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Thomas v. Cianfrani

June 17, 2009

HEZEKIAH THOMAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RICHARD CIANFRANI, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.

MEMORANDUM

Defendants, the City of Philadelphia (the "City"), Detective Richard Cianfrani ("Defendant Cianfrani"), Officer Brian Schneider ("Defendant Schneider"), and Officer David Howard ("Defendant Howard," and collectively referred to as "Defendants") file this motion for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(b). (Doc. no. 71.) For the reasons that follow, summary judgment will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

A. Facts On May 30, 2008, Plaintiff Hezekiah Thomas

("Plaintiff") filed his Third Amended Complaint alleging violations of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn2

According to Plaintiff, on February 12, 2001, Defendant Howard placed a gun to Plaintiff's head and abducted his ten-month-old son. Plaintiff filed a complaint about this incident with the Philadelphia Police Department.

On February 16, 2001, he was allegedly arrested without probable cause and without a valid arrest warrant. According to Plaintiff, while in custody, he was deprived of necessary medical care for his diabetes. To substantiate the denial of his medical care claim, Plaintiff submits a medical record of a test conducted on February 8, 2001. (Pl.'s Third Am. Compl. Ex. A, doc. no. 65-2.) A detainee's medical checklist dated February 16, 2001 from the Philadelphia Police Department is also provided, noting the existence of his diabetes condition. (Id.) Plaintiff then alleges that he was held for nine months without a hearing. Lastly, Plaintiff claims he was rearrested on September 21, 2004.

According to Plaintiff, this chain of events is evidence of a conspiracy by Defendants against Plaintiff in retaliation for filing a complaint against Defendant Howard. Plaintiff claims Defendant Cianfrani fabricated a story that an individual named Alan Richardson ("Richardson") told him that Plaintiff threatened Richardson with a gun and shot at him. As reported in an investigation interview report dated February 6, 2001, Richardson told Defendant Cianfrani that Plaintiff fired a shot at him. (Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Exs. A, G, doc. nos. 71-2, 71-3.)*fn3 Charges were then filed against Plaintiff in connection with this shooting. (Id. at Ex. C.)