Hines v. Johnson

Decision Date30 March 2020
Docket Number1:19CV515
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of North Carolina
PartiesARIS HINES and BRANDI THOMASON, Plaintiffs, v. TERRY S. JOHNSON, individually and in his official capacity as Sheriff of Alamance County, RANDY JONES, individually and in his official capacity as Deputy Sheriff of Alamance County, ALAMANCE COUNTY, and DOE DEPUTIES 1-10, Defendants.

OSTEEN, JR., District Judge

Plaintiffs Aris Hines and Brandi Thomason bring several Causes of Action against Defendants Terry S. Johnson, Randy Jones, Alamance County, and Doe Deputies 1-10, including eight Causes of Action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and North Carolina common law Causes of Action for intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious prosecution and abuse of process, slander, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. 1.) Defendants have moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint under Rules 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 6). For the reasons set forth below, the court will deny Defendant' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' Ninth Cause of Action for intentional infliction of emotional distress but will dismiss the remaining causes of action without prejudice.


On a motion to dismiss, a court must "accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint . . . ." Ray v. Roane, 948 F.3d 222, 226 (4th Cir. 2020) ) (citing King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206, 212 (4th Cir. 2016)). The facts, taken in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, are as follows.

A. Parties

Plaintiffs Aris Hines and Brandi Thomason appear to have resided in North Carolina during the relevant period, and now reside in Texas. (Complaint ("Compl.") (Doc. 1) ¶¶ 6, 34.) Plaintiff Hines was engaged to Plaintiff Thomason during the relevant time period. (Id. ¶ 19.) Defendant Terry S. Johnson is the Sheriff of Alamance County. (Id. ¶ 7.) Defendant Randy Jones is the Deputy Sheriff of Alamance County. (Id. ¶ 8.) Defendants Doe Deputies 1-10 have been or were members of the Alamance County Sheriff's Office, who are unknown to Plaintiffs. (Id. ¶ 9.) Defendant Alamance County, North Carolina, is a political subdivision of North Carolina. (Id. ¶ 10.)

B. Factual Background

"On May 6, 2016, an arrest warrant was issued for Plaintiffs Hines and Thomason for the alleged offenses of FelonyCommon Law Obstruction of Justice and Felony Obtaining Property by False Pretenses." (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiffs were arrested and held in Alamance County jail. (Id. ¶ 16.)

Plaintiffs allege Defendants "harassed and threatened Plaintiffs while they were being held and after their illegal arrest and seizure." (Id. ¶ 18.)

On May 16, 2016, Defendant Johnson, Sheriff for Alamance County, made several public statements concerning Plaintiffs' case: "'This has the smell of a human trafficking organization' . . . . 'But the operation, is much bigger than Hines, Thomason, and the Eastern Alamance student who was recruited' . . . . 'We're looking into all aspects of human trafficking. Workforce, athletes, sex trafficking, whatever." (Id. ¶ 22.) The next day, May 17, 2016, Defendant Johnson allegedly made the following public statements about Plaintiffs:

23. "There is also evidence that Hines and Thomason may have committed similar crimes in Oklahoma and West Virginia." "I think, probably, they're the only two in Alamance County, but I think there's a bigger organization out there from Charlotte to Oklahoma, West Virginia, overseas, etc."
24. "[B]eyond allegedly scamming countless other families, [Aris Hines and Brandi Thomason] could be part of a larger human trafficking organization involving the recruitment of foreign students to the United States to go to nonexistent private schools and play sports" . . . . "We know they've got someone over in these foreign countries, which is typical of human trafficking, that is handling the situation over there, shipping them, Hines receives them,then Hines disperses them wherever he can." (alterations in original).)
25. He "believed Hines and Thomason presented a flight risk."

(Compl. (Doc. 1) ¶¶ 23-25.)

During this same public announcement, Defendant Johnson also "alleged that the student-athlete incident could be part of a broader human trafficking scheme." (Id. ¶ 26.) He alleged "the couple unsuccessfully tried to enroll three other female juveniles into the Alamance-Burlington school system," which caused Johnson to state, "This causes me, folks, grave concern for where these young ladies are at." (Id.) He then stated that "authorities are searching for three girls who Sheriff Terry Johnson says were last seen with the [Plaintiff Hines] at the center of a human trafficking investigation." (Id. ¶ 27.)

