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Stegemann v. Rensselaer County Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, N.D. New York

February 3, 2015


JOSHUA G. STEGEMANN, Plaintiff Pro Se Columbia County Jail Hudson, New York.


CHRISTIAN F. HUMMEL, Magistrate Judge.

The Clerk has sent to the Court a civil rights complaint brought by pro se plaintiff Joshua Stegemann ("Stegemann") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as a renewed application for permission to proceed with this matter in forma pauperis ("IFP"). Compl. (Dkt. No. 1); Dkt. No. 4. Stegemann has also filed an inmate authorization form. Dkt. No. 4-1 at 1.


A. Application to Proceed IFP

Stegemann initially submitted an IFP application with his complaint on January 8, 2015. Dkt. No. 2. On January 12, 2015, pursuant to the Court's Order, the case was administratively closed as Stegemann's IFP application was incomplete. Dkt. No. 3. Stegemann was given the opportunity to continue to pursue the action by either paying the filing fee or submitting a completed IFP application within thirty days. Id.

Stegemann filed a renewed IFP application, with inmate authorization form, on January 26, 2015. Dkt. No. 4. After reviewing the entire file, the Court finds that plaintiff's financial status qualifies him to file this action without prepaying in full the filing fee. Although plaintiff is financially eligible to proceed IFP, he must still pay the partial filing fee as stated in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Plaintiff has filed the appropriate authorization form. Dkt. No. 4-1 at 1. Plaintiff's request to proceed IFP in this action is therefore granted.

B. Allegations Contained in the Complaint

Section 1915(e) of Title 28 of the United States Code directs that, when a plaintiff seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, "the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that... the action or appeal (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Thus, it is a court's responsibility to determine that a plaintiff may properly maintain his complaint before permitting him to proceed further with his action.

Stegemann brings this action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 18 U.S.C. § 2520, and 18 U.S.C. §2701 et seq, in addition to a variety of New York and Massachusetts state laws. Compl. ¶ 1. Stegemann contends that there is both federal question and diversity jurisdiction present in his complaint. Id.

Stegemann alleges that various county law enforcement and district attorneys offices, state police entities, individual officers and investigators, members of the National Guard, and private telecommunications services have violated his constitutional rights. See Compl. Between April 30, 2013 and May 2, 2013, numerous defendants executed an allegedly invalid warrant to search and seize various property from Stegemann's residence in Stephentown, New York. Id. ¶ 54. Stegemann contends that his property was destroyed with his personal property being broken and scattered, residence walls being ripped down, gardens being destroyed, and yard excavated. Id. ¶¶ 54-56. Stegemann contends that the search warrant by which his property was searched and seized was improperly signed by a Judge who did not possess authority to grant the warrant. Id. ¶ 55. Further, Stegemann contends that his calls once he was placed into the Rensselaer County Jail were improperly monitored and recorded. Id. ¶ 56. Lastly, Stegemann alleges that his cell phones, and the calls and text messages he sent and received, were also unlawfully intercepted pursuant to wiretaps, pen registers, and trap and trace devices. Id. ¶ 58. No mention of subsequent criminal prosecution was included in the complaint. For further details of the claims, reference is made to the complaint.

The undersigned also takes judicial notice that, on June 3, 2013, a federal complaint was filed naming Stegemann as the defendant. United States v. Stegemann, No. 13-CR-357 (GLS) at Dkt. No. 1 (hereinafter "Criminal Complaint"). The Criminal Complaint charged Stegemann with the (1) conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute, and to distribute, 500 or more grams of cocaine, 28 or more grams of cocaine base (crack cocaine) and 100 or more grams of heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. §V 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A) & 846 and (2) possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). Criminal Compl. at 1. As attested to in the supporting affidavit, law enforcement personnel state that on April 20, 2013 Stegemann attempted to flee his residence when the warrant was executed, and after a brief pursuit, was arrested. Nitti Aff. (Criminal Compl. at 2-4) ¶ 3. After searching Stegemann's property, the following were discovered:

1. "[F]ound buried in the grounds and in a rock wall located in the area which Stegemann was fleeing, were 819.9 gross grams of cocaine and a handgun." Nitti Aff. ¶ 3.
2. "Seized from within []his bedroom was a loaded shotgun. Also discovered in the residence was a highly advanced surveillance system, along with 2066 gross grams of suspected marijuana and $16, 000 of U.S. currency." Nitti Aff. ¶ 4.
3. "Discovered and seized on the grounds of... [the residence] were 108.2 gross grams of crack cocaine, 80.1 gross grams of cocaine, 100.1 gross grams of heroin, 86 gross grams of oxycodone and $280, 100 of U.S. currency." Nitti Aff. ¶ 4.
4. Found in "the fields adjoining Stegemann's residence, investigators also seized 819.9 gross grams of suspected cocaine, 69.2 gross grams of oxycodone and 114.5 gross grams of heroin." Nitti Aff. ¶ 5.

On September 18, 2013, the case was indicted. United States v. Stegemann, No. 13-CR-357 (GLS) at Dkt. No. 10. The three-count Indictment charges Stegemann with (1) Possession with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances; (2) Possession of Firearms in Furthence of Drug Trafficking; and (3) Possession of Firearms and Ammunition by a Prohibited Person. Id. Stegemann entered a plea of not guilty and was detained pending trial. Id. at Dkt. No. 15. Stegemann filed a motion to dismiss part of the indictment and suppress various evidence. Id. at Dkt. Nos. 33, 34, 37. On July 29, 2014, pursuant to a Memorandum-Decision and Order, Stegemann's motion for suppression of evidence derived from wiretaps and aerial surveillance was denied, as was his motion to dismiss the second count of the indictment. Id. at Dkt. No. 64. The Court reserved on determining whether suppression of evidence from intercepted telephone calls at Rensselaer County Jail, ...

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