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July 27, 2004.

GENE C. BENCKINI, Plaintiff,

The opinion of the court was delivered by: BERLE M. SCHILLER, District Judge


Pro se Plaintiff Gene Benckini commenced this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Coopersburg Borough, Coopersburg Police Department ("CPD"), Police Chief Daniel Trexler, and Coopersburg Mayor Jonathan J. Mack, Jr. Presently before the Court are Plaintiff and Defendants' cross-motions for summaryjudgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is denied and Defendants' motion is granted.


  The following undisputed facts chronicle the ongoing drama between Plaintiff Gene Benckini and Defendants, which began on October 20, 1999 and has culminated in the instant action. On that date, then-Patrolman Trexler of the CPD was dispatched by the Lehigh County 911 center to speak with Heather Lloyd.*fn1 Lloyd informed Trexler that a vehicle had been following her in a harassing manner and provided a written statement of the incident. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. E (Voluntary Statement).) On the basis of Lloyd's description of the driver and the vehicle, which included a business logo on the door, Trexler believed the perpetrator to be Plaintiff. (Id. (Police Supplemental Rep. Oct. 22, 1999).) Trexler took Lloyd to Plaintiff's residence, where she positively identified the vehicle parked in the driveway as the vehicle that had been following her. (Id.) Lloyd also positively identified a picture of Plaintiff as the driver. (Id.) Based on the information provided by Lloyd, Trexler filed a non-traffic summary citation against Plaintiff for harassment. (Id. (Non-Traffic Citation).) On January 5, 2000, following a summary trial, Plaintiff was found guilty of this charge. (Trexler Dep. at 20-21; Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. E (Supplemental Police Rep. Jan. 5, 2000, Aff. of Probable Cause).) According to the supplemental police report filed on the same day, Plaintiff indicated his intent to appeal this conviction, but the Court is not aware of the status of the appeal or whether it in fact was filed. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. E (Supplemental Police Rep. Jan. 5, 2000).)

  On March 9, 2000, Lloyd again contacted CPD and reported that, on several occasions, Plaintiff had driven by her business, the Critter Corral Pet Shop, and watched her while parked in a nearby lot. (Id. (Supplemental Police Rep. Mar. 10, 2000).) The police report also indicates that two witnesses corroborated Lloyd's complaints. (Id.) While no additional criminal charges were filed against Plaintiff at this time, Lloyd was instructed to contact the police if there were any further incidents. (Id. (Supplemental Police Rep. Apr. 22, 2000).) On June 15, 2001, Lloyd contacted CPD because she had received a harassing phone call from a man whose voice she believed to be Plaintiff's. (Id. (Incident Investigation Rep. M2862).) Trexler documented the incident. (Id.) On September 27, 2001, Lloyd called CPD and reported that Plaintiff had again been contacting the store, this time seeking information regarding the store's relocation. (Id. (Incident Investigation Rep. M3914).) Lloyd also informed CPD that Plaintiff threatened her in the parking lot by driving very close to her. (Id.)

  On October 12, 2001, Lloyd called CPD and advised Trexler that she was currently being followed by Plaintiff. (Id. (Lloyd Voluntary Statement Oct. 12, 2001, Investigation Rep. M4087).) Trexler proceeded to her location and spoke with Lloyd, who explained that Plaintiff had been following her, at points running her off of the road and onto the curb. (Id.) Following his investigation, Trexler, with the authorization of the Lehigh County District Attorney's Office, filed a Criminal Complaint and Affidavit of Probable Cause detailing the aforementioned incidents and charging Plaintiff with aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, and stalking. (Id. (Criminal Complaint), (Aff. of Probable Cause).) After the criminal complaint and affidavit of probable cause were approved by District Justice David B. Harding, an arrest warrant was issued and Plaintiff was arrested. (Id. (Incident Investigation Rep. M4087).)

