United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
JAMES B. MITCHELL, JASON M. FEDELE, and TIFFNEY R. FEDELE, Plaintiffs,
JANET L. PLOUDRE, GRANT EDWARDS, RONALD SCAMARDO, BETH PHILLIPS, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and UNKNOWN U.S. MARSHALS, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY L. BROOKS, District Judge.
Currently before the Court are Separate Defendants Beth Phillips' and Ronald Scamardo's Motions to Dismiss All Claims Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b), or in the Alternative, Motions for Summary Judgment (Docs. 70 and 75) and Briefs in Support (Docs. 72 and 76), as well as Plaintiffs James B. Mitchell's, Jason M. Fedele's, and Tiffney R. Fedele's Responses in Opposition (Docs. 80, 82, and 87). Also before the Court are the Report and Recommendation (Doc. 89) ("R & R") on Separate Plaintiff Jason M. Fedele's Motion for Leave to Appeal In Forma Pauperis (Doc. 86), as well as Plaintiff's Objections to the R & R (Docs. 90, 92, and 93).
For the reasons described herein, Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (Docs. 70 and 75) are GRANTED. The R & R (Doc. 89) is ADOPTED IN ITS ENTIRETY and therefore Jason M. Fedele's Motion for Leave to Appeal In Forma Pauperis (Doc. 86) is DENIED.
Plaintiffs bring this action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), alleging that United States Attorney Conner Eldridge, and Assistant United States Attorneys Kyra E. Jenner, Tracy A. Triplett, Christopher Plumlee, Kenneth Elser, Deborah F. Groom, Candace L. Taylor, and Beth Phillips (the "Prosecution Team") conspired with Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") special agent Janet L. Ploudre, and IRS task force officers Grant Edwards and Ronald Scamardo ("IRS Investigators") in order to bring to the grand jury the false charge of "enticing minors to engage in prostitution" in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b) so that the Court would detain Plaintiffs without bail. Plaintiffs allege that because§ 2422(b) carried a ten year mandatory minimum sentence, the Court denied Plaintiffs bail. Plaintiffs also assert that the Prosecutors coerced several witnesses and co-conspirators to falsely accuse Plaintiffs of knowingly hiring minor escorts. Plaintiffs point out that they did not plead guilty to the charge of enticing minors to engage in prostitution, as that count was dismissed at sentencing. As compensation, Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages in the amount of $1, 000, 000 and punitive damages in the amount of $4, 000, 000 for each Plaintiff.
The remaining Defendants seek dismissal under several theories, including absolute immunity and/or qualified immunity, and no respondeat superior liablity. Primarily, they argue that conduct surrounding the arrest and prosecution of Plaintiffs is protected by absolute immunity, and that Plaintiffs' acceptance of the presentence investigation report ("PSR") without objections at sentencing estops Plaintiffs from denying that at least one minor was involved in prostitution. In response, Plaintiffs argue, among other things, that the remaining Defendants fabricated evidence before filing formal charges against them, thus removing the protection of absolute and/or qualified immunity.
As Separate Defendants Phillips and Scamardo can be dismissed under theories of absolute or qualified immunity, it is unnecessary to address the other issues presented in the parties' briefs.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court "accepts as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint" and reviews the complaint to determine whether its allegations show that the pleader is entitled to relief. Schaaf v. Residential Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 2008) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)). All reasonable inferences from the complaint must be drawn in favor of the plaintiff. Crumpley-Patterson v. Trinity Lutheran Hosp., 388 F.3d 588, 590 (8th Cir. 2004). Nevertheless, the complaint must include facts sufficient to show that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). Where the facts presented in the complaint do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged, but it has not shown "that the pleader is entitled to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).
When considering a motion to dismiss, the Court ordinarily does not consider matters outside the pleadings. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). The Court may, however, consider exhibits attached to the complaint and documents that are necessarily embraced by the pleadings, Mattes v. ABC Plastics, Inc., 323 F.3d 695, 697, n.4 (8th Cir. 2003), and may also consider public records, Levy v. Ohl, 477 F.3d 988, 991 (8th Cir. 2007).
A. Beth Phillips
Plaintiffs allege that Phillips, as part of the Prosecution Team, conspired with the IRS Investigators to coerce witnesses to provide false statements that Plaintiffs enticed minors into prostitution, which resulted in the Court's denial of bail. Specifically, the First Amended Complaint ("Complaint") alleges the following:
Defendants... conspired and collaborated amongst one another to deliberately bring forth false charges... for which no just probable cause existed to indict any or all of the Plaintiffs for two (2) counts of violating 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b) "enticing a minor to engage in prostitution" which carries a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence (if convicted) for the sole purpose of having the Court detain each of the Plaintiffs with no bail throughout the ...