United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge.
Statement of Facts and of The Case
factual background of this dispute can be simply stated: This
longstanding pro se prisoner civil rights lawsuit
was filed by Armoni Johnson, a state inmate, in July of 2014.
(Doc. 1.) In his complaint Johnson initially named a wide
array of defendants and lodged a host of legal claims against
these individual defendants. (Id.) As a result of
prior litigation the claims and parties in this lawsuit have
been narrowed considerably. In its current form,
Johnson's lawsuit names three Pennsylvania State Troopers
as defendants, Walter Koehler, Christopher O'Brien and
Christopher Lamb. In his pro se complaint Johnson
alleges that these defendants violated his due process and
equal protection rights by entrapping him in the course of a
state criminal investigation and prosecution. (Id.)
complaint makes extensive reference to no less than four
state criminal cases which were brought against him between
2010 and 2012, and the plaintiff seems to insist that an
informed understanding of his claims requires us to consider
these legal claims in the context of these four state
criminal prosecutions. These four cases, which form the basis
of this civil lawsuit, are as follows:
in Commonwealth v. Johnson, CP-40-CR-2193-2010,
Johnson was charged with criminal drug possession in July of
2010. Johnson was convicted of this drug possession in
September of 2011, and was sentenced in January of 2012.
Johnson was later the subject of parole revocation
proceedings in this case, and unsuccessfully challenged this
conviction on appeal.
in Commonwealth v. Johnson, CP-40-CR-2713-2011,
Johnson was charged in August of 2011 with conspiracy,
aggravated assault, and burglary. Johnson initially entered a
guilty plea to one aggravated assault charge, but later
withdrew that plea. Johnson was later found guilty of one
count of aggravated assault in July of 2013, and was
sentenced to 15-to-60 months imprisonment on this charge in
October of 2013. Johnson is currently pursuing state
post-conviction litigation in this case.
in Commonwealth v. Johnson, CP-40-CR-117-2012,
Johnson was charged with multiple counts of drug distribution
and the use of communications facilities in drug trafficking
in April of 2011. Johnson initially entered a guilty plea in
this case as well, but later withdrew his plea of guilty and
proceeded to trial. At his March 14, 2016 trial, Johnson was
convicted on four counts, and the government dismissed the
remaining charges by nolle prosequi. Johnson was
sentenced to 16-to-90 months imprisonment, a sentence that
was ordered to run consecutively to the sentence imposed upon
Johnson in Commonwealth v. Johnson,
CP-40-CR-2713-2011. Johnson is pursuing post-conviction
litigation in this case.
in Commonwealth v. Johnson, CP-40-CR-2553-2012,
Johnson was charged with multiple additional state drug
trafficking offenses arising out of conduct that allegedly
took place in May of 2012. These charges were later dismissed
by the Commonwealth by nolle prosequi on March 14,
2016, the same day that Johnson was convicted on numerous
drug charges in the case of Commonwealth v. Johnson,
CP-40-CR-117-2012, and the court records provided by Johnson
indicate that the state withdrew these charges immediately
after Johnson was convicted on multiple drug charges in
Commonwealth v. Johnson, CP-40-CR-117-2012. Nothing
in the court records suggests in any way that this nolle
prosequi rested upon a finding that Johnson was actually
innocent of drug trafficking. Quite the contrary, the court
records tendered by Johnson show that this discretionary
decision was made by state prosecutors immediately after
Johnson was convicted of numerous drug trafficking charges.
It is this final state criminal prosecution, Commonwealth
v. Johnson, CP-40-CR-2553-2012, which forms the factual
basis for Johnson's federal civil rights lawsuit against
Troopers Koehler, O'Brien, and Lamb.
defendants have now moved to dismiss Johnson's complaint,
(Doc. 37), arguing inter alia that Johnson has not
demonstrated a favorable termination of his state criminal
cases in light of his multiple state convictions, and further
contending that, while Johnson's entrapment claims in his
state case might have provided a defense to criminal charges,
they do not provide a basis for a federal civil rights claim.
This motion to dismiss is fully briefed by the parties,
(Docs. 40 and 43.) and is, therefore, ripe for resolution.
reasons set forth below, we recommend that this motion to
dismiss be granted.
Motion to Dismiss-Standard of Review
motion to dismiss is designed to test the legal sufficiency
of a complaint. Thus, Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in
whole or in part, if the plaintiff fails to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. The moving party bears the
burden of showing that no claim has been stated, Hedges
v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005), and
dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting all of the facts
alleged in the complaint as true, the plaintiff has failed to
plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (abrogating “no
set of facts” language found in Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The facts alleged
must be sufficient to “raise a right to relief above
the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555. This requirement “calls for enough fact[s] to
raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal
evidence” of the necessary elements of the
plaintiff's cause of action. Id. at 556.
Furthermore, in order to satisfy federal pleading
requirements, the plaintiff must “provide the grounds
of his entitlement to relief, ” which “requires
more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation
of the elements of a cause of action will not do.”
Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231
(3d Cir. 2008) (brackets and quotation marks omitted)
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Thus,
“[a]t the ...