On May 18, 2016, Johnson stated in a news conference that "he believe[d] the discovery of kids living in deplorable conditions at the [Plaintiffs'] home [was] a part of a bigger organization." (Id. ¶ 29.)

The three girls for whom the police were searching were later found and "Plaintiffs were never charged with human trafficking." (Id. ¶ 28.) The charges against Plaintiffs in Alamance County were dropped around July 6, 2018. (Id. ¶ 32.)

Plaintiffs allege that they incurred damage to their reputations such that they had to move outside of NorthCarolina, and as a result of Defendants' actions, "have suffered serious and permanent financial, physical, psychological and emotional injury, for which they received and are continuing to receive medical, psychological and psychiatric attention." (Id. ¶¶ 34, 36.)

C. Procedural Background

Plaintiffs filed the Complaint in this court on May 16, 2019. (Compl. (Doc. 1).) Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Complaint ("Defs.' Mot.") (Doc. 6)), and a supporting brief, (Brief in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss ("Defs.' Br.") (Doc. 7)). Plaintiffs responded, (Pls.' Mem. in Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss ("Pls.' Resp.") (Doc. 10)), and Defendants replied, (Doc. 14)).

Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(2). (Defs.' Mot. (Doc. 6) at 1.)

Plaintiffs bring the following Causes of Action. Plaintiffs' First Cause of Action alleges all Defendants "are liable to Plaintiffs for their failure, incompetence and/or negligence as supervisory and/or managerial officers in investigating the facts," in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Compl. (Doc. 1) ¶¶ 40-43.) The Second Cause of Action alleges negligent supervision in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 againstDefendants Johnson and Jones.1 (Id. ¶¶ 44-50.) The Third Cause of Action alleges malicious prosecution in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 51-55.) The Fourth Cause of Action alleges invasion of privacy in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 56-57.) The Fifth Cause of Action alleges Defendants are liable to Plaintiffs for causing "severe humiliation and embarrassment" in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Id. ¶¶ 58-59.) The Sixth Cause of Action alleges defamation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 60-66.) The Seventh Cause of Action duplicates the First Cause of Action. (Id. ¶¶ 67-68.) The Eighth Cause of Action alleges Defendants Johnson, Jones, and Alamance County "improperly and/or negligently trained, supervised, monitored and/or disciplined Doe Deputies 1-10 and their subordinate officers" in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.2 (Id. ¶¶ 69-70.) The Ninth Cause of Action alleges intentionalinfliction of emotional distress against all Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 71-78.) The Tenth Cause of Action alleges malicious prosecution against all Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 79-92.) The Eleventh Cause of Action alleges defamation against all Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 93-100.) Finally, the Twelfth Cause of Action alleges negligent infliction of emotion distress against all Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 101-110.)

Plaintiffs sue Defendants Johnson and Jones in their official and individual capacities. (Id. at 1.) Plaintiffs sue Defendants Doe Deputies 1-10 in their individual capacities. (Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiffs also sued Defendant Alamance County.

A. Rule 12(b)(2)

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), a plaintiff must ultimately prove by a preponderance of the evidence that this court's personal jurisdiction over a defendant is proper. Combs v. Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 676 (4th Cir. 1989). A plaintiff need only "make a prima facie showing of a sufficient jurisdictional basis in order to survive the jurisdictional challenge." Id. (citation omitted).

B. Rule 12(b)(6)

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v.Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible on its face if "the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable" and demonstrates "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57). When ruling on a motion to dismiss, this court accepts the Complaint's factual allegations as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Further, this court liberally construes "the complaint, including all reasonable inferences therefrom, . . . in plaintiff's favor." Estate of Williams-Moore v. All. One Receivables Mgmt., Inc., 335 F. Supp. 2d 636, 646 (M.D.N.C. 2004) (citation omitted). This court does not, however, accept legal conclusions as true, and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.


Defendants challenge Plaintiffs' Complaint on several grounds. Defendants first argue that Alamance County should be dismissed from this action because it is not a proper defendant because...

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