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HUGHES v. SARKIS

November 18, 2005.

ROBERT HUGHES, Plaintiff,
v.
CORPORAL JOSEPH SARKIS, sued in his individual capacity, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD CONABOY, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

Before the Court is Corporal Joseph Sarkis' "(Defendant") Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. 46), against Robert Hughes ("Plaintiff"). In his Amended Complaint, (Doc. 8), Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution. The Complaint was initially filed by Plaintiff in Pennsylvania state court and was removed by the original Defendants to Federal Court.*fn1

  After the case was removed to Federal Court by Defendants, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint alleging the same violations. (Doc. 8). On September 8, 2004, this Court granted Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the First Amended Complaint based on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 23). In dismissing Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, this Court held that the dismissal of the Plaintiff's first Complaint, (previously filed in the federal Court in Hughes I), precluded Plaintiff from filing the same action in the state court.

  Plaintiff moved for Reconsideration on September 21, 2004. (Doc. 35). The Court held oral argument on Wednesday, January 12, 2005. On January 28, 2005, this Court granted Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration. (Doc. 34). On September 16, 2005, Defendant filed this Motion for Summary Judgement. (Doc. 46).

  The motion has been fully briefed and is now ripe for disposition. Based on the discussion below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

  I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND*fn2

  In 1998, Plaintiff complained at an Old Forge Borough Council public meeting about unlawful activities conducted by certain officials. Specifically, he argued that Old Forge was running unlicensed, unregistered vehicles as officially marked police cruisers. (Doc. 7, at ¶ 11).

  In May 1998, Plaintiff obtained copies of records from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation that he said confirmed Old Forge was running unlicenced, unregistered vehicles as officially marked police cruisers. These documents were brought to the attention of the Old Forge Borough Council at a public meeting. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff was arrested and charged with five (5) counts of violating 18 Pa.C.S. § 4911(a)(1) for tampering with public records or information. The charges were subsequently dropped by the District Attorney. (Id. at ¶¶ 13-15).

  In June of 1998, Hughes was a candidate for the Old Forge Borough Council. He campaigned to "clean up Old Forge from the prevalent nude bars, escort and massage establishments that were preying on the community." (Id. at ¶ 16). He spoke out against these clubs and complained that some were not zoned properly. (Id. at ¶¶ 17-19). As a result, Old Forge shut down one of the clubs. (Id. at ¶ 17).

  Soon thereafter, Plaintiff was charged with the rape of Tara Blumenfeld ("Blumenfeld"), a "nude dancer and pornographic model." Hughes asserts that Avvisato and Defendant maliciously and vindictively conspired to fabricate these charges which were eventually dismissed. (Id. at ¶¶ 20-22). Plaintiff argues that "Defendants knew or should have known there was no probable cause to bring any of the charges against Hughes," nevertheless, they brought these charges in retaliation against Hughes for exercising his First Amendment rights. (Id. at ¶¶ 23-24).

  Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that Avvisato and Defendant conspired with Detective Joseph Jordan and Assistant District Attorney Eugene Talerico of the Lackawanna County District Attorney's Office to conduct illegal wire taps of conversations between Plaintiff and certain confidential informants. (Id. at ¶ 25). According to Plaintiff, this amounted to a violation of Pennsylvania law, a violation of Hughes's First and Fourth Amendment rights, and subjected Hughes to vindictive prosecution.

  Also, Plaintiff asserts that Avvisato and Defendant conspired with Wendy Maopolski, a Scranton Tribune reporter, in an effort to slander and defame Hughes through published articles for the purpose of interfering with his campaign for public office. (Id. at ¶ 26).

  II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

  On April 26, 2004, Plaintiff filed a § 1983 claim in the Court of Common Pleas for Lackawanna County. The original Defendants removed the action to this Court.*fn3

  On June 18, and again on June 30, 2004, the original Defendants sought to dismiss the Complaint on preclusion grounds based on our decision in Hughes I.*fn4 (Docs. 3 & 6). On July 7, 2004, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. (Doc. 8). On September 8, 2004, this Court denied the Rule 19 Motion ...


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