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Johnson v. Camden County Prosecutors Office

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 10, 2014

ANTHONY JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAMDEN COUNTY PROSECUTORS OFFICE, et al., Defendants.

OPINION

RENÉE MARIE BUMB, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court upon Plaintiff's motion seeking to amend his original pleading, see Docket Entry No. 62.

For the reasons detailed below, Plaintiff's motion will be granted, and his original and amended complaints will be dismissed. Plaintiff will be directed to show cause as to why his two lines of challenges that survived sua sponte screening of his original complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

In conjunction with the same, the appointment of Plaintiff's pro bono counsel will be suspended, subject to reinstatement in the event he shows cause as to the viability of his claims that survived sua sponte screening. In the same vein, the Order issued by Magistrate Judge Karen Williams to permit Plaintiff's deposition will be suspended, subject to reinstatement in the event Plaintiff shows cause as to the viability of these claims.

The events underlying Plaintiff's challenges raised in this matter have already been extensively detailed by this Court in its opinion issued with regard to Plaintiff's duplicative action, Johnson v. Maynard ("Johnson-II"), Civ. Action No. 11-4677 (RMB); that opinion was docketed in this matter for informational purposes, see Docket Entry No. 84, and it detailed the underlying facts, as they were presented in Plaintiff's Johnson-II pleading and the exhibits upon which he relied. see id. at 2-7.

Because the Court writes for the parties, it briefly summarizes the extensive facts as follows. On September 12, 2009, at 5 a.m., Daphne Hill ("Hill") entered a Wawa store in Sicklerville, New Jersey ("Wawa Store"), and attempted to use credit cards and a debit card to purchase cigarettes, two T-mobile gift cards and ten Visa gift cards worth one hundred dollars each. Because the credit card she initially presented was issued in the name of Anna Kelden ("Kelden"), the cashier asked Hill to produce an identification in Kelden's name. Hill produced a driver's license so issued; the driver's licence had Hill's photo on it. However, concerned with the high-dollar-value of the transactions attempted, the cashier summoned the manager who examined Hill's credit and debit cards, as well as the driver licence she presented and noted that one of the cards had a photo different from that on the driver's license.

Realizing that such discrepancy was likely to mean that the cards and/or driver's license were either stolen or forged, or that some other form of fraud was attempted, the manager called the police. Taking notice of that development, Hill swiftly fled in a Ford SUV, which was stopped by the police not far away from the Wawa Store, since the roads were empty at that morning hour, and the vehicle description matched.

When the SUV was stopped, the officers found it occupied by Kevin Spence ("Spence"), Hill, Plaintiff and Michelle Salamone ("Salamone"). All four were ordered out of the SUV and searched; the search produced a large amount of cash, numerous stolen credit cards, fraudulent driver licenses and Social Security documents issued to other persons' names. All four were informed of their Miranda v. Arizona , 384 U.S. 436 (1966), rights and detained for further investigation. Hill entering a Miranda waiver and made a statement about her extensive fraudulent credit card schemes performed at various stores, hotels and casinos. She named Spence as her main co-conspirator but clarified that Plaintiff was the key player in the schemes since he was the one who produced all fraudulent drivers' licenses (to which he was adding Hill's photo), and he was the one who stole the credit cards at local movie theaters by crawling around on the floor and going through the pocketbooks of movie-goers.

Salamone, too, entered a Miranda waiver and made a statement supporting Hill's account and implicating Spence and Plaintiff. Hill and Salamone also detailed Salamone's role, which was very limited, since Salamone met Hill, Spence and Plaintiff just two days prior to the Wawa Store incident and, while she went with them to a movie theater and took a road trip, she merely watched a movie and slept during the trip. According to both Hill and Salamone, Salamone's sole involvement in the schemes was limited to a single withdrawal of funds through the use of a credit card Salamone either knew or suspected to be stolen; she handed the entire withdrawal to Hill, Spence and Plaintiff.

Meanwhile, the police investigated the records of the SUV and found out that it was taken by Plaintiff without the SUV's owner's consent. Thus, the police obtained a search warrant as to the SUV and searched it, discovering two drivers' licenses (one Kelden's and the other falsely issued in Kelden's name, with Hill's photo), a laptop with special plastic blanks used for production of fraudulent driver's licenses, and a Fargo Card Printer (utilized to produce high-security documents verifying one's identity) with a plastic card in it, having the back of a New Jersey driver's licence already printed on one side, but the other side still left blank.

While Salamone was released, Hill, Spence and Plaintiff were charged with criminal offenses. Eventually, all three entered guilty pleas and were convicted; Plaintiff believes that Hill was the State's key witness in Plaintiff's and Spence's cases.[1]

Being already convicted in New Jersey, and then federally convicted of analogous schemes he ran in other states, Plaintiff commenced the civil matter at bar and eventually followed it with the Johnson-II matter.

In his complaint here, he alleged, inter alia, that: (a) he was not given his Miranda rights; (b) his attorney conspired with the prosecutor and the state judge to convict him; (c) the police officers and the prosecutor must have engaged in selective enforcement/selective prosecution because Salamone, a Caucasian, was released, while Hill, an African-American, was charged; (d) the SUV was stopped and Plaintiff was detained without probable cause; (e) the prosecutor maliciously prosecuted him; (f) his confrontation rights were violated by Salamone's release; (g) his prosecutor and defense attorney violated his rights individually, in addition to their allegedly conspiratorial conduct, etc. See Instant Matter, Docket Entry No. 1.

However, unlike in Johnson-II, Plaintiff did not detail the facts associated with his arrest and charges; rather, his allegations were formulated in terms so vague that they created an impression that no Wawa Store incident ever took place, that Hill merely entered the Wawa Store for brief legitimate shopping, that the SUV was stopped and its passengers were detained and searched for no reason, that Salamone confessed to being an equal player in Plaintiff-Hill-Spence's schemes but, nonetheless, she was released because she was Caucasian, that Hill, Plaintiff and Spence, all African-American, were detained and charged, even though they were not implicated in any wrong. see id. Taking Plaintiff's allegations as true, this Court screened the original complaint for sua sponte dismissal, addressing each of Plaintiff's many challenges at great length. For the reasons detailed in the opinion docketed as Docket Entry No. 6, the Court found all of Plaintiff's challenges, ...


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