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PENNSYLVANIA v. PORTER

November 16, 1979

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Richard W. Baumann, Joseph Blume, James Mages and Bernard Peitz, Jr.
v.
James D. PORTER, Chief of Police, Frank L. Baranyai, Police Officer, Regis J. McCarthy, Mayor, Carl Seidl, President of Council, Maurice P. Bedel, Sr., James Beran, John L. Cavanaugh, Jerry Dawson, James H. Lawson and Stephen Mikus, Members of Council, all of the Borough of Millvale.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KNOX

A. Introduction.

In this case involving claims of repeated violations of civil rights contrary to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Frank L. Baranyai (Baranyai) a policeman of the Borough of Millvale, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, the court sitting non-jury has heard testimony over a period of 14 days. It is also claimed that Regis J. McCarthy (McCarthy), Mayor of Millvale and James D. Porter (Porter), Chief of Police have instigated, acquiesced in, or ratified these violations and hence are named as defendants. The president and members of the Borough Council are also defendants, it being asserted that they were aware of Baranyai's conduct, took no action and supported him.

 At the conclusion of the trial on May 10, 1979, the court dictated a memorandum as to the proceedings on the record with tentative findings in favor of the plaintiff on 22 incidents and in favor of the defendants on 11 incidents.

 The parties were directed to file briefs with respect to these matters as well as other questions of law involved including the relief, if any, to be granted. Arguments on the merits were scheduled for June 27, 1979, but had to be postponed twice because of scheduling problems. They were finally held August 21, 1979, with additional materials being submitted at later dates. The court is now prepared to adjudicate the matter and enters the following:

 B. Findings of fact.

 (1) This is an action brought by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and individual plaintiffs to enjoin defendants from engaging in a pattern of practice which denies citizens lawfully in the Borough of Millvale their constitutional rights to be free from physical violence, mistreatment, threats, harassment, illegal detention, illegal arrest, illegal searches and seizures, and other unconstitutional conduct.

 (2) Plaintiffs allege that defendants have engaged and are engaging in a continuing course of unconstitutional police misconduct and abuse.

 (3) Plaintiff Commonwealth of Pennsylvania brings this action on its own behalf and on behalf of its citizens, including the residents of the Borough of Millvale and all others who may lawfully be in Millvale.

 (4) Individual plaintiffs are citizens of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and bring this action on their own behalf and on behalf of all persons residing in or otherwise lawfully in the Borough of Millvale and all persons who will in the future reside in or lawfully be in the Borough of Millvale. The court, however, refused to certify a class action, relying on the Commonwealth to represent the class.

 (5) Defendant Frank L. Baranyai is and was a police officer employed by the Borough of Millvale at all times here involved.

 (6) Defendant James D. Porter is employed by the Borough of Millvale as Chief of Police and has served in said capacity at all times relevant to this action.

 (7) Defendant Regis J. McCarthy serves as Mayor of the Borough of Millvale and has served in said capacity at all times relevant to this action.

 (8) All other defendants are present or past members of the Millvale Borough Council.

 (9) The Borough of Millvale is a municipality incorporated as a Borough pursuant to the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

 (10) The Borough of Millvale has established and maintains a police department pursuant to the Borough Code, 53 P.S. § 45101, et seq.

 (11) On November 6, 1974, defendant Baranyai unlawfully arrested and detained Margaret G. Blume while she was lawfully standing on a street corner in the Borough of Millvale. While defendant Baranyai claims that Mrs. Blume, a woman in her late forties was dressed as her daughter Judy for the purpose of entrapping him into making false arrest, nevertheless, he concedes that he recognized her as the mother when she turned around. He packed her into the police car and took her to the station. The mother is much heavier set than the daughter.

 (12) On November 16, 1974, defendant Baranyai brutalized and unlawfully assaulted and mistreated James Mages by beating him about the shoulders, arms, head and face with his fists and blackjack, by beating Mages' head against the wall, and by threatening to shoot him with a shotgun and revolver, all of which occurred while Mages was handcuffed and confined in the Millvale Police Station. We find that Mages was handcuffed during the time that the incident arose as the result of unlawful arrest of one Walter Brightenbaugh without warrant.

 (13) On July 10, 1975, defendant Baranyai beat and unlawfully assaulted and mistreated Richard Stefanick by striking him about the face and head with a flashlight while Stefanick was in his custody and control. The court does not condone Stefanick's prior conduct or hold the arrest was illegal, but this forms no legal basis for the beating after he was secure.

 (14) On May 24, 1976, defendant Baranyai brutalized and unlawfully assaulted and mistreated Daniel Burchill by beating Burchill with a nightstick across the ribs while Burchill was handcuffed and in his custody and control. This attack was corroborated by Officer Cepek.

 (15) On June 18, 1976, defendant Baranyai beat and unlawfully assaulted and mistreated Richard Stefanick with a blackjack while Stefanick was in his custody and control in the Etna Police Station. At the hospital where he was taken, edema and contusions about the face were found consistent with blows by a blackjack.

 (16) On June 22, 1976, defendant Baranyai beat and unlawfully assaulted and mistreated Patrick Hughes by striking him about his arms and stomach with a nightstick while Hughes was in his custody and control in the Etna Police Station. The court finds the blows struck on the street did not constitute excessive force but the attack in the police station, verified by two other officers did.

 (17) On January 29, 1977, defendant Baranyai unlawfully harassed and mistreated Franz J. Hersick by stopping his automobile, pulling Hersick out of his car, unlawfully arresting and detaining him in a cell and causing an illegal search to be made of Hersick's car. Hersick was refused the right to use the telephone to call his attorney and his car was unlawfully searched without warrant.

