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Cole v. Wiley

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

September 27, 2019

LANCE ADRIAN COLE Plaintiff,
v.
DAN WILEY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DAVID D. NOCE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This action is before the Court on the motion of defendants Dan Wiley and William Jones for summary judgment. (Doc. 94). The Court heard oral argument on the motions. All parties have consented to the exercise of plenary authority by the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motions for summary judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts are uncontroverted unless otherwise specified. At all times relevant to plaintiff’s complaint, defendant William Jones was the Deputy Warden of Operations and defendant Dan Wiley was a Corrections Officer in the Missouri Department of Corrections, both at Northeast Correctional Center (“NECC”) in Bowling Green, Missouri. (Doc. 96, ¶¶ 1-3; Doc. 112, ¶¶ 1-3). Plaintiff was an inmate incarcerated at NECC, until his release on October 22, 2018. (Doc. 1; Doc. 96, ¶ 1; Doc. 112, ¶ 1). Plaintiff was serving a 15-year sentence related to a 2003 conviction, for which he had filed a number of legal challenges. (Doc. 96, ¶ 6; Doc. 112, ¶ 6). These included a direct appeal and a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. (Id.).

         On July 12, 2015, plaintiff was moved to a new area of the prison and inadvertently left his legal papers under his mattress during the move. (Id. at ¶ 7). The inmate who moved into plaintiff’s old cell gave the legal papers to another inmate, who then gave them to a third inmate for delivery to plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 8). Defendant Wiley observed the third inmate and asked why he was carrying an envelope, and the third inmate admitted that the papers did not belong to him and he was supposed to give them to another prisoner. (Id. at ¶ 10). Prison policy generally does not allow inmates to pass property to each other. (Id. at ¶ 11).

         Defendant Wiley told the inmate he needed to turn over the documents as contraband or receive a conduct violation. (Id. at ¶ 13). The inmate gave the documents to defendant Wiley. (Id.). The parties dispute whether defendant Wiley’s seizure was in line with prison policies. (Id. at ¶ 15). Around July or August 2015, defendant Jones learned of the seized documents, which related to two legal claims plaintiff intended to file: petitions for writs of habeas corpus in this federal court and in Illinois state court. (Id. at ¶¶ 18-19). These documents included an affidavit by David Horwitz about exculpatory photographs and an affidavit from witness Lorenzo Nunn. (Id. at ¶ 21).

         In 2010, plaintiff filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus that included these documents, and this Court found them not exculpatory with regard to an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Cole v. Roper, No. 4:10 CV 197 CEJ, 2013 WL 398755 (E.D. Mo. Feb. 1, 2013).

         In this civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff's amended complaint alleges the following claims against both defendants in their official and individual capacities, seeking money damages:

Count 1: Denial of Access to the Courts, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Count 2: Denial of Due Process, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Count 3: Violation of the Equal Protection Clause, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Count 4: Unlawful Taking, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 81).

         MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         A. Le ...


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