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Russell v. Lewis

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

October 25, 2017

FORREST RUSSELL, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
STEVEN ERIC LEWIS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JEAN C. HAMILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff, Forrest Russell, Jr. (registration no. 189366), an inmate at Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center (“ERDCC”), for leave to commence this action without payment of the required filing fee. For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that plaintiff does not have sufficient funds to pay the entire filing fee and will assess an initial partial filing fee of $24.18.[1] See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Furthermore, based upon a review of the complaint, the Court will stay and administratively close this action pursuant to the Supreme Court case of Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384 (2007), based on the pendency of an underlying criminal case against plaintiff that arises out of the same facts.

         Background

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 asserting violations of his Fourth Amendment rights. Prior to this case being filed, a related underlying criminal case was filed against plaintiff in Missouri State Court. See State v. Russell, Case No.14SL-CR10130-01 (21stJudicial Circuit, St. Louis County Court). After a jury trial in St. Louis County Court, plaintiff was found guilty of three counts of Armed Criminal Action, Robbery in the First Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, Kidnapping in the First Degree and Burglary in the First Degree.

         The Honorable Nancy Watkins sentenced plaintiff to a total of thirty (30) years' imprisonment. Plaintiff subsequently appealed his conviction to the Missouri Court of Appeals where the matter is currently under review. See State v. Russell, Case No. ED105842.

         The Complaint

         In this case, plaintiff asserts claims for false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution as a result of an alleged false arrest that occurred on December 23, 2014. He brings this action against the four police officers who were involved in his arrest, as well as the St. Louis County Public Defender's Office and his assigned public defender, Steven Lewis.

         In the complaint, plaintiff alleges that the defendant police officers found his vehicle at a crime scene on the night of December 20, 2014, in Wildwood, Missouri, causing the officers to believe that he had committed burglary, kidnapping and armed criminal action. Plaintiff claims that his vehicle was at the crime scene because the persons who committed the crime used his vehicle to do so.

         Plaintiff states that the police failed to listen to his assertions regarding why his vehicle was at the crime scene. Plaintiff alleges that in order to fit their idea of the crime, the defendant police officers coerced a witness to describe plaintiff as the assailant even though he did not match the first description of the man the witness gave to the police. Moreover, plaintiff states that the victim did not at first mention that a gun was used in the crime, nevertheless, plaintiff was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm after the officers spoke to the witness again and coerced the witness into believing that a gun was used in commission of the crime.

         Plaintiff also asserts that his public defender, Steven Lewis provided him with ineffective assistance of counsel, when he failed to “represent him” properly or “shift blame” away from plaintiff.[2]

         After a jury trial in St. Louis County Court, plaintiff was found guilty of three counts of Armed Criminal Action, Robbery in the First Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, Kidnapping in the First Degree and Burglary in the First Degree.

         Plaintiff's claims in this lawsuit arise under the Fourth Amendment and include: lack of probable cause to bring charges against plaintiff; manufacturing evidence against plaintiff; malicious prosecution; false arrest; and false imprisonment.

         Discussion

         In Wallace v. Kato, the United States Supreme Court held ''hat Athe statute of limitations upon a § 1983 claim seeking damages for a false arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment, where the arrest is followed by criminal proceedings, begins to run at the time the claimant is detained pursuant to legal process.'' Wallace, 549 U.S. at 397. The Court observed that ''[f]alse arrest and false imprisonment overlap; the former is a species of the latter.'' Id. at 388. The Court instructed that where ''a plaintiff files a false arrest claim before he has been convicted . . . it is within the power of the district court, and in accord with common practice, to stay the civil action until the criminal case or the likelihood of a criminal case is ended.'' Id. at 393-94. Otherwise, the court and the parties are left to ''speculate about whether a prosecution will be brought, whether ...


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