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Gregory Howard Ladner v. Megan A. Maier

December 10, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Slomsky, J.



Plaintiff Gregory Howard Ladner is a federal prisoner. In 2005, he was convicted of making false statements to a federal firearms licensee. In January 2006, he was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment and was ordered to report to a federal prison thirty days later to begin serving his sentence. He failed to report as ordered, and instead obtained a passport which he used to flee the United States. In May 2009, Plaintiff was arrested in the Philippines after a woman reported him to the police for sexual abuse. After discovering he was wanted in the United States, Philippine authorities assisted in his deportation. Upon being returned, he was charged with several offenses, including the failure to surrender for service of a sentence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 3146(a)(2) and (b)(1)(A)(ii), giving a false statement in an application for and use of a passport, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1542, and escape, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 751(a). He pled guilty to the offense of failure to surrender for service of a sentence and agreed to and signed a waiver of certain appellate rights as part of his guilty plea agreement. The remaining two charges were dismissed.

Before sentencing, a Presentence Investigation Report ("the Presentence Report") was prepared by U.S. Probation Officer Megan A. Maier. Her superior in the Probation Office was Supervising U.S. Probation Officer Sandra Luehrs-Shaw. A sentencing hearing was held in August 2010. The sentencing judge, Plaintiff, and counsel for the parties reviewed the Presentence Report. Plaintiff was sentenced to an additional term of fourteen months imprisonment. He has now filed the instant civil rights suit against the two probation officers, alleging that certain information contained in the Presentence Report violated his constitutional rights.*fn1 Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint and have moved to strike a filing by Plaintiff that appears to amend the Complaint. For reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion to Dismiss and deny the Motion to Strike.


A.Procedural History

On February 3, 2011, Plaintiff filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis in this case (Doc. No. 1), which was denied without prejudice on February 14, 2011 for failure to pay the filing fee (Doc. No. 2).*fn2 On March 4, 2011, Plaintiff filed a notice stating that he wished to move forward with the case and to pay the required filing fee. (Doc. No. 3.) On March 7, 2011, he filed a "Motion to Amend" the Complaint, which the Court considered to be a Motion for Leave to Amend the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2).*fn3 (Doc. No. 4.) On March 14, 2011, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis, ordered the Complaint (Doc. No. 6) to be filed, and granted him leave to amend the Complaint within thirty days. (Doc. No. 5.)

After being granted leave to amend the Complaint, Plaintiff filed four documents between March 24, 2011 and September 7, 2012 which the Court will construe as motions to amend the Complaint. (See Doc. No. 7 ("Correctional Notice," filed March 24, 2011);*fn4 Doc. No. 9 ("Amended Title 28 U.S.C. § 1331 for Fraud upon the U.S. Courts in Violation of my 5th/6th Amendments," filed May 27, 2011);*fn5 Doc. No. 10 ("Amendment to Relief Sought Under Title 28 U.S.C. § 1331," filed September 7, 2011);*fn6 and Doc. No. 21 ("Amendment to my Complaint in Filed Document No. 4 for to [sic] add a 5th Amendment Violation of my Due Process of Law," filed September 7, 2012).)*fn7

The Court will construe these documents, however imprecisely titled and drafted, as amendments to the Complaint because, as a pro se litigant, Plaintiff is entitled to deference in his filings. See United States v. Bradley, No. 10-3106, 2012 WL 5985103, at n.1 (3d Cir. Nov. 30, 2012) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (pro se complaints are held "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers")). Even though Plaintiff has filed several of these documents in violation of a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure that requires leave of court before filing, see Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), the Court will still consider them to be amendments to the Complaint because of the deference requirement.

On July 6, 2012, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 17.) On September 7, 2012, Plaintiff filed a response to the Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. No. 20.) On September 21, 2012, Defendants filed a Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. Nos. 24--25), referring to Document 21 in the record, which is noted above and being considered part of the Amended Complaint. The Motion to Strike will be denied because, as previously mentioned, complaints filed by pro se litigants are held to less stringent standards than filings by lawyers.

B.Statement Of Facts

On January 10, 2006, Plaintiff was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment for knowingly making false statements to a federal firearms licensee. (Doc. No. 17 at 5.) He was allowed to remain free on bail, and ordered to self-surrender on February 9, 2006 to serve his sentence. (Doc. No. 17--1 at 3.) Plaintiff used this opportunity to obtain a passport and flee the United States. (Id.) In May 2009, he was arrested in the Philippines after a woman reported him for sexual abuse. (Id.) During the investigation into that crime, Philippine police discovered that he was a fugitive wanted in the United States. Philippine authorities then assisted in the deportation of Plaintiff to Pennsylvania. (Id.)

After being returned to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Plaintiff agreed to plead guilty to failure to surrender for service of his sentence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 3146(a)(2). (Doc. No. 17 at 6.) As part of a plea agreement, he agreed to waive certain rights either in a direct appeal or a collateral attack of his sentence. (Id.) Before sentencing, Plaintiff, his attorney, the prosecutor, and the district judge reviewed draft copies of the Presentence Report. Id. The Report was prepared by Defendant Megan A. Maier and approved by her supervisor, Defendant Sandra Luehrs-Shaw. (Doc. No. 17--3 at 23.)

In a letter dated July 22, 2010, Plaintiff's attorney objected to four factual matters in the Presentence Report. They are: (1) a reference to Plaintiff's alleged sexual abuse of his "girlfriend" in the Philippines - an incident which Plaintiff denied - on the grounds that the allegation was hearsay and not subject to cross examination; (2) a failure to mention Plaintiff's receipt of a GED, a high school equivalency diploma; (3) a statement that Plaintiff had a prior conviction for aggravated battery in Illinois, which Plaintiff contended was for battery only; and (4) an implication that Plaintiff had lied about his ability to speak a dialect of the Filipino language. (Doc. No. 17--2 at 2--3.)

On August 16, 2010, Plaintiff appeared for sentencing and was represented by counsel. (Doc. No. 17 at 6.) During the hearing, Plaintiff's attorney only objected to the accuracy of the information in the Presentence Report about the alleged sexual abuse in the Philippines. (Id.) This objection was noted in the Presentence Report. (Doc. No. 17--3 at 22.) During the sentencing hearing, the judge heard oral argument on the objection, and ultimately ruled that the alleged sexual misconduct should not be removed from the Presentence Report. (Doc. No. 17 at 6.) The judge then sentenced Plaintiff to fourteen months imprisonment, three years supervised release, a $1,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment. (Id.)

Despite the appellate waiver in the plea agreement, Plaintiff appealed on the sole issue that the district court "impermissibly relied on an uncorroborated police report from the Philippines in imposing a sentence at the high end of the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines range." (Doc. No. 17--1 at 2.) The remaining three objections were not pursued either at sentencing or on appeal. (Id.) The court of appeals affirmed the judgment and sentence of the district court and enforced the appellate waiver. (Doc. No. 17--1.)

In this case, the Complaint filed by Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Maier and Leuhrs-Shaw violated his civil rights, including his right to due process of law, by alleging that Defendants: willfully and knowingly commited [sic] strong discrimination, made serious false statements with vindictiveness, prejudice, malicious intent, and commited [sic] obstruction of justice against me in their presentence investigation reports dated 7/8/2010 and 8/5/2010 to the federal sentencing judge that caused me much mental pain, suffering, stress, depression, shame, and damages of my good character. (Doc. No. 6 at 3.) He seeks: relief from the effects of the serious false statements, and discrimination of the probations [sic] Presentence Report against me. I request that the civil courts will hold the defendants in this case accountable for ...

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