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Moeller v. Township of North Strabane

August 1, 2008

JOHN I. MOELLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF NORTH STRABANE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nora Barry Fischer United States District Judge

Judge Nora Barry Fischer

MEMORANDUM OPINION

The instant civil rights action arises from a domestic dispute between Plaintiff John I. Moeller and his former wife, Sherri Moeller,*fn1 regarding the right of possession (and repossession) of their former residence after the expiration of a Protection from Abuse Order filed by Ms. Moeller against Plaintiff.

FACTS*fn2

The instant case centers around incidents occurring on three dates: August 11, 2005, August 13, 2005 and August 20, 2005. (Docket No. 58 at ¶4; Docket No. 61 at ¶4).

On February 12, 2004, Judge Mark Mascara of the Court of Common Please of Washington County entered a Protection from Abuse Order ("PFA") against the Plaintiff, mandating that he have no contact with Sherri Moeller (his wife) or Victoria Moeller (his step-daughter), effective from February 23, 2004 until August 11, 2005. (Docket No. 58 at ¶5; Docket No. 61 at ¶5).*fn3 While in effect, the PFA Order completely evicted and excluded Plaintiff from the residence at 103 Henderson Drive in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, which he previously shared with Sherri and Victoria Moeller. (Docket No. 58 at ¶6; Docket No. 61 at ¶6). As a result, Sherri Moeller received exclusive possession of the residence for a period of eighteen (18) months. (Docket No. 58 at ¶6; Docket No. 61 at ¶6). Nearly one year later, on January 3, 2005, before the Criminal Division for the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, Plaintiff pled guilty to the following charges related to the physical and sexual abuse of Victoria Moeller, a minor at the time: two counts of Statutory Sexual Assault (at Nos. 2468 and 2469 of 2003) and two counts of Corruption of the Morals of a Minor (at Nos. 2467 and 2470 of 2003). (Docket No. 58 at ¶7; Docket No. 61 at ¶7). Plaintiff received the following sentence: beginning January 18, 2005, a term of probation and home monitoring not to exceed thirty-six (36) months and no less than nine (9) months. (Docket No. 58 at ¶7; Docket No. 61 at ¶7). Furthermore, pursuant to his sentencing order, Plaintiff was to have no contact with Sherri Moeller or his step-daughter for a period thirty-six (36) months. (Docket No. 58 at ¶7; Docket No. 61 at ¶7).*fn4 *fn5

On August 11, 2005, Plaintiff, along with two constables and Jack Dalbo, went to the residence at 103 Henderson Drive with copies of the Sentencing and PFA Orders. (Docket No. 58 at ¶11; Docket No. 61 at ¶11).*fn6 Upon presentation of the respective Orders, Plaintiff evicted Sherri and Victoria Moeller from the residence. (Docket No. 58 at ¶11; Docket No. 61 at ¶11). After the eviction, Defendant Officer Krocsko responded to a complaint at the residence and, upon arrival, he learned that Plaintiff had evicted Sherri Moeller. (Docket No. 58 at ¶14).*fn7 Plaintiff reported to Defendant Officer Krocsko that "he believed guns were missing," and Defendant Officer Krockso advised him to speak with his attorney. (Docket No. 58 at ¶14). Plaintiff then arranged to tow Sherri Moeller's car from the residence. (Docket No. 58 at ¶15; Docket No. 61 at ¶15).*fn8 As noted, before their eviction on August 11, 2005, Sherri and Victoria Moeller lived at the residence and, as such, Defendants assert that some of their "personal belongings remained in the residence after they were evicted." (Docket No. 58 at ¶¶12-13; Docket No. 61 at ¶¶12-13).*fn9

On August 13, 2005, Defendants Krocsko and Stevens responded to a call regarding a domestic matter between Plaintiff and Sherri Moeller. (Docket No. 58 at ¶16; Docket No. 61 at ¶16). Upon their arrival, Sherri Moeller informed the officers that she had returned to the home to obtain personal items after being evicted two days prior, and she also informed the officers that her car was missing. (Docket No. No. 58 at ¶16).*fn10 Defendant Police Officers advised Sherri Moeller that "it was her residence and that she could gain entry to the premises any way she saw fit." (Docket No. 58 at ¶17; Docket No. 61 at ¶17). Later that same day, Defendant Police Officers were dispatched back to the Moeller residence after being contacted by Plaintiff's mother and a neighbor, alleging that Sherri Moeller was breaking into the Moeller residence. (Docket No. 58 at ¶18; Docket No. 61 at ¶18). Defendant Police Officers advised Sherri Moeller to gather her personal belongings and leave the premises. (Docket No. 58 at ¶18; Docket No. 61 at ¶18). Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff arrived on the scene (with his friend, Dalbo) and advised Defendant Police Officers that Sherri Moeller was not permitted in the residence according to the Sentencing and PFA Orders, a copy of which Dalbo presented to them at that time. (Docket No. 58 at ¶19; Docket No. 61 at ¶19).*fn11

According to Defendants, Sherri Moeller left the scene "as instructed." (Docket No. 58 at ¶22).*fn12

Plaintiff then "began yelling obscenities" at Defendant Police Officers and "verbally refused to leave the scene." (Docket No. 58 at ¶22; Docket No. 61 at ¶22). Defendant Police Officers advised Plaintiff that if he did not leave the scene, he would be arrested for causing a disturbance. Plaintiff eventually left. (Docket No. 58 at ¶22; Docket No. 61 at ¶22).

On August 20, 2005, Defendant Police Officers responded to a call from Plaintiff, again claiming that Sherri Moeller had attempted to break into the residence.*fn13 (Docket No. 58 at ¶23; Docket No. 61 at ¶23). Neither party provides any further detail.*fn14

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On September 27, 2005, Plaintiff filed his Complaint against North Strabane Township and the North Strabane Police Department ("North Strabane Defendants"), as well as Officer Jerry Stevens, Officer Michael Krocsko, and Ret. Officer William Miller ("Defendant Police Officers") (collectively, "Defendants"), alleging numerous violations of his civil rights under the United States Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, intentional infliction of emotional distress under Pennsylvania state law, and civil violations under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961, et seq., commonly referred to as RICO ("RICO"). (Docket No. 1). On November 17, 2005, Defendants filed their "Answer and Affirmative Defenses to Plaintiff's Complaint Filed on Behalf of Defendants Township of North Strabane, the North Strabane Police Department, Gerald Stevens (Misspelled in Plaintiff's Complaint) and Michael Krocsko." (Docket No. 9).*fn15

On March 8, 2007, the Court ordered a stay in this case in order to accommodate Defendants' counsel's military service obligations.*fn16 On June 20, 2007, the Court referred this case to Magistrate Judge Lenihan for the purposes of mediation. (Docket No. 41). On August 21, 2007, Judge Lenihan ...


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