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Golya v. Golya

August 9, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Vanaskie


Nearly two years after a District Magistrate Judge dismissed criminal charges against him, Plaintiff John Golya commenced this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Pennsylvania common law, seeking redress for harm allegedly inflicted by the attempted prosecution instigated by his brother, Defendant Stephen Golya ("Defendant Goyla"), who was then a police officer with the Hughestown Police Department ("HPD").*fn1 (Dkt. Entry 1.) Plaintiff's complaint consists of seven counts. Count I asserts claims under Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), against the Duryea Police Department ("DPD") and the HPD. In Count II, Plaintiff claims Defendant Golya is liable because he failed to adequately supervise his purported subordinate, Defendant Robert Evans ("Officer Evans"). Count III is an amalgamation of five separate claims presented under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 -- malicious prosecution, "seizure," abuse of process, false arrest, and conspiracy -- against Defendant Golya, Officer Evans, and Todd Romanczuk. The final four counts raise state law claims of defamation, invasion of privacy, false arrest, and civil conspiracy against the individual Defendants.*fn2

Presently before the Court are Motions for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Golya and HPD, (Dkt. Entry 43), and Officer Evans and DPD. (Dkt. Entry 50.) For the reasons set forth below, the motions for summary judgment will be granted.


A. Factual Background

The criminal prosecution underlying this civil rights lawsuit arose from Defendant Golya's allegations that his brother, the Plaintiff, unlawfully removed appliances -- appliances Defendant Golya claimed are his -- from their deceased parents' apartment.*fn3 Mr. and Mrs. Golya moved into the Duryea, Pennsylvania, apartment in the summer of 2000 after they were forced from their previous residence in Port Blanchard, Pennsylvania, due to carbon monoxide poisoning. (Pl. Aff., Ex. Y to Pl.'s Exs. Opp'n to Defs.' Mots. Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Opp'n Exs."), Dkt. Entry 63-26, ¶ 4, 7-8.) As the parents recovered in a hospital, Defendant Golya and his sister, Diane Armoa, undertook a search for an apartment where their parents could relocate. (Armoa Dep., Apr. 24, 2006, Ex. B. to Pl.'s Opp'n Exs., Dkt. Entry 63-3, at 15:14-16, 21.) They eventually found an apartment at 700 Rear Main Street, Duryea, a building owned by Mr. Romanczuk. (Id. 15:23-25; Pl. Aff. ¶ 13.) Defendant Golya and Mr. Romanczuk were acquainted prior to the parents leasing the apartment, though the record does not reveal the extent of this relationship. (Prelim. Hr'g Tr., Jan. 27, 2003, Ex. G to Pl.'s Opp'n Exs., Dkt. Entry 63-8, at 6, 8.)

Defendant Golya purchased several appliances for the apartment. (Armoa Dep. 17:4-8, 28:1-9.) He initially purchased a gas-powered Magic Chef Range from Voitek TV and Appliances, Inc., but upon learning the apartment was equipped only for an electric range, he exchanged the gas range for an electric-powered Hot Point Range. (Exs. I & J to Pl.'s Opp'n Exs., Dkt. Entries 63-10 & 63-11 (receipts from Voitek); Prelim. Hr'g Tr. 31, 33.) He also bought a dryer for the apartment. (Ex. J to Pl.'s Opp'n Exs.) Defendant Golya claimed that the appliances were "loaned" to his parents for their use, rather than gifts, and he intended to donate the appliances to charity after his parents died. (Prelim. Hr'g Tr. 42-43.)

Mrs. Golya passed away in 2001. Mr. Golya became ill in the spring of 2002 and died on May 25, 2002. Prior to his death, he asked Plaintiff and Ms. Armoa whether either wanted any of his belongings. Both declined. Mr. Golya then expressed his desire that his property go to Mary Fahley, the ex-wife of Joe Golya, Plaintiff's brother. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 56.) Plaintiff did not object. Mr. Golya's wishes were relayed to Ms. Fahley and arrangements were made to remove the property.

The property was removed on the weekend of June 16, 2002. Ms. Fahley removed numerous items, including the dryer and Hot Point Range. Plaintiff, Ms. Armoa, Ms. Fahley, and others testified that Plaintiff was not present at the Duryea apartment when the property was removed. These witnesses also stated that, from the time of Mr. Golya's death until the Duryea apartment was emptied and possession reverted to the landlord, Defendant Golya never contacted Plaintiff or other family members to claim the dryer or range or otherwise make arrangements to retrieve these appliances. In fact, Defendant Golya never went to the Duryea apartment during this period, although he had his own key to the apartment.

