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Ross v. Greer

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

January 2, 2015

RUFUS ROSS, Plaintiff,
G. GREER, ET AL., Defendants.


JAMES D. TODD, District Judge.

On July 28, 2014, Plaintiff Rufus Ross, booking number 13125515, a pretrial detainee at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Complex in Memphis, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, accompanied by a motion seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis . (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) In an order issued on July 29, 2014, the Court granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessed the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 4.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as Memphis Police Sergeant G. Greer, Memphis Mayor AC Wharton, and Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong.[1]

The complaint alleges that, at approximately 10:45 a.m. on July 13, 2013, Jeremy Wilson was the victim of an armed robbery near his apartment. After Wilson returned home, three men armed with a revolver entered his apartment, ordered Wilson and his girlfriend, Angenetta Currie, into a closet, and stole cash, a handgun, and some jewelry. (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 3-4 at PageID 3.)

After the men left, Wilson ran outside, where a neighbor told him that he had seen some people running and a black truck leaving. Wilson drove to the exit gate, where he saw a black Ford Expedition driven by Robert Gathright. Wilson followed the Expedition for several blocks. The Expedition then pulled over, and the front seat passenger ran toward Wilson's vehicle and fired several shots at him with a gun. Wilson told the police that the shooter was Charles E. McClelland. Wilson flagged down a police car, told the officer about the shooting, and gave a description and license plate number of the Expedition. ( Id. ¶¶ 5-7 at PageID 4.) The victims gave detailed descriptions of the three men in the Expedition. ( Id. ¶ 8.)

Defendant Greer was assigned to investigate the robbery. He located the Expedition at 3306 Sarabee Lane. Reginald Ross and Robert Gathright, who police had seen inside the Expedition, were also present. ( Id. ¶ 9 at PageID 5.) Reginald Ross, who had the keys to the Expedition, was detained. He gave a statement confessing to his participation in the robbery. He claimed to have acted only as a lookout. Later, Gathright also confessed and claimed to have been a lookout. ( Id. ¶ 10.)

The Expedition was registered to Plaintiff, and Reginald Ross is Plaintiff's nephew. Defendant Greer called Plaintiff and asked him where his vehicle was, and Plaintiff replied that it was in his driveway. Greer allegedly told Plaintiff that Reginald Ross had been driving his vehicle and asked Plaintiff to come down to the police station. Plaintiff complied. ( Id. ¶ 11.)

When Plaintiff arrived at the police station, Wilson was present. Greer stated in his report that Wilson identified Plaintiff as one of the suspects who had robbed him. Plaintiff avers that "Mr. Wilson clearly indicated that he did not recognize the Plaintiff." ( Id. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff left the police station and returned home. ( Id. )

The next day, July 14, 2013, Defendant Greer and other Memphis police officers returned to Plaintiff's house and detained him. ( Id. ¶ 13 at PageID 6.) Greer coerced Plaintiff to sign a consent to search his residence by telling him that they only wanted to look around and did not think he had anything to do with the robbery. ( Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff did not believe he had anything to fear from a search. However, Greer and the other officers "literally trashed the residence" in "a search and destroy mission." ( Id. ¶ 15.) During the search, police seized a small gram scale, a black skull cap, a pair of men's high-top Nike athletic shoes, a gray t-shirt with "Army" written on the front, a pair of gray sweat pants, and a Tan Boony hat. ( Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff alleges that "[t]he scale, and clothing... was never mentioned at all by the victims, nor was there any report made as to the description of suspect clothing. Like the skull cap, it was never mentioned either." ( Id. ) The victims allegedly described a nylon stocking and a black scarf. ( Id. ¶ 17 at PageID 6-7; see also id. ¶ 8 at PageID 4 (the descriptions given by the victims).)

The complaint also alleges:

The police exaggerate the allegations in most criminal matters in order to charge the accussed [sic] with more serious charges. Then, the prosecutors' [sic] go along with the trumped-up charges, especially the more serious charges. The conduct has spun-out-of-control, and [100s and 100s] of defendants are caught in this web.
19. Furthermore, most pretrial detainees who are confined at the Shelby County Jail, set in jail for usually one, and one-half years or longer before the prosecution decides to prosecute. In other words, Shelby County is systematically depriving criminally accused persons of their fundamental right to a fast and speedy trial, which is designed to harass the defendant (oppressive pre-trial incarceration). Put another way, the intention of the District Attorney General's office is no doubt to gain a tactical advantage, induce guilty pleas. This practice has to be unconstitutional, and may constitute a governmental custom.

( Id. ¶¶ 18-19 at PageID 7.)

According to Plaintiff, Defendants "had direct knowledge that Plaintiff was not involved in the robbery, only his vehicle, which was taken without Plaintiff's knowledge." ( Id. ¶ 20 at PageID 8.) Defendant Greer was allegedly unconcerned with Plaintiff's innocence and "only wanted another individual to charge - keep them statistics high, inflating the crime rate." ( Id. ) Consequently, Greer "fabricated and manufactured the fictitious allegations" against Plaintiff. ( Id. ) Specifically, Greer manufactured the scale, clothing and skull cap allegations to implicate Plaintiff in the robbery. ( Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff does not dispute that the police seized these items during the search of his residence. Instead, he appears to claim that the police falsely deemed these seized items to be probative of his involvement in the robberies.

Greer's actions were allegedly taken with the implicit and explicit authorization of Defendants Wharton and Armstrong. ( Id. ¶ 21.) According to Plaintiff, Wharton and Armstrong have knowledge of Greer's actions and encouraged them. ( Id. ) The District Attorney General also condoned Greer's actions ...

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