as a sex offender, and he was sentenced to probation. Plaintiff says his wife divorced him as a result of learning about the allegedly untrue charges. Plaintiff alleges he was assigned to supervision by defendant Roxanne Cook, who was the “sex offender officer.” (#4 at 2.) Plaintiff informed defendant Roxanne Cook that he was not going to cooperate with her conditions, which included having only supervised visits with his children. Plaintiff alleges that the officer then called her husband, defendant Rick Cook, who was then a Dexter, Missouri police officer. Plaintiff says his probation was revoked and he was incarcerated from 2008 until 2010.

         Upon his release from prison, plaintiff was informed that he needed to register as a sex offender with the Stoddard County Sheriff. Plaintiff complained to the county prosecutor. It does not appear that he registered or that he was charged with not registering.

         The remainder of plaintiff's complaint is repetitive and difficult to follow. He decries the ignorance of the defendants and the judicial system and alleges that “this entire thing has played out publicly and privately, [T]opix, airport café, and even Rick Cook driving up and down my road telling my neighbors and spreading it around town.” (#4 at 3.) He states that his Oklahoma record was corrected to reflect the correct charges on May 23, 2002, but the judge there also ordered sex offender registration for that crime. He suggests that the Missouri Highway Patrol, the State of Missouri, and MDOC erroneously reported to the public that he was a sex offender. He suggests that his then-wife's ex-husband was upset that she was with plaintiff, ran plaintiff's name through law enforcement databases with help from family in law enforcement, and that resulted in the events going forward from 2007. He states he was improperly charged with failure to register as a sex offender by Stoddard County based on an erroneous and withdrawn Oklahoma document, that MDOC and Stoddard County wrongly pursued the charges, and that the charges were without probable cause, malicious, and resulted in defamation of character. He claims he was unjustly incarcerated from 2008-2010 and that he lost his job with Dutch Enterprises. He seeks, among other things, $1 million per year from each defendant from 2001 to the present.

         Multiple motions are now before the Court. Plaintiff seeks remand back to state court (#9). Defendant Rick Cook and the Missouri defendants filed separate motions to dismiss on November 4 and 16, 2016 (#7, #11). Plaintiff also filed what appears to be an amended complaint on December 12, 2016 (#20). The Court discusses each below.

         II. Motion to Remand (#9)

         Defendants removed this case under this Court's federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, because the complaint sets forth a civil action arising under the laws of the United States. Plaintiff argues that his case should be decided by the state courts. However, plaintiff titled his petition with “1983 Petition” and confirms in his motion that this action was filed “under U.S. Code 42-1983.” Although plaintiff appears to believe that his related state-law claims mean that his case should be entertained by the state court, plaintiff is incorrect. “Federal district courts have original jurisdiction over section 1983 claims, notwithstanding the fact that they share such jurisdiction with the courts of the states in which they sit.” Williams v. Ragnone, 147 F.3d 700, 702 (8th Cir. 1998). Thus, this Court has original jurisdiction over plaintiff's § 1983 claims under 28 U.S.C. §1331 and supplemental jurisdiction over any state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) because they are so related to the federal questions claims that they form part of the same case or controversy. “The presence of even one federal claim gives the defendant the right to remove the entire case to federal court.” Williams, 147 F.3d at 703 (quoting Gaming Corp. of Am. v. Dorsey & Whitney, 88 F.3d 536, 543 (8th Cir.1996)). The motion to remand will be denied.

         III. Motions to Dismiss (#7, #11)

         Defendants have moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is to test the legal sufficiency of a complaint so as to eliminate those actions “which are fatally flawed in their legal premises and deigned to fail, thereby sparing litigants the burden of unnecessary pretrial and trial activity.” Young v. City of St. Charles, 244 F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989)). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a claim must be facially plausible, meaning that the ‘factual content. . . allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Cole v. Homier Dist. Co., Inc., 599 F.3d 856, 861 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). The Court must “accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Id. (quoting Coons v. Mineta, 410 F.3d 1036, 1039 (8th Cir. 2005)). However, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” will not pass muster. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         A. Defendant Rick Cook's ...

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