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Rini v. City of Pittsburgh

September 21, 2006

SHAWN RINI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF PITTSBURGH; JAMES GLICK; AND GEORGE CIGANIK, INDIVIDUALLY AND OFFICIALLY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McVerry, J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Presently before the Court is the JOINT MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, with brief in support, filed by Defendants, the City of Pittsburgh; James Glick; and George Ciganik, individually and officially (Document Nos. 27 and 28), and the BRIEF IN RESPONSE TO OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS' JOINT MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT filed by Plaintiff, Shawn Rini (Document No. 29).

The issues have been fully briefed and the matter is ripe for disposition. After a careful consideration of the motion, the filings in support and opposition thereto, the memoranda of the parties, the relevant case law, and the record as a whole, the Court finds that there is not sufficient record evidence upon which a reasonable jury could return a verdict for Plaintiff, Shawn Rini, on his claims of alleged civil rights violations brought under § 1983 and his claims of false arrest, defamation, and malicious prosecution brought under Pennsylvania common law. Therefore, for the reasons that follow the Motion will be granted in its entirety.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Shawn Rini ("Plaintiff " or "Rini") brought this lawsuit on February 16, 2005, by the filing of a four-count Complaint in which he alleges his civil rights were violated as a result of the conduct of City of Pittsburgh police officers, James Glick ("Glick") and George Ciganik ("Ciganik"), when they responded to a police call which reported a fight in progress involving Plaintiff and Elmondo Hutchinson ("Hutchinson"). Additionally, Plaintiff alleges violations of state law against Glick and Ciganik in their individual capacities under Pennsylvania common law for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and defamation.

Defendants have filed the instant motion for summary judgment in which they contend that Plaintiff has failed to proffer sufficient evidence to establish a violation of his constitutional rights. Additionally, Defendants Glick and Ciganik, individually, contend summary judgment is appropriate on Plaintiff's claims brought under Pennsylvania common law as Plaintiff has failed to establish a prima face case for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and/or defamation.

BACKGROUND

As the law requires, all disputed facts and inferences are resolved most favorable to the Plaintiff.

On February 16, 2004, at approximately 4:36 p.m., Officers Glick and Ciganik received a call for a reported fight in progress at Roland's Auto Sales ("Roland's), McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania.*fn1 When the officers arrived at Roland's, Rini and his brother, Enrique Wilder ("Wilder"), were standing in the parking lot outside of Roland's. Wilder was holding an aluminum baseball bat at his side.

Glink and Ciganik spoke with Plaintiff and Wilder before going inside Roland's. Plaintiff explained that he was involved in a fight with Hutchinson, who remained inside the building. Rini told the police officers that both he and Wilder were active security guards, bounty hunters, and employees of Internal Intelligence Agency, a private security firm.

Rini also told Glink and Ciganik that he had been hired by Roland's to repossess vehicles. In turn, Plaintiff hired his brother, Wilder, to assist in the repossessions.

Glick and Ciganik then entered Roland's and met with several people who had witnessed the incident: Roland Croner ("Croner"), the owner of Roland's; Florence Macon ("Macon"), the mother of Hutchinson; Rona Coleman ("Coleman"), the sister of Hutchinson; and Marsha Boehm ("Boehm"), an employee of Roland's.

Apparently, Macon, who had previously purchased a van from Roland's, had brought her vehicle in for service as she was having difficulty with the van. Prior to Macon's arrival at Roland's, Croner had previously instructed Rini to repossess Macon's vehicle as she was late on her payments. When Macon arrived at Roland's that day, Rini told her that he was going to repossess her vehicle and that she was not leaving with the van that day. Rini then instructed Wilder to move their vehicle behind Macon's so that she could not remove it from Roland's parking lot.

Hutchinson overheard the conversation between Rini and Macon, and became upset at the tone in which Rini was speaking to his mother. The record is unclear as to exactly how the fight started or who made the first physical contact; however, all parties agree that Rini and Hutchinson engaged in a physical altercation.

Each witness inside Roland's told the officers that they thought Rini had a gun and/or that he gestured toward a gun during the physical altercation with Hutchinson. One of the witnesses told the officers that upon exiting Roland's, Rini had given his gun to Wilder. See Investigative Report, at 3. Up until this point, Glick and Ciganik were under the impression that they were responding to and investigating nothing more than a physical altercation. Based on the witnesses' statements, however, Glick and Ciganik became concerned about the severity of the incident and called for backup.

Glick and Ciganik then went back outside to question Rini and Wilder about the firearm. Upon questioning, Wilder stated that a firearm which was registered to Rini was in the trunk of his car and that he had a valid license to carry a firearm.

Rini claimed that he was not in possession of a firearm at any time on that day, and that he had lent his firearm to his brother as they were doing "recovery work" that day and Wilder had forgotten his gun. Despite claiming that he was not in possession of the firearm, Rini told the officers, on numerous occasions, that he had an Act 235 card*fn2 and that it permitted him to carry a firearm to and from work. Rini, however, did not posses a license to carry a concealed firearm. At this point, the police officers did not arrest Rini.

Based on the witnesses' statements and believing that Rini had been carrying a concealed firearm when he was inside Roland's and had displayed the weapon in a threatening manner, Glick and Ciganik determined it was necessary to contact their supervisor, Sergeant Reyne Kascuta ("Kascuta"), the acting supervisor at the Zone 3 Police Station, with regard to Rini's ability to carry a firearm without a license but with an Act 235 card. (See Depo. of Glink at pp. 50-51; Depo of Ciganik at pp. 30-32; Affidavit of Reyne Kacsuta). Kascuta, in turn, contacted the Allegheny County District Attorney's office and spoke with Assistant District Attorney Law Klaus ("Klaus").

Based on the discussion between Kascuta and Klaus, it was determined that if Rini was carrying a concealed firearm, he was in violation of Pennsylvania Crimes Code, Section 6106, for carrying a concealed weapon without a valid license.

At approximately 6:00 PM, thirty-five (35) to forty (40) minutes after the police initially arrived on the scene, Glick and Ciganik placed Rini under arrest and charged him with possession of a concealed firearm without a license, simple assault, and terroristic threats.

Rini's firearm was confiscated, processed for evidence, and sent to the Allegheny County Crime Lab for processing.

Prior to Rini's arrest, Emergency Medical Services ("EMS") paramedics were called to Roland's to examine Macon, who was visibly upset and acting "hysterical." The paramedics provided no further treatment to anyone else at the scene, as no one else requested treatment.

After Rini's arrest, he was taken to the Zone 3 police station. There, upon his request, EMS paramedics were called and examined Rini at the police station, but provided no treatment. According to the paramedics, Rini had no visible signs of injury, including cuts, lacerations, signs of bleeding, or even bruising. In fact, Rini's chief complaint was a headache. The paramedics determined that if Rini needed treatment, it was suitable for the police officers to transport him to the Emergency Room prior to going to jail.

Rini alleges that he told Glick and Ciganik that he wanted to go to the Emergency Room; however Glick and Ciganik both testified that they transported Rini directly to the Allegheny County Jail because he stated that he would rather go to jail than delay the process by going first to the hospital.

Upon arrival at the Allegheny County Jail, Rini was examined by a licensed medical provider. He received no further treatment prior to his admittance to the jail.

The next day, February 17, 2004, Rini was released from jail on his own recognizance. A Preliminary Hearing on the charges pending against Rini was scheduled by City of Pittsburgh District Court for February 24, 2004. However, an agreement was reached whereby the charges would be dropped if Rini obtained a valid permit to carry a ...


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