Sometime between June and November, 2002, Defendant Golya learned the appliances he purchased for his parents were removed from the Duryea apartment. The record does not indicate how Defendant Golya discovered the appliances were removed or why he suspected Plaintiff was responsible. On or before November 13, 2002, Defendant Golya reported the alleged theft of the appliances to Charles Guarnieri, DPD Chief of Police. (Defs. Golya's & HPD's Statement of Material Facts ("SMF - Golya & HPD"), Dkt. Entry 45, ¶ 7.) Defendant Golya asserted that it was Plaintiff who had unlawfully removed appliances from their parents' apartment. (Id. ¶ 8.) Chief Guarnieri assigned the investigation to Officer Evans. (Id. ¶ 9.)

Officer Evans began working for the DPD as a patrolman in June of 1999. (Id. ¶ 5.) Officer Evans has known Defendant Golya since approximately 2001. (Evans Dep., Ex. 2 to Defs. Golya's & HPD's Exs. Supp. Statement of Material Facts ("Golya & HPD Supp. Exs."), Dkt. Entry 46, at 4:21-22.) At the time, Defendant Golya was a police officer with the HPD. Officer Evans and Defendant Golya were acquainted through law enforcement-related activities. For instance, Officer Evans testified to a cooperative agreement between HPD and DPD whereby each department provided assistance to the other upon request. (Evans Dep. 5:25-6:5.) Officer Evans responded to calls for assistance from Defendant Golya, though this was sporadic because they usually worked different shifts. (Id. at 6:1-2.) Officer Evans denied that he engaged in social activities with Defendant Golya. (Id. at 4:25-5:4.)*fn4

After the investigation was assigned to him, Officer Evans contacted Defendant Golya to arrange a meeting to discuss what happened. (Id. at 7:19-22.) Defendant Golya provided a written statement dated November 16, 2002, and purportedly written at the HPD station.*fn5 (Voluntary Statement, Ex. H to Pl.'s Opp'n Exs., Dkt. Entry 63-9.) Officer Evans testified he was not present when Defendant Golya wrote the statement, but was subsequently given the statement by Defendant Golya. (Evans Dep. 8:14-17, 9:1-3.)

Officer Evans also personally met with Defendant Golya, which may have occurred before Defendant Golya made the written statement. Defendant Golya related how he purchased appliances for his parents that were allegedly removed without his permission. (Id. at 9:11-12.) Officer Evans does not know how Defendant Golya discovered the alleged theft; he did not question Defendant Golya about the source of information that a theft had occurred. (Id. at 9:13-15, 14:13-15, 27:20-28:6, 29:17-30:4, 32:23-33:7.) He also did not ask Defendant Golya why he waited until November to report the theft that allegedly occurred in May or June of 2002. (Id. at 15:8-14.)

Defendant Golya furnished two receipts from Voitek evidencing his purchase of the Magic Chef and Hot Point ranges and the dryer. (Id. at 10:16-17.) The appliances noted in these receipts differed from the appliances listed in Defendant Golya's November 16 written statement. No attempt was made to reconcile this discrepancy. (See id. at 21:18-22:1.) Finally, Defendant Golya told Officer Evans that he loaned the appliances to his parents to use as long as needed, and he intended to donate the appliances to charity upon their death. (SMF - Evans & DPD ¶ 50.) (Voluntary Statement, Ex. H to Pl.'s Opp'n Exs., Dkt. Entry 63-9.)

Officer Evans interviewed Mr. Romanczuk, although he could not recall when the interview occurred.*fn6 (Evans Dep. 9:16-19, 18:10-13.) Mr. Romanczuk stated that he observed Plaintiff and a van or box truck outside the Duryea apartment on the day the appliances were removed. (Id. at 10:2-5.) He saw other people removing items, but not Plaintiff. (Id. at 10:34, 18:12-13.) Officer Evans did not ascertain the identities of those present at the Duryea apartment, inspect the Duryea apartment, or interview any other potential witnesses or Plaintiff.

