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Moore v. Stepp

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

September 27, 2017

LYDELL MOORE, Plaintiff,
DONALD STEPP, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the motion of Plaintiff Lydell Moore for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the required filing fee. Having reviewed the motion and the financial information submitted in support, the Court has determined that plaintiff lacks sufficient funds to pay the entire filing fee, and will assess an initial partial filing fee of $39.41. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). In addition, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss all but Plaintiff's individual capacity claims against Defendants Donald Stepp and Jordan Exum, and will direct the Clerk of Court to issue process upon Stepp and Exum in their individual capacities.

         28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), a prisoner bringing a civil action in forma pauperis is required to pay the full amount of the filing fee. If the prisoner has insufficient funds in his or her prison account to pay the entire fee, the Court must assess and, when funds exist, collect an initial partial filing fee of 20 percent of the greater of (1) the average monthly deposits in the prisoner's account, or (2) the average monthly balance in the prisoner's account for the prior six-month period. After payment of the initial partial filing fee, the prisoner is required to make monthly payments of 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner's account. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The agency having custody of the prisoner will forward these monthly payments to the Clerk of Court each time the amount in the prisoner's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is fully paid. Id.

         In support of the instant motion, Plaintiff submitted an affidavit and a certified inmate account statement showing an average monthly deposit of $197.07. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $39.41, which is twenty percent of Plaintiff's average monthly deposit.

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To state a claim for relief under § 1983, a complaint must plead more than “legal conclusions” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action [that are] supported by mere conclusory statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A plaintiff must demonstrate a plausible claim for relief, which is more than a “mere possibility of misconduct.” Id. at 679. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to, inter alia, draw upon judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679.

         When reviewing a pro se complaint under § 1915(e)(2), the Court must give it the benefit of a liberal construction. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, this does not mean that pro se complaints may be merely conclusory. Even pro se complaints are required to allege facts which, if true, state a claim for relief as a matter of law. Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980); see also Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004) (federal courts are not required to “assume facts that are not alleged, just because an additional factual allegation would have formed a stronger complaint”). In addition, affording a pro se complaint the benefit of a liberal construction does not mean that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation must be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel. See McNeil v. U.S., 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).

         The Complaint

         Count I of the complaint alleges false arrest against Defendant Donald Stepp, a detective with the St. Charles City Police Department, and Defendant Jordan Exum, a detective with the St. Charles County Police Department. Count II alleges one count of malicious prosecution against Defendant Tanya Muhm, an assistant prosecutor with the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. All three Defendants are sued in their official and individual capacities.

         The complaint contains a long narrative entitled “Facts Common to Both Counts, ” which is summarized as follows. On August 2, 2014, a “close acquaintance” of Plaintiff's named Daveon Morrison shot and killed Plaintiff's cousin, Martell Crump. ECF No. 1. The murder occurred at a park in St. Charles, Missouri. At the time of the murder, Plaintiff was on parole for crimes unrelated to any described in the complaint. Following the murder, unnamed St. Charles police officers visited Plaintiff's apartment. They questioned Plaintiff, and performed a consensual search of his apartment. After those officers left, unnamed St. Charles City police detectives appeared, performed a search of Plaintiff's apartment without his consent or a warrant, and arrested Plaintiff without probable cause.

         While Plaintiff was in custody, Stepp questioned him about Morrison's whereabouts and about the murder. Stepp then told Plaintiff that someone else had questions for him, and “[t]his person turned out to be an unidentified detective from the St. Charles County SCCRDTF, who at all times wore a black mask.” Id. at 10. Plaintiff alleges that Stepp and the “Masked Man” were trying to implicate him in Crump's murder, and convince him to become an informant for Stepp. Id. Stepp said that if Plaintiff did not cooperate, he would be implicated in “2 or 3 drug transactions, or even worse, Defendant Stepp would find a way to implicate Plaintiff in the Crump murder.” Id. at 10-11.

         Plaintiff was held for 24 hours in St. Charles City but, after the 24 hours elapsed and Plaintiff was due to be released, “Stepp presented a fabrication and had him transferred to St. Charles County Department of Corrections for another 24 hour hold.” ECF No. 1 at 11. Plaintiff was then released. On August 5, 2014, Plaintiff “was arrested again, and charged with Unlawful Use of a Weapon (UUW) even though no weapon was ever found during any of the searches.” Id. at 11. Plaintiff does not name the officer who arrested him.

         The following day, Stepp and another detective named Hancock questioned Plaintiff. Stepp and Hancock presented Plaintiff “with a written statement that they had obviously coerced the individual into writing against me.” Id. Plaintiff was then transferred to Warren County Jail, and his parole was revoked “because of the bogus arrest, constant harassment, and false trumped-up charges, ” and he was sent to the Missouri Department of Corrections to serve the ...

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