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Womack v. Paragon Systems

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

May 28, 2018

GEOFFREY LEWIS WOMACK, Plaintiff,
v.
PARAGON SYSTEMS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          FRANK D. WHITNEY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court upon initial review of Plaintiff Geoffrey Lewis Womack's pro se civil Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985. (Doc. No. 1.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this action on November 16, 2017, while incarcerated at the Mecklenburg County Jail. He names Paragon Systems, identified as a contractor that hires and trains security guards, Kristen Elizabeth Grisanti, identified as a security guard employed by Paragon Systems, and Pamela Reaves, also identified as a security guard employed by Paragon Systems, as Defendants.

         According to the Complaint, Plaintiff went to the Social Security Administration on December 16, 2015, to check on a pending disability claim. (Compl. 3, Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff asserts that while he was there, all of the security guards left their posts, and he observed two black males take items “that did not belong to them” from behind the security desk and leave. (Compl. 3.) Subsequently, Plaintiff led Defendants Grisanti and Reaves to Reaves' car, where they found their missing cell phones and a work phone. At the time, Plaintiff had Reaves's car keys in his possession. Defendant Grisanti called the police and reported the theft of the phones and that someone had stolen her car, while Reaves detained Plaintiff by placing him in handcuffs. Plaintiff was arrested by the police for larceny. He alleges Grisanti's and Reaves' accusations against him were false and led to his arrest, detention, and prosecution on false charges.

         Plaintiff alleges further that Defendant Reaves committed perjury during his February 2017 trial by lying about the color of her car, that the judge declared a mistrial, and that he has been wrongfully detained and/or imprisoned since his arrest. He purports to bring claims for perjury, false accusations, and false arrest against Defendants. He seeks damages in the amount of $77 million.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, [1] the Court must review the Complaint to determine whether it is subject to dismissal on the grounds that it is “frivolous, ” “malicious, ” “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). In its frivolity review, the Court must determine whether the Complaint raises an “indisputably meritless legal theory, ” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992), or is founded upon clearly baseless factual contentions, such as “fantastic or delusional scenarios, ” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989).

         With respect to failure to state a claim, the “complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Id. However, a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim “unless ‘after accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true and drawing all reasonable factual inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor, it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his claim entitling him to relief.'” Veney v. Wyche, 293 F.3d 726, 730 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999)). While a pro se complaint must be construed liberally, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), the liberal construction requirement will not permit a district court to ignore a plaintiff's clear failure to allege facts which set forth a claim that is cognizable under federal law, see Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. 42 USC § 1983

         “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). The gist of Plaintiff's claim against Grisanti and Reaves is that their false accusations led to his arrest, detention, and prosecution. He also purports to bring a second claim against Reaves for committing perjury at trial.

         1. Defendant Paragon Systems

         Turning first to Defendant Paragon Systems, the Complaint alleges Paragon Systems is a corporation registered in Virginia and North Carolina as a contractor that hires and trains security guards for “state and federal businesses.” (Compl. 2.) “[A] private corporation is not liable under § 1983 for torts committed by special police officers when such liability is predicated solely upon a theory of respondeat superior.” Austin v. Paramount Parks, Inc., 195 F.3d 715, 727-28 (4th Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). “Rather, a private corporation is ...


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