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CYPRUS v. DISKIN

June 26, 1996

NORMAN CYPRUS
v.
RICHARD DISKIN, STEVEN FURLONG, and GLENN WALP



The opinion of the court was delivered by: POLLAK

 Pollak, J.

 June 26, 1996

 This case arises under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff, Norman Cyprus, asserts that his constitutional rights were violated as a result of an arrest that assertedly occurred without probable cause. He has named as defendants two state police officers, Trooper Richard Diskin and Corporal Steven Furlong, and the Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, Glenn Walp. The defendants have now filed a motion for summary judgment.

 I. Factual Background

 The following recitation of undisputed facts is derived from the complaint and from the parties' submissions.

 Norman Cyprus is an antique gun dealer. On November 12, 1994, at an antique gun show in Lower Pottsgrove Township, Pennsylvania, Trooper Richard Diskin purchased two guns from Cyprus, an 8mm French revolver and an Iver Johnson .38 caliber revolver, and ammunition for the French revolver. The total purchase price was $ 295.00. Diskin is an officer in a unit of the Pennsylvania State Police that specializes in fraud investigations; an element of this unit's work is the detection of crimes related to sales of weapons. Diskin had been told by an informant that illegal sales of weapons were occurring at gun shows in eastern Pennsylvania, and his November 1994 purchase from Cyprus was part of an investigation of this informant's claim.

 On December 10, 1994, at an antique gun show in Allentown, Cyprus and another exhibitor were paged to report to the office of the gun show manager. At that office, they were met by an Allentown police officer, who escorted the two exhibitors to the lobby of the exhibition hall. Corporal Steven Furlong met the two in the lobby and arrested them. Cyprus was then escorted to his exhibitor's table, and the table was covered with sheets; he and his police escort then returned to the lobby. When state police transportation arrived, Cyprus was handcuffed and taken to the Bethlehem barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police. There, he was fingerprinted and photographed, and was served with the arrest warrant. Shortly afterwards, Cyprus was taken to a bail hearing, at which he was released on his own recognizance (after a total of approximately four hours in police custody).

 On January 24, 1995, at a preliminary hearing before District Justice Catherine M. Hummel, Cyprus presented evidence - in the form of two books, Iver Johnson Arms & Cycle Works Handguns 1871-1978, and Military Handguns of France 1858-1958 - that the guns that he had sold to Diskin had been manufactured in or before 1898. *fn1" As I will discuss shortly, Pennsylvania's firearms laws exempt antique firearms, a category that includes firearms manufactured before 1899. Presumably for this reason, District Justice Hummel then dismissed all charges against Cyprus for lack of probable cause.

 On March 17, 1995, Cyprus filed this suit. Cyprus's complaint asserts that his arrest was performed in bad faith and "in total disregard" of Pennsylvania's gun laws and of Cyprus's constitutional rights -- specifically, of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures (as incorporated by the Fourteenth Amendment), of the Sixth Amendment, and of the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Complaint, PP 12, 14, 19. Cyprus's complaint avers that many gun dealers have been arrested in this fashion, and that these arrests have occurred at the direction of Glenn Walp, Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police. As damages, Cyprus seeks reimbursement of the attorneys' fees he incurred as a result of his arrest; compensation for the harm his public arrest at the Allentown show did to his business relationships with persons attending that show; compensation for the "great embarrassment, shame and humiliation," Complaint at P 18, and harm to his reputation resulting from that arrest; and an award of punitive damages.

 The defendants' motion for summary judgment asserts: (1) that Cyprus has no viable claim against Walp, who was not personally involved in any of the events giving rise to Cyprus's claims; (2) that Cyprus may only bring a claim under the Fourth Amendment, not under the other constitutional provisions he cites; and (3) that the defendants have qualified immunity for their conduct in arresting Cyprus and declining to drop the charges against him.

 II. Personal Involvement of Defendant Walp

 In order to maintain a section 1983 claim against Walp, Cyprus must establish that Walp was personally involved in the wrongs that were allegedly done to him or knowingly acquiesced in those wrongs. See Gay v. Petsock, 917 F.2d 768, 771 (3d Cir. 1990). Cyprus has established that Walp had received general reports of Diskin's investigation (which involved a number of gun dealers other than Cyprus) and that he was aware that some gun-related arrests were to occur. See Plaintiff's Exh. 22. Commissioner Walp also apparently held a press conference on December 15, 1994, to discuss a number of gun-related arrests that had occurred on December 14 and 15; Cyprus's arrest occurred on December 14. Walp states, in an affidavit, that he has never met Cyprus, that he had not directed any Pennsylvania police officer to take any actions against him, and that he had little awareness of the details of Diskin's investigation. See Defendant's Exh. X at 2-3.

 Cyprus theorizes that Walp, frustrated by the defeat in the Pennsylvania legislature of gun-control legislation he supported, undertook a wave of gun-related arrests as a form of "revenge." Cyprus advances no proof for this proposition, however, and also provides no evidence that Walp had any personal knowledge of, or acquiesced in, the alleged infirmities in either Cyprus's arrest or the arrests of gun dealers generally. Cyprus cannot therefore maintain a section 1983 claim against Walp. Thus, this element of the defendants' summary judgment motion will be granted.

 III. The Legal Basis of Cyprus's Claims

 Cyprus's complaint makes claims based upon (1) the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures, (2) the Sixth Amendment, and (3) the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. *fn2" The defendants argue ...


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