 (18) On March 25, 1977, defendant Baranyai beat and unlawfully assaulted and mistreated David Stier and banged Stier's head against the pavement while taking him into custody. He had been subdued but Baranyai persisted in banging his head on the pavement and threatening to split his skull open. This was verified by testimony of a bystander. The force was excessive and might have resulted in a fractured skull.

 (19) In November, 1977, defendants subjected Franz J. Hersick to unlawful retaliation, harassment and intimidation because he had complained of police misconduct and abuse by defendant Baranyai. He was entrapped by defendant Porter into going to the office of defense counsel Dice and there interviewed without his attorney. Attempts were made to get him to change his statement and Porter threatened him with suit for complaints against Baranyai.

 (20) On March 15, 1978, and on various other dates, defendant Baranyai subjected Patrick Hughes to unlawful retaliation, harassment and intimidation because he had complained of police misconduct and abuse by defendant Baranyai. Hughes was told to get out of Millvale and stay out. This was corroborated by another officer and Baranyai claimed a right to tell persons selected by him to stay out of Millvale.

 (21) On July 12, 1977, defendant Baranyai subjected Joseph Blume to unlawful arrest, retaliation, harassment and intimidation because he had complained of police misconduct and abuse by defendant Baranyai. He was attacked and punched, refused leave to use the telephone and not informed of charges against him. The court finds his repudiation of his complaint to Mayor McCarthy was made under compulsion by Baranyai.

 (22) On April 12, 1978, shortly after the incident described in 20 defendant harassed Joseph Blume and wife eating a milkshake. He followed them and told them to stay out of Millvale. Blume is afraid to go into Millvale for fear of arrest.

 (24) On July 4, 1978, defendant Baranyai unlawfully arrested and detained Kimberly Urbanek, a Clerk of the County Court Reporters while she was lawfully standing on a sidewalk in the Borough of Millvale. She was taken to the police station and cited. Charges of loitering in violation of state law were dismissed by the Court of Common Pleas.

 (25) On an unknown date, defendant Baranyai brutalized and otherwise mistreated Robert Angel by beating him with a blackjack while Angel was in his custody and control. This was verified by Sergeant Pfeiffer. On remonstration by Pfeiffer who was in charge Baranyai replied: "No one interferes with my arrests or tells me what to do."

 (26) On March 2, 1979, defendant Baranyai unlawfully arrested and detained Gilbert R. Gruemken, Jack Dorn and Tom Newman while they were lawfully standing on a street corner in the Borough of Millvale. The court finds he stopped his police car, made them get in and took them to the police station without giving any reason.

 (27) On March 15, 1979, defendant Baranyai arrested John Ayres, age 11, while he was lawfully upon the streets of the Borough of Millvale and further, he unlawfully detained and mistreated John Ayres while John was in his custody and control in the Millvale Police Station. The boy had kicked another boy without injury while emerging from a school bus. He was placed in a police car, taken to the station and interrogated concerning another incident without Miranda warnings and without calling his parents. He was threatened with Juvenile Court. On cross examination, it developed Baranyai did not regard this as an arrest.

 (29) On March 30, 1979, defendant Baranyai unlawfully without warrant entered the home of Katy M. Nist and John J. Nist located in Reserve Township, and he did unlawfully conduct a search of the premises, of various personal belongings and of various individuals therein. The householder demanded a warrant and Baranyai responded he didn't need a warrant. There was no probable cause for the entry, the same being based upon a telephone call from an unknown informant broadcast over the radio. No known neighbors complained and no noise was audible on the sidewalk.

 (30) On March 30, 1979, defendant Baranyai unlawfully ordered Jack Dorn to remove himself from the front steps of a Millvale resident's home or be arrested. The householder stated he had no objections to Dorn sitting on the steps.

 (31) On July 14, 1977 and July 18, 1977, criminal complaints were filed in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, against defendant Baranyai specifically alleging numerous of the incidents set forth above.

 (32) On February 8, 1978, after a jury trial in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, defendant Baranyai was found guilty of one count of Simple Assault (18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2701), and two counts of Official Oppression (18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5301). The conviction of Simple Assault and one of the counts of Official Oppression arose from the criminal complaint filed by David Stier. The other count of Official Oppression arose from the complaint filed by Deputy Attorney General, Michael Louik, wherein Baranyai was accused of a pattern of misconduct and abuse beginning in the Summer of 1973.

 (33) On June 26, 1978, defendant Baranyai was sentenced to pay a fine of $ 1,000, two years probation and to pay the court costs. This case is now on appeal. The affirmance or not of the convictions is of no importance here because in that case the Commonwealth was required to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt while here we are only concerned with preponderance of the evidence.

 (35) On October 5, 1977, the complaint in this action was filed. Two days later on October 7, 1977, defendant Baranyai filed criminal charges against Deputy Attorney General Michael Louik, one of the attorneys herein, charging him with Barratry (18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5109) and harassment (18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2709). Said charges were filed against Deputy Attorney General Louik in his official capacity and alleged, among other things, criminal violations arising from the institution of this action. In February, 1978, defendant Baranyai withdrew these criminal charges.

 (36) On the second day of the trial of this case in the hallway immediately outside the courtroom in which this case was being tried, the defendant Baranyai pointed out one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs and described him as representing the Mafia. This was in the presence of witnesses for the plaintiff who testified they felt harassed and intimidated. The defendant claimed he was unaware these were plaintiffs witnesses but admitted he had made similar statements previously. The court finds this is typical of defendant's conduct in ...


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