  Following a preliminary hearing, Plaintiff was held over for trial on all charges to the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas. (Id. (Incident Investigation Rep. M4087).) After a jury trial, Plaintiff was convicted of stalking and recklessly endangering another person and acquitted on the charges of aggravated assault and simple assault. (Id. (Weintraub Aff. ¶ 7, Incident Investigation Rep. M4087).) Plaintiff was sentenced to 11½ to 23 months in prison. (Id. Ex. H (Sentence Sheet).) There is no evidence that Plaintiff's conviction has been overturned on appeal. (Id. (Weintraub Aff. ¶ 8).)


  Summary judgment is appropriate when the admissible evidence fails to demonstrate a dispute of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56 (c) (1994); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). When the moving party does not bear the burden of persuasion at trial, that party may meet its burden on summary judgment by showing that the nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient to carry its burden of persuasion at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Thereafter, the nonmoving party demonstrates a genuine issue of material fact if sufficient evidence is provided to allow a reasonable jury to find for him at trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In order to meet this burden, the opposing party must point to specific, affirmative evidence in the record and not simply rely on mere allegations, conclusory or vague statements, or general denials in the pleadings. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Ridgewood Bd. of Educ. v. N.E. ex rel. M.E., 172 F.3d 238, 252 (3d Cir. 1999) (noting that bare assertions or suspicions will not withstand motion for summary judgment). In reviewing the record, "a court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all inferences in that party's favor." Armbruster v. Unisys Corp., 32 F.3d 768, 777 (3d Cir. 1994). Furthermore, a court may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence in making its determination. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000); see also Goodman v. Pa. Tpk. Comm'n, 293 F.3d 655, 665 (3d Cir. 2002).


  Plaintiff brings his claims for constitutional violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which requires him to demonstrate that a person acting under color of state law deprived him of a federal right. Gorman v. Township of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 633 (3d Cir. 1995). Defendants do not dispute that they are state actors for purposes of § 1983. The issue, therefore, is whether Defendants' conduct violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights.*fn2

  A. Claims Against Police Chief Trexler

  Plaintiff alleges that Chief Trexler violated his constitutional rights by: (1) arresting and initiating criminal proceedings against him without probable cause; (2) subjecting him to malicious prosecution; and (3) conspiring to obstruct justice. Trexler has moved for summary judgment and asserted the defense of qualified immunity. As a government official engaged in discretionary functions, Trexler is immune from suits brought against him for damages under § 1983 if his "conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). When the defense of qualified immunity is asserted in a motion for summary judgment, "the plaintiff bears the initial burden of showing that the defendant's conduct violated some clearly established statutory or constitutional right." Sherwood v. Mulvihill, 113 F.3d 396, 399 (3d Cir. 1997). "Only if the plaintiff carries this initial burden must the defendant then demonstrate that no genuine issue of material fact remains as to the `objective reasonableness' of the defendant's belief in the lawfulness of his actions." Id. Thus, the Court's first inquiry is whether Plaintiff has demonstrated a violation of a clearly established constitutional right. 1. Arrest Without Probable Cause

  Plaintiff claims that Trexler violated his constitutional rights by filing charges and arresting him on the basis of Lloyd's statements without getting his "side of the story." (Benckini Dep. at 7.) The Fourth Amendment prohibits a police officer from arresting a citizen except upon probable cause, which has been defined as "facts and circumstances within the arresting officer's knowledge [that] are sufficient in themselves to warrant a reasonable person to believe that an offense has been or is being committed by the person to be arrested." Orsatti v. New Jersey State Police, 71 F.3d 480, 485 (3d Cir. 1995) (quoting United States v. Cruz, 910 F.2d 1072, 1076 (3d Cir. 1990)). In determining whether probable cause exists, police officers are permitted to rely upon the statements of eyewitnesses or victims if they reasonably believe the statements are credible. Wilson v. Russo, 212 F.3d 781, 790 (3d Cir. 2000) (noting that positive identification by victim would usually be sufficient to establish probable cause in absence of exculpatory evidence or evidence of witness's unreliability); Lynch v. Hunter, Civ. A. No. 00-1331, 2000 WL 1286396, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 1, 2000) ("But when an officer has received his information from some person — normally the putative victim or an eyewitness — who it seems reasonable to believe is telling the truth, he has probable cause to arrest the accused perpetrator." (internal quotations and citations omitted).) Although the question of probable cause in a ...

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