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Lewis v. Richland Parish

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

January 11, 2017

FREDDIE RAY LEWIS Plaintiff-Appellant
RICHLAND PARISH, ET AL. Defendants-Appellees

         Appealed from the Fifth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Richland, Louisiana Trial Court No. 42, 928-B Honorable James M. Stephens, Judge

          FREDDIE R. LEWIS Pro Se.

          USRY, WEEKS & MATTHEWS, APLC By: L. Frederick Schroeder II Ronald S. Bryant Counsel for Appellees, Warden Cupp, Assistant Warden Scott, Billy White and Anne Jones.

          Before WILLIAMS, LOLLEY and GARRETT, JJ.

          GARRETT, J.

         The plaintiff, Freddie Ray Lewis, appeals from a trial court judgment granting an exception of prescription and dismissing his claims against the defendants, Richland Parish, the Richland Parish Detention Center ("RPDC"), and various officials and law enforcement officers associated with the RPDC. For the following reasons, we affirm the trial court judgment.


         Lewis filed the present lawsuit basically claiming his incarceration was illegal and seeking damages. The circumstances leading to his arrest, conviction, and incarceration began in 2005. On four occasions between October 1, 2005, and November 18, 2005, Lewis sold crack cocaine to an undercover agent with the Bossier City Police Department. On January 12, 2006, Lewis was charged by bill of information with four counts of distribution of cocaine. He was tried by a jury and convicted, as charged, on all counts. On November 27, 2007, the trial court sentenced Lewis to serve 20 years at hard labor on all four counts, to be served concurrently, with two years to be served without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. On appeal, this court affirmed his convictions and sentences in State v. Lewis, 43, 769 (La.App. 2d Cir. 12/10/08), 1 So.3d 665, writs denied, 2009-1027 (La. 1/29/10), 25 So.3d 827, and 2009-1223 (La. 1/29/10), 25 So.3d 832.

         Following his convictions and sentences, Lewis was transferred from the Bossier Parish Maximum Security facility to the RPDC and then to a facility in Vernon Parish. On June 26, 2012, Lewis, proceeding in forma pauperis, filed the present action entitled "'Pro Se' Civil Action Lawsuit, " asking for "punitive, compensatory, and nominal" damages arising from a criminal conspiracy to commit "aggravated kidnapping at gunpoint" and "false imprisonment at gunpoint." Lewis claimed that, because he was charged by bill of information and not a grand jury indictment, his convictions and sentences were illegal. He contended he was never properly admitted to the custody of the Department of Corrections ("DOC"), and his transfer to the various facilities was illegal. He claimed a criminal conspiracy between officials in Bossier, Richland and Vernon Parishes to move him between various detention facilities without legal authority. As defendants, Lewis named Richland Parish, the Richland Parish Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Charles M. McDonald, the Richland Parish Detention Center, Warden Major Stokes, Assistant Warden Lt. Scott, and the RPDC administrative staff. He alleged the dates he was in Richland Parish were from January 15, 2008, to April 27, 2008. Claiming damages in the amount of $5-15 million, he tendered a settlement offer of $7.5 million.

         Lewis also made the following statement in his petition:

The pro se plaintiff/Litigant, Freddie R. Lewis, 395306, avers that the "Illegality of Custody" by Richland Parish, et al; has been fully litigated in the Nineteenth Judicial District Court, which verified that the pro se plaintiff/Litigant, was not "Admitted" to the Louisiana State Department of Public Safety and Corrections, after Sentencing November 27, 2007 [Louisiana State Law Annotated Revised Statue (sic) 15:566(C)] and all subsequent custody and Transport/Transfer of said custody, thereafter was/is "Illegal".

         This is patently false. On September 30, 2011, Lewis filed a petition requesting a writ of habeas corpus in the Nineteenth Judicial District Court, against the DOC and others, raising the same arguments made in the present suit. He claimed he was never delivered into DOC custody because the department never got the proper commitment papers required by La.C.Cr.P. art. 892. He argued the deficiency was that he was charged by bill of information and not by grand jury indictment. Lewis claimed there was no legal authority for his custody and that his master records with the DOC had been falsified.

         A commissioner with the district court filed a written report recommending that the request be dismissed as lacking merit. The report noted that any failure of the sheriff's office to provide proper documentation did not affect the validity of Lewis's sentences to custody under La.C.Cr.P. art. 892(D), and that Lewis failed to establish falsification of any records. The district court dismissed the request for habeas relief with prejudice. Lewis appealed, and the first circuit affirmed the district court judgment, noting that a bill of information was sufficient to charge Lewis; a grand jury indictment was not necessary. See Lewis v. Secretary, La. State Dep't of Pub. Safety & Corr., 2012-1890 (La.App. 1st Cir. 6/7/13), 2013 WL 2488464, writ denied, 2013-2350 (La. 5/14/14), 139 So.3d 1017.

         In July 2012, the defendants in the present case filed an answer asserting numerous affirmative defenses.[1] Among these was that the action was time-barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Almost four years later, in January 2016, the defendants filed an exception of prescription. They maintained that Lewis's complaints sounded in tort. They argued that, at most, Lewis had two years from the date he was last ...

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