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Dolan v. United States

March 13, 2007

THOMAS A. DOLAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, GUY BLACKWELL, RANDALL KIZER, AND BRUCE POSTON, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas W. Phillips United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Thomas A. Dolan has filed tort claims against the United States, and Bivens claims and conspiracy claims against defendants Blackwell and Kizer arising out of a criminal case brought in the Eastern District of Tennessee in which Dolan was indicted but was later dismissed. The defendants have moved to dismiss all claims brought by plaintiff, or in the alternative, for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion to dismiss will be granted and the United States of America, Guy Blackwell and Randall Kizer will be DISMISSED as defendants.

Background

The plaintiff is an engineer who held a faculty position with the University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services. During the course of his employment there, the plaintiff began working with Frank Prasil, an inventor who had developed a process for the recycling of ink. With the plaintiff's assistance, Prasil applied for and received a $390,000 research and development grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

As one of the requirements for the grant, Prasil needed to obtain matching funds from an independent source. He approached the East Tennessee Banking Corporation (ETB) and received a commitment for the necessary funding. Prasil and the plaintiff informed the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, which was partnered with the Department of Energy in the grant program, of ETB's funding commitment. A short time later, however, ETB notified the plaintiff that it was withdrawing its financial support.

Apparently, Prasil was able to obtain the needed funding from another source. In the meantime, ETB allegedly formed Environmental Ink, Inc., a company devoted to the development of processes that were very similar to those invented by Prasil. When Prasil and the plaintiff learned of Environmental Ink, they attempted to force the company to cease and desist from exploiting Prasil's research.

Bruce Poston, the President of both ETB and Environmental Ink, sent a twenty-four page letter to the Department of Energy asking for a formal investigation into the grant given to Prasil. The letter outlined alleged irregularities in the grant application and questioned the use of grant funds. Poston supposedly implicated the plaintiff as the author of the most misleading information in the grant application. Copies of the letter were sent to the plaintiff's employer and to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The plaintiff left his position at the University of Tennessee and Prasil's grant was withdrawn.

The U.S. Department of Justice conducted an investigation to determine whether there was any truth in Poston's allegations. In August 2001, the plaintiff and Prasil were charged with making false statements to the Department of Energy and mail fraud. United States of America v. Thomas A. Dolan, No. 3:01-CR-115 (E.D.Tenn) (J. Varlan). The case was delayed until 2004, due to health problems of plaintiff's co-defendant, Prasil. In early May 2004, the United States began preparation for trial. It was discovered that the evidence establishing the mailing and venue for the false statements could not be found by state officials. Without the evidence, the United States was unable to prove the allegations in the indictment beyond a reasonable doubt, and the charges against the plaintiff were dropped.

On May 26, 2005 , the plaintiff, through counsel, initiated an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the United District Court, Middle Division, against the United States of America; Guy Blackwell, the federal prosecutor who brought the charges against the petitioner; Randall Kizer, a special investigator for the U.S. Department of Justice; and Bruce Poston, the President of ETB and Environmental Ink. The complaint alleged seven claims for relief:

1. Blackwell suppressed exculpatory evidence in violation of the plaintiff's right to due process;

2. Blackwell denied the plaintiff due process when he knowingly fabricated evidence;

3. Kizer denied the plaintiff due process when he knowingly fabricated evidence;

4. Blackwell, Kizer and Poston "formed an agreement to fabricate evidence" against the plaintiff in an effort to deny him due process;

5. Kizer violated the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful seizure when he maliciously fabricated evidence which was used as a basis for establishing probable cause to bring criminal charges;

6. Blackwell violated the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful seizure when he maliciously fabricated evidence which was used for establishing probable cause to bring criminal charges; and

7. The defendants knowingly conspired to violate the plaintiff's Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial by suppressing favorable and ...


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