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Sapp v. The Vartan Group

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 1, 2017

SHAMONT SAPP, Plaintiff
v.
THE VARTAN GROUP, a/k/a Vartan Enterprises, Defendant

          Chief Judge Conner

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Susan E. Schwab United States Chief Magistrate Judge

         I. Introduction.

         After reviewing the complaint in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), we concluded that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Doc. 11. We granted the plaintiff, Shamont Sapp (“Sapp”), leave to file an amended complaint, but he failed to do so. Id. Thus, we recommend that the Court dismiss the complaint and close the case.

         II. Factual Background and Procedural History.

         Sapp, proceeding pro se, commenced this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 case by filing a complaint and a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Docs. 1, 5. In his complaint, Sapp names Vartan Group, Inc. (“Vartan Group”) as the defendant. Doc 1. Sapp states that he is the author of five books, including John O. Vartan- My Multi-Millionaire Lover, which was published in 2010. Doc. 1 at 1. Sapp asserts that he gave complimentary copies of this book to Ralph Vartan, CEO of the Vartan Group, to establish a potential business relationship with the Vartan Group through its publishing division, Beacon Press. Id. at 1-2. Sapp explains the book is a “tell all” of Sapp's relationship with the late John O. Vartan.[1] Id. at 2.

         Sapp states that it is a known practice in the publishing world for the author to inform a party that he or she is writing about him or her, and in turn, the author will give the party a copy of the book to make the necessary corrections or the party's counsel will send a cease and desist letter. Id. Sapp asserts that the Vartan Group reached out to Sapp's publisher, Morris Publishing Company (“Morris Publishing”), asking questions regarding the business aspect of the book. Id. Morris Publishing refused to cooperate or answer the Vartan Group's questions. Id. The Vartan Group then contacted the AUSA[2] claiming that it did not like the book and that it could not get information from Morris. Id. Sapp states he later reached out to Morris to get more copies of the book printed so that he could gather supporters. But when Sapp contacted Morris, he was told “who wants to work with an author who has the U.S. Attorney breathing down his neck.” Id. at 3.

         Apparently, Sapp believes that the Vartan Group got the AUSA to contact Morris Publishing. Id. at 4. Sapp alleges that in 2011, because the Vartan Group told the AUSA to contact the publisher, the AUSA then told Morris Publishing that Sapp was attempting to extort the Vartan family with the book. Id. Sapp also alleges that the AUSA was asking Morris Publishing questions concerning how much Sapp was getting paid, how many copies were printed, and how many copies were sold. Id. According to Sapp, however, Morris Publishing declined to cooperate unless the AUSA issued a subpoena. Id. Sapp states that he and Morris Publishing waited for a subpoena to issue or for charges to be filed from 2011 to 2016, but that neither a subpoena nor charges were filed. Id. In closing, Sapp states that, under the terms of his agreement with Morris, more copies of the book could be printed if desired. Id.

         Sapp complains that he must now find a new printing company to print copies of the book. Id. Sapp also complains that the Vartan Group injured his reputation and destroyed a business contract through interference. Id. Sapp seeks $5, 000, 000 in punitive damages and $5, 000, 000 in compensatory damages for pain and suffering and emotional distress, and tortious interference with a contract for the pecuniary losses he has sustained. Id.

         III. Discussion.

         A. Screening of In Forma Pauperis Complaints-Standard of Review.

         This Court has a statutory obligation to conduct a preliminary review of pro se complaints brought by plaintiffs given leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Specifically, we are obliged to the amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) which provides:

(2) Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any ...

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