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Samillo v. Kelly

April 18, 2007

DANIEL SAMILLO, PLAINTIFF
v.
DANIEL S. KELLY AND STEVE BEARD DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane

MEMORANDUM

On January 11, 2003, Daniel Samilo*fn1 was arrested on three counts of armed robbery. On December 18, 2003, after a three-day criminal trial in Pennsylvania state court, a jury acquitted Samilo on each count. Before his acquittal, Samilo spent over eleven months in prison. He then filed suit in this Court against the arresting officers, Defendants Daniel Kelly and Steve Beard, alleging that he was deprived of his rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 on grounds of qualified immunity. (Doc. No. 21.) The parties have briefed the motion, and it is ripe for disposition. For the following reasons, the Court will grant Defendants' motion.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

At 11:13 a.m. on Monday, August 12, 2002, an armed robbery occurred at the M&T Bank located at 1661 East Chocolate Avenue in Hershey, Pennsylvania. A few weeks later, at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, October 30, 2002, another armed robbery occurred at the same M&T Bank location. In both cases, the suspect fled the scene in a Jeep Grand Cherokee. At 1:20 p.m. on Thursday, January 9, 2003, a third armed robbery occurred, this time at the Fulton Bank located at 1212 Cocoa Avenue in Hershey. In each case, the banks' security cameras captured images of the robberies, and the Derry Township Police initiated investigations into the robberies.

On the night of January 9, 2003, the Derry Township Police issued a news release describing the suspect as "a White male in his fifties, approximately 5'7" tall and 180 pounds." (Defs' Ex. 15.) The news release included the still images from banks' cameras and offered a reward of up to $7,000 for information leading to the arrest or conviction of the suspect. (Id.) Local TV stations broadcasted the story that evening.

The next morning, Jim Brandt called the Derry Township Police Department to report that he believed he could identify the suspect in the news release. Brandt, who worked as a Fleet Manager at Warner Motors in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, communicated his belief that the suspect was Daniel Samilo, his former co-worker at Warner Motors. Brandt further stated that Dean Pugliese, General Manager at Warner Motors, saw the news story, and also believed that Samilo was the individual in the photographs.*fn2

Detectives Kelly and Beard then prepared a photograph array, which included a picture of Samilo and five other individuals who fit the description of the bank robber, to show to the eyewitness tellers at the banks. Of the four tellers to whom Defendants showed the photograph array, only one believed that she could identify the suspect, and she positively identified Samilo.

Defendants then interviewed Samilo's former wife and former mother-in-law, Kim Samilo and Nancy Schenck. In the course of the interviews, Defendants showed each of them the images taken by the bank security cameras. Both positively identified the individual in the images as Daniel Samilo. Defendants next interviewed Samilo's ex-girlfriend, Cyndi Seibert, who also positively identified the individual in the image as Daniel Samilo.

Based on the information they gathered, Defendants prepared a criminal complaint and an accompanying affidavit of probable cause. (Defs' Ex. 5.) In the affidavit of probable cause, Defendants specified that Brandt, Kim Samilo, Schenck, and Seibert identified Samilo as the person in the photographs. Defendants also prepared an application for a search warrant. District Justice James Pianka approved arrest and search warrants on January 11, 2003. Pursuant to the arrest warrant, Defendants arrested Samilo.

Samilo was subsequently prosecuted by the Chief Deputy of the Dauphin County District Attorney's Office, Sean M. McCormack, on three counts of armed robbery. After a three-day trial, Samilo was acquitted on all three counts on December 18, 2003.

B. Procedural Background

On August 19, 2005, Samilo filed a § 1983 action in this Court alleging that Defendants Beard and Kelly violated his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.*fn3 (Doc. No. 1.) On August 25, 2005, Samilo amended his complaint. (Doc. No. 3.) On October 19, 2005, Defendants filed an answer with affirmative defenses to Plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. No. 7.) After discovery, Defendants moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ...


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