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Cochran v. Newell

United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division

December 5, 2017




         Plaintiff Chadwick Cochran, appearing pro se, commenced this action with his complaint and his motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. The Court granted Cochran's motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1).

         Because Cochran is proceeding in forma pauperis, section 1915 requires the Court to conduct a preliminary screening of the allegations set forth in his pleading. The applicable provisions of section 1915(e)(2) state as follows:

(2) Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that-
(A) the allegation of poverty is untrue; or
(B) 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).

         The Court will review Cochran's pleading to consider whether this action can survive dismissal under the provisions of section 1915(e)(2), or any other provision of law. See Huftile v. Miccio-Fonseca, 410 F.3d 1136, 1138, 1142 (9th Cir. 2005).

         I. Plaintiff's Allegations

         On April 13, 2017, Cochran was driving his vehicle near West Yellowstone, Montana. He states that on several occasions a person driving a white mini van would approach him from behind, flash the headlights, and force Cochran to pull over and get out of the way. On the third time the white mini van approached from behind and passed, Defendant Scott Newell - Chief of the West Yellowstone police department - who was behind the mini van activated his patrol car lights and pulled Cochran over for speeding. Cochran contends that at the time Newell was outside of his jurisdiction.

         Defendant Mike Gavigan, a Gallatin County Sheriff's Deputy, arrived at the scene and issued Cochran a speeding ticket. Cochran states he later learned that Gavigan was the person driving the white mini van “pushing” Cochran on the highway. Cochran was placed under arrest, and Newell drove Cochran to West Yellowstone for an interview. Then Gavigan transported him to the Gallatin County Jail. Cochran asserts the events constituted an illegal entrapment, and unlawful seizure and arrest.

         Cochran also alleges Newell stopped him on the highway for improper/invalid reasons. Newell informed Cochran that the traffic stop was due to Cochran's friendship with David Herman, an individual to which Newell apparently harbored ill will. According to Cochran, Newell explained to Cochran that he stopped Cochran due to his connection with Herman.

         Upon his arrival at the Gallatin County Jail on April 13, 2017, Cochran alleges he informed staff that he needed his various prescribed mental health medications but was refused them. Cochran states that on April 15, 2017, he began to experience withdrawals and “an anxiety attack and mental breakdown.” (Doc. 2 at 3.) He states he slammed his head into the cell door until he was covered in blood. He was unable to sleep and function normally.

         Cochran claims he notified Defendant Suzanne - the mental health director at the jail - about his situation. Suzanne informed him she would take care of the problem but did not. Cochran was in the Gallatin County Jail from April 13 to April 19, 2017.

         Cochran next complains about the process of the criminal matters he faced while in jail. He states he was arrested on a warrant issued in Georgia and taken to the Gallatin County Jail. His defense attorney, Defendant Diane Copeland, informed him he would be released on bail if he pled guilty to the speeding ticket and paid the fine. Cochran posted a bond for his release, and was given until May 12, 2017, to appear in court in Georgia on the Georgia arrest warrant. The jail staff informed him he would not be arrested on the Georgia warrant while he traveled to Georgia.

         Cochran was released on April 19, 2017, and he left Montana to go to Georgia. On April 21, 2017, while traveling through Idaho, he was arrested on the Georgia arrest warrant. Consequently, he alleges Defendant Sheriff Brian Gootkin and the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office violated his civil rights by “[t]aking [his] money and causing [him] injury, psychologically and mentally.” (Doc. 2 at 4.) He apparently claims that Copeland and Gootkin mislead him about his bond, release, and whether the Georgia warrant could still subject him to arrest.

         II. ...

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