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Hanna v. Bexar County TX District Attorney

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

August 5, 2019

WILLIE JOHN HANNA, II, Plaintiff,
v.
BEXAR COUNTY TX DISTRICT ATTORNEY, GUADALUPE COUNTY TX DISTRICT ATTORNEY; AND GUADALUPE COUNTY ATTORNEY DAVID WILBORN, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          ELIZABETH S. ("BETS Y") CHESTNEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         To the Honorable United States District Judge Fred Biery:

         This Report and Recommendation concerns Bexar County District Attorney's Rule 12(b) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Revised Complaint [#17] and Guadalupe County Defendants' Rule 12(b) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Revised Complaint [#19]. All pretrial matters in this case have been referred to the undersigned for disposition pursuant to Western District of Texas Local Rule CV-72 and Appendix C [#11]. The undersigned has authority to enter this recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). By their motions, Defendants seek dismissal of all of Plaintiff's claims on the basis that they are barred by the applicable statute of limitations.

         On May 28, 2019, noting that Plaintiff had failed to file a response to either motion, the undersigned issued a report and recommendation to the District Court recommending that the Court grant Defendants' motions to dismiss and dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims as untimely filed [#20]. The undersigned returned the case to the District Court for final disposition. Several weeks later, Plaintiff contacted the Court inquiring about his case and indicating that he had never received a copy of the motions or the Court's report and recommendation. The Court therefore granted Plaintiff a continuance to file any response to the motions [#24]. After Plaintiff filed responses to both motions [#25] and to the previous report and recommendation [#26], the District Court referred this case back to the undersigned for a new report and recommendation in light of these new filings. After considering Plaintiff's filings, the undersigned recommends that Defendants' motions to dismiss Plaintiff's claims as time barred be denied.

         I. Factual Allegations in the Pleadings

         Plaintiff's Original Complaint sued the State of Texas, the Bexar County District Attorney, the Guadalupe County District Attorney, and David Wilborn for malicious prosecution. (Compl. [#1].) Plaintiff alleged that during his campaign for State Senate in Maryland in 2014, Defendants David Wilborn (Guadalupe County Attorney), the Office of Bexar County District Attorney, and the Office of the Guadalupe County District Attorney conspired to indict and maliciously prosecute Plaintiff in an attempt to destroy his political campaign. (Id. at ¶¶ 1-21.) According to Plaintiff, the ensuing indictment was ultimately dismissed on December 12, 2017 after a special prosecutor was appointed to the case and it was discovered that the indictment was filed outside the applicable statute of limitations. (Id.)

         Plaintiff's Original Complaint invoked this Court's diversity jurisdiction as a basis for his malicious prosecution suit (id. at ¶ 3), which suggested he was asserting a claim under Texas tort law and not attempting to plead a malicious prosecution claim under federal civil rights law.[1]

         Although there is complete diversity of citizenship among the parties to this litigation, the undersigned concluded that Plaintiff's state-law claim of malicious prosecution was barred by principles of state sovereign immunity under Texas law (as to the State of Texas and the other Defendants in their official capacities), and by the doctrine of prosecutorial immunity as to any Defendant prosecutor sued in his or her individual capacity.

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint no longer names the State of Texas as a Defendant and supplements his factual allegations against the Bexar County District Attorney, the Guadalupe County District Attorney, and David Wilborn. (Am. Compl. [#6] at 1.) Plaintiff again pleads diversity jurisdiction and references a malicious prosecution claim under Texas law. (Id. at 1-2.) However, Plaintiff also pleads new claims of false imprisonment and a due process violation pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Id. at 6-7.)

         Plaintiff's more detailed factual allegations in his Amended Complaint state as follows: Plaintiff and Defendant Wilborn were involved in a 2008 transaction in which Plaintiff purchased a vehicle from Wilborn. (Id. at 2-3.) Six years later, in 2014, Plaintiff was campaigning for the Maryland State Senate. (Id. at 3.) In May of that year, Plaintiff received a text message from Wilborn, threatening to destroy Plaintiff's political campaign if he did not pay Wilborn $4, 500. (Id.) In the text message, Wilborn informed Plaintiff that he was now a prosecutor (the Guadalupe County Attorney) and touted his credentials as a way of making Plaintiff's life “very uncomfortable” if he did not comply. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that the day after he received this text message, Wilborn conspired with the Office of the Bexar County District Attorney to unlawfully have a case against Plaintiff transferred from Bexar County to Guadalupe County. (Id. at 3.) It is unclear from Plaintiff's allegations the nature of the claims against him, but it appears that the case concerned the vehicle transaction in 2008 and Wilborn was the alleged victim of the crime committed by Plaintiff. (Id.) Wilborn allegedly then had his District Attorney of Guadalupe County convene a Grand Jury and secure an indictment of Plaintiff within the week of the Senate election in Maryland. (Id.) Plaintiff claims Wilborn widely publicized the indictment in Maryland to both print and television media, sent them a copy of the indictment, and contacted Plaintiff's policitcal opponent, who was ultimately elected to the Senate seat. (Id. at 3-4.)

         Plaintiff claims he was arrested in November 2015 for the indictment and transferred from Maryland to Texas. (Id. at 4.) While Plaintiff was incarcerated, he moved for the disqualification of the County Attorney and District Attorney's Office on the basis of a conflict of interest in the prosecution of his case due to Wilborn being both prosecutor and victim. (Id.) The motion was granted, and a special prosecutor was appointed to the case on January 21, 2016. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, the case was ultimately dismissed on December 12, 2017 after a special prosecutor was appointed to the case and it was discovered that the indictment was filed outside the applicable statute of limitations. (Id. at 5; Orig. Compl. [#1].) Defendants now move to dimiss Plaintiffs' claims in this lawsuit as untimely filed.

         II. Legal Standard

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a 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)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. “Although a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, ” the “allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative ...


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