Officer Evans decided to file criminal charges against Plaintiff based on Defendant Golya's statements and receipts, as well as Mr. Romanczuk's interview. (Id. 13:25-14:4-6, 19:10-13.) He credited Defendant Golya's allegations in part because he was a fellow police officer. (Id. at 13:22.) Officer Evans determined the appropriate charges after a review of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code. (Evans Dep. 22:21-23:1.) He did not consult the district attorney's office (id. at 23:6-10); however, Chief Guarnieri considered the charges and authorized the filing of the criminal complaint. (SMF - Evans & DPD ¶ 46.) Defendant Golya also reviewed the criminal complaint and affidavit of probable cause and approved both. (Evans Dep. 22:8-17.) However, Officer Evans testified that Defendant Golya did not participate in the decisionmaking process regarding whether to file charges, and if so, what charges to file against Plaintiff. (Id. at 22:18-20.)

Officer Evans prepared a Criminal Complaint and Affidavit of Probable Cause, both dated November 13, 2002. The criminal complaint charged Plaintiff with three offenses: (1) theft by unlawful taking or disposition, in violation of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3921(a); (2) receiving stolen property, in violation of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3925(a); and (3) criminal mischief, in violation of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3304(a)(3). (Crim. Compl. & Aff. of Probable Cause, Ex. L to Pl.'s Opp'n Exs., Dkt. Entry 63-13.) The complaint alleged that Plaintiff unlawfully took a dryer, Hot Point Range, and Magic Chef Range. (Id.) The accompanying affidavit of probable cause stated:

Police were contacted by the Victim, Steve GOLYA who stated that he purchased three household appliances from VOITEK TV and Appliances for his parents who resides [sic] at R 700 Main St. Apt.B in Duryea Borough. He stated that after his parents were deceased the items were left at the residence. The dates that the appliances were taken were between 05/26/02 and 06/01/02. That is when the Defendant [John Golya] went to the residence with a truck and took the appliances without the permission of the victim. The victim made several attempts to contacted [sic] the Defendant via phone and through his other brother to talk about obtaining the appliances back or getting paid for the appliances and received no response.

The Victim provided Police with receipts of the stolen items and there [sic] values.

Below is a list of the appliances and there [sic] serial numbers along with there [sic] values. [The list contains the serial numbers for and values of the GE Electric Dryer, Hot Point Range, and Magic Chef Range, respectively. The total value is $985.85.] (Id.)

As noted above, Defendant Golya exchanged the Magic Chef Range for the Hot Point Range because the Duryea apartment was equipped to handle only an electric-powered stove. Thus, the criminal complaint and affidavit of probable cause were inaccurate inasmuch as they alleged the theft of the Magic Chef Range.

Officer Evans filed the criminal complaint and affidavit of probable cause on November 13, 2002. (See Bail Release Conditions, Ex. N to Pl.'s Opp'n Exs., Dkt. Entry 63-15 (noting the criminal complaint filed on 11/13/02).) He was not accompanied by Defendant Golya when he filed these documents. (Evans Dep. 15:15-18.) A warrant for Plaintiff's arrest was issued. (Id. at 28:7-8.)

The arrest warrant was not executed, however, because Officer Evans called Plaintiff and left him a message informing him of the warrant and the charges. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 93.) Plaintiff returned Officer Evans's phone call that evening, denied the allegations, and "asked him if he had the right guy." (Pl. Dep., Ex. 1 to Golya & HPD Supp. Exs., Dkt. Entry 46, at 51:3-4, 24-25.) Officer Evans responded affirmatively, and told Plaintiff to appear before a District Magistrate Judge at the Pittston Borough Building the following day or be arrested at his place of employment. (Id. at 51:5-7; Pl. Aff. ¶¶ 100-01.) Plaintiff contacted his attorney and secured representation for the appearance.

Plaintiff was arraigned on December 5, 2002, before District Magistrate Judge Pierantoni. (SMF - Golya & HPD ¶ 14.) Besides Plaintiff and the magistrate judge, Plaintiff's attorney and Officer Evans were present. Plaintiff was never handcuffed during the arraignment. (Id. ¶ 15.) Officer Evans wanted to process Plaintiff through the normal booking procedures, i.e., photographing, fingerprinting, etc., but Plaintiff's attorney objected and prevented this from occurring. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 114.) Plaintiff was released pursuant to a $5,000 unsecured bail bond, but no money or other collateral was required to be posted. (SMF - Golya & DPD ¶ 16; Bail Bond, Ex. M to Pl.'s Opp'n Exs., Dkt. Entry 63-14.) See Pa. R. Crim. P. 524(C)(3). In addition to the standard conditions imposed in all cases where a defendant is released on bail, District Magistrate Judge Pierantoni directed Plaintiff to avoid "contact ...

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