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Ajabu v. Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

May 19, 2017

KOFI M. AJABU, Plaintiff,
v.
HAMILTON COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, Defendants.

          ENTRY DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND DIRECTING FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

          HON. WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, JUDGE

         I. Background

         The plaintiff, Kofi M. Ajabu (“Mr. Ajabu”), is a prisoner currently incarcerated at Wabash Valley Correctional Industrial Facility (“Wabash”). Because the plaintiff is a “prisoner” as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h), this Court has an obligation under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) to screen his complaint before service on the defendants. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. In determining whether the complaint states a claim, the Court applies the same standard as when addressing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). To survive dismissal,

[the] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         II. Screening

         The complaint is brought under the Rackateer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1961, et seq. (“RICO”), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Mr. Ajabu names the following defendants: 1) Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office; 2) Wayne Sturtevant, former Hamilton County Prosecutor; 3) Ken Roberts; 4) Estate of Kevin Scionti; 5) Sonia Leerkamp, former Hamilton County Prosecutor; 6) Bruce Lemmons, Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Correction; and 7) Eric K. Koselke, appeals attorney. Mr. Ajabu seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

         Allegations

         Mr. Ajabu alleges that in October 1995, he was sentenced to life without parole on three counts of murder and one count of burglary. He alleges that his defense attorney Mr. Roberts and the Hamilton County Prosecutors colluded to fraudulently deprive him of his constitutional right to effective counsel and of his right to put forth a defense. His appellate attorneys also allegedly worked in concert with the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office and his trial attorneys to conceal fraudulent acts.

         Jumping ahead a decade in an unrelated claim, Mr. Ajabu alleges that while in prison in 2006, he was charged with battery resulting in serious bodily injury. His defense attorney, Chadwick Hill, visited the prison and determined that the layout of the prison would not have allowed Mr. Ajabu to commit the battery. The Madison County Prosecutor ultimately decided that there was insufficient evidence to proceed to trial and dismissed the charges. Nonetheless, the Indiana Department of Correction kept Mr. Ajabu in solitary confinement for over a year based on the same facts from which the prosecutor found exonerating evidence and decided not to prosecute.

         RICO Claims

         Mr. Ajabu brings claims under RICO. RICO's private civil remedy provision states:

Any person injured in his business or property by reason of a violation of section 1962 of this chapter may sue therefor ... and shall recover threefold the damages he sustains and the cost of the suit, ...

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