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Crooker v. United States

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

July 23, 2014



F. DENNIS SAYLOR, IV, District Judge.

This dispute arises under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 2671-2680. Plaintiff Michael Alan Crooker has filed a complaint against the United States alleging malicious prosecution, negligence, and medical maltreatment by the United States Marshals Service ("USMS") and the United States Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"). The complaint alleges that the USMS and BOP failed to abide by a court order requiring Crooker's pre-trial transfer to a facility where he could be treated for liver disease; failed to provide him eyeglasses for one year; denied him non-emergency dental treatment for nine-and-one-half years; and denied him cataract surgery for four years.

Defendant has moved for partial dismissal of the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

For the reasons stated below, defendant's motion to dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

The following facts are presented as stated in the complaint and supplemented by information in the public record.

A. The Silencer Case and the Threat Case

On July 11, 2006, a jury convicted Michael Crooker of causing the interstate transportation of a firearm by a prohibited person. The "firearm" was a silencer for an airgun. Crooker appealed, and the First Circuit reversed the conviction and ordered an acquittal in 2010. At that point, Crooker had been incarcerated for more than six years in connection with that proceeding. During that period of incarceration, he had filed numerous lawsuits against government employees and officials. See United States v. Crooker, 3:07-cr-30038 (D. Mass.) (Dkt. No. 102-1). Crooker now contends that, based on his work history as a bus driver, he lost $222, 000 income in the period from June 2004 to 2010 when he was incarcerated in connection with the silencer case.

Upon his release from prison on September 13, 2010, Crooker was arrested on charges related to the silencer case, including mailing a threat to use a deadly toxin against the Assistant U.S. Attorney who had prosecuted him. On March 25, 2011, Crooker signed a plea agreement, pursuant to which he agreed to plead guilty to mailing a threatening communication in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 876(c) and possession of a toxin without registration in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 175b(c)(1). See United States v. Crooker, 3:07-cr-30038 (D. Mass.) (Dkt. No. 102). That plea agreement, in part, required Crooker to dismiss all pending lawsuits relating to the threat case or the silencer case and not to bring any further lawsuits relating to the threat case. That provision states:

8. Civil Litigation Arising From the Investigation and Prosecution of This Case

In addition to filing motions to suppress evidence in this case based on alleged violations of his Fourth Amendment rights, Defendant has filed at least eight civil lawsuits seeking damages from public entities and current and former law enforcement officers who Defendant claims are responsible for those alleged violations. The United States Attorney is currently defending each of those civil actions and believes that all of them lack merit. In addition to pleading guilty as set forth in Paragraph 1 of this Agreement, Defendant agrees that, no later than the time of sentencing, he will execute stipulations of dismissal of each lawsuit described in Exhibit 1 hereto, as well as any other lawsuits Defendant has filed against public entities or current or former government employees or contractors connected to the investigation and prosecution of Criminal No. 04-30034-PBS [the silencer case] or this case. Defendant further agrees to make no requests under the Freedom of Information Act or any related or analogous law, and to file no administrative claims or lawsuits whatsoever, relating to the events connected to the investigation of and prosecution of this case that occurred before the date of the plea agreement.

Id. On June 20, 2011, Crooker was sentenced to fifteen years in prison in the threat case. See United States v. Crooker, 3:07-cr-30038 (D. Mass.) (Dkt No. 105).[1]

B. Facts Relating to the Malicious-Prosecution Claim

According to the complaint, Crooker was framed in the silencer case as to the offense of causing the interstate transportation of a firearm by a prohibited person. The complaint alleges that the arresting agents and prosecutor knew of Crooker's success in prior lawsuits against the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms ("ATF") and the United States Postal Inspection Service ("USPIS"); that he repeatedly told the agents that the device was legal; and that he had challenged the criminal jury instruction that the device needed only to be capable of being used as a firearm silencer. It further states that the device was seized within Massachusetts and that Crooker's actions therefore constituted only an attempt to transport the device across state lines, which, as an interrupted attempt, is not prohibited by 18 U.S.C. §922(g). According to the complaint, the government later mailed the device from Massachusetts to Ohio, causing it to cross state lines. The complaint suggests that the agents and prosecutor were motivated to prosecute Crooker maliciously because he owned publications about firearms (and the types of firearms that prohibited persons can legally possess) that were seized during a search of his home.[2] The complaint notes that no other individuals involved in the construction or purchase of the device were prosecuted.

On March 16, 2011, Crooker filed a complaint in this Court alleging malicious prosecution. See Crooker v. United States, No. 11-10495-RWZ (D. Mass.). Judge Zobel dismissed the complaint on April 12, 2011, because Crooker had moved to proceed in forma pauperis but had been barred from doing so under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g), the so called "three-strike" rule.[3]

On July 11, 2012, Crooker filed an administrative tort claim against the ATF, the USMS, the BOP, the USPIS, and the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys alleging malicious prosecution. He received an acknowledgment letter on July 20, 2012. After inquiring about the claim in June 2013, Crooker was told that he could exercise his option under 28 U.S.C. § 2675(a) to deem his claim denied and file suit.

C. Facts Relating to the Negligence and Medical Maltreatment Claims

According to the complaint, Crooker has suffered from several physical injuries as a result of negligence and medical maltreatment during his imprisonment. His injuries allegedly relate to his liver, vision, and teeth. The allegations may be summarized as follows:

1. Liver-Related Injury

On September 20, 2005, Judge Ponsor issued an order directing the U.S. Marshal to transfer Crooker to FMC Devens for his pretrial confinement. The motion requesting transfer alleged that he was not receiving medical treatment for hepatitis C. The complaint in this case alleges that he was not transported until January 11, 2012. On February 14, 2012, Crooker underwent a liver biopsy. He was later diagnosed with cirrhosis, an end-stage liver disease, rated as a 6 ...

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