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Ausler v. Wes Bradford

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division

June 19, 2017

ANTONIO AUSLER PLAINTIFF
v.
WES BRADFORD; CORPORAL JAMES COLLINS; STATE OF ARKANSAS; TIMOTHY BUNCH; LEE SHORT; DAN CHARLES HANCOCK; RONALD DAVIS, JR.; and HONORABLE JOHN PUTMAN DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Timothy L. Brooks Judge.

         Plaintiff has filed this case contending his constitutional rights were violated during a traffic stop and resulting state court prosecution. He asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985(3), 1986, 1988(a), 2000d, 18 U.S.C. § 241 and the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. He proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis ("IFP").

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court has the obligation to screen any complaint in which an individual has sought leave to proceed IFP. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). On review, the Court is to dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, that is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii).

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 23, 2015, Corporal James Collins pulled Plaintiffs vehicle over. According to Corporal Collins' sworn statement, he noticed Plaintiff going from the left lane, to the right lane, and back to the left lane. (Doc. 1 -13). He believed Plaintiff was "having difficulty maintaining a constant path." Id. He activated his lights and pulled the vehicle over. Id.

         Corporal Collins stated that when he approached the vehicle he "immediately noticed a very strong odor of burnt marijuana." Id. After initially denying he had marijuana, Plaintiff "unfolded his hand" and handed Corporal Collins a "half-consumed cigarillo that was filled with marijuana." Id. Plaintiff also handed over a Ziploc bag containing marijuana. Id. Corporal Collins then called a wrecker and placed Plaintiff in the back seat of the patrol car. Id. Corporal Collins reported that he located several other Ziploc bags of marijuana and a digital scale in a backpack on the front passenger seat. Id.

         As a result of the stop, Plaintiff was charged with possession of a schedule VI controlled substance (marijuana) with the purpose to deliver; possession of drug paraphernalia; driving while his license was suspended; and careless and prohibited driving. (Doc. 1-43). Later, Plaintiff was charged as a habitual offender.

         On May 3, 2017, Plaintiff entered a plea of guilty to the drug possession, paraphernalia possession, driving without a license, and careless and prohibited driving charges. (Doc. 1-2). Plaintiff signed the plea statement acknowledging his understanding of the agreement, his guilt of the charges, that he was entering into the plea agreement freely and voluntarily, and that he had discussed it with his attorney, Lee Short, and was satisfied with his services. Id.

         Plaintiff filed this case on May 18, 2017, asserting that the traffic stop and search of his vehicle were unlawful. Plaintiff also maintains that the statements made by Corporal Collins in his report are false and the evidence from the search should have been suppressed. Plaintiff believes he was denied his right to a fair trial, to a speedy trial, to due process, and to equal protection under the law by the state court trial judge, the Honorable John Putman. Plaintiff also maintains that he was also forced into taking an illegal plea. He accuses the prosecuting attorney, Wes Bradford, of withholding exculpatory evidence, failing to provide complete discovery, pursuing charges based on fabricated and manufactured evidence, and otherwise engaging in prosecutorial misconduct.

         During the course of the state criminal proceeding, Plaintiff was represented by Public Defenders Timothy Bunch, Dan (Charles) Hancock, and Lee Short. He was also represented for a period of time by a Little Rock attorney named Ronald Davis, Jr. Plaintiff believes each of these attorneys provided him ineffective assistance of counsel by, among other things, failing to obtain complete discovery, not filing the motions he thought should be filed, lying to him, and not taking directions from him. At the conclusion of his case, Plaintiff was represented by Lee Short.

         On April 27, 2017, prior to filing the instant lawsuit, Plaintiff had filed a motion to remove his state criminal case to federal court. The case was promptly remanded to the Circuit Court of Boone County by opinion and order entered on April 27, 2017, by Chief United States District Judge P.K. Holmes, III. See State of Arkansas v. Ausler, 3:17-CR-30003 (Doc. 3). Now he argues that his Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Fourteenth Amendment, and Equal Protection[1] rights have been violated in the course of his state prosecution and conviction. He also contends the State of Arkansas employs a policy or custom of subjecting citizens to deprivations of procedural due process rights under color of state law.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A claim fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "In evaluating whether a pro se plaintiff has asserted sufficient facts to state a claim, we hold 'a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, ... to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Jackson v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537, 541 (8th Cir. 2014)(quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff purports to be asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985(3), 1986, 1988(a), 2000d, 18 U.S.C. § 241, the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and the Equal Protection Clause. As discussed above, the Defendants are the individuals involved in Plaintiffs state court criminal case, including the judge, the prosecutor, and the attorneys who defended him.

         A. ...


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