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MARIANI v. CITY OF PITTSBURGH

January 3, 1986

WILLIAM MARIANI, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF PITTSBURGH, a municipal corporation, OFFICER PREIK and OFFICER PUPINSKI, as individuals, and in their official capacity as members of the Police Force of the City of Pittsburgh, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: COHILL

 Presently before us is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed on behalf of Defendant the City of Pittsburgh ("City"). The Complaint charges both the City and two individual police officers with violating 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1982) by depriving Plaintiff of his fourteenth amendment rights.

 Background

 The above captioned action arises out of a series of events beginning on the evening of April 9, 1983 and ending early the following morning. Shortly after a rock concert had ended at a downtown theater, Cynthia Dietrich, a police officer who was directing heavy pedestrian traffic at a major intersection, observed the Plaintiff. She reported that an individual fitting Plaintiff's description, and driving a black Camaro, had disregarded her signals, accelerated into the intersection toward her, and then swerved away just barely missing her. A number of pedestrians were forced to run out of the intersection to avoid being hit. Dep., p. 10.

 Dietrich gave a description of the car, including its license plate and a description of the driver to an officer at police headquarters. Her descriptions, along with her version of the incident, to the effect that the driver had almost run over several people, were broadcast over the police radio. Id., at 13.

 At approximately one o'clock in the morning, Officers Preik and Papinski, the individual Defendants in this action, spotted the vehicle described. It was parked and unoccupied. Pupinski Dep., p. 5. The officers reported that they had found the vehicle and requested assistance. A short time later, the officers observed the Plaintiff approaching the vehicle. Plaintiff matched the description of the individual involved in the earlier incident. Id., at 9.

 According to the officers, they initially attempted to stop the Plaintiff to obtain identification. However, when Plaintiff spotted the officers, he entered his vehicle and attempted to drive away. Preik Dep., p. 9. Aided by two other officers who had responded to their call, Officers Preik and Pupinski blocked Plaintiff's vehicle with a patrol car and a van. Id., at 13.

 Approaching Plaintiff's vehicle from the rear, Officers Preik and Pupinski requested that Plaintiff step out of his vehicle. Id., at 11. When Plaintiff did not voluntarily exit his vehicle, the officers forcibly removed him. According to the officers, Plaintiff resisted arrest, punching and kicking at them from the moment they removed him from his vehicle until he was handcuffed and placed in the van. Pupinski Dep., p. 8.

 After the struggle, the officers noticed some blood on Plaintiff's hair. Believing that Plaintiff may have injured his head during his resistance, the officers stopped at a hospital before taking Plaintiff to the police station. Preik Dep., p. 30. Both officers deny using a night stick, punching or kicking Plaintiff to subdue him. Id., at 17-20. Pupinski Dep., p. 12. According to the officers, Plaintiff's head wound did not require sutures and Plaintiff had suffered no other injury.

 During his arrest, Officer Pupinski smelled alcohol on Plaintiff's breath. Later, at the police station, he observed Plaintiff walking with a staggered gait. Pupinski Dep., p. 8. Consequently, a breath analysis was administered, the results of which indicated that Plaintiff was legally intoxicated. Plaintiff subsequently pled guilty to a charge of underage drinking and a drunk driving charge against him was dismissed.

 William Mariani, Plaintiff, states a different version of the circumstances surrounding his arrest. He claims that sometime around two o'clock in the morning, after his father's bar had closed, he went outside to retrieve his wallet from his car. Mariani Dep., p. 48. He conversed briefly with some men who had noticed a number of police cars on the street, then he proceeded to enter his car. Id., at 49-50. Immediately upon his entering the car, several police cars with their lights flashing blocked in his car and demanded that he get out of it. Id. Three or four policemen, night sticks drawn, approached his car, opened the door, dragged him out and began to beat him and shout obscenities at him. They allegedly accused him of being a cop killer. Plaintiff claims that he was thrown up against his car several times and then handcuffed. Id., at 52.

 Plaintiff also disagrees with the officers' story in several other respects. He disputes the fact that his head injury did not require stitches, stating instead that the officers talked the nurse out of giving him one or two stitches. Id., at 11. At the police station, Plaintiff claims that the officers threatened him with revenge for attempting to kill a police officer. Id., at 55. Plaintiff denies that he attempted to run down the traffic officer. Rather, he claims that he simply disobeyed her order to stop because he was sick of being in traffic. Id., at 43.

 Officers Preik and Pupinski deny Plaintiff's allegations that they maliciously assaulted him and used unnecessary force in making his arrest. On the contrary, the officers maintain that Plaintiff's behavior during the arrest constitutes intentional assault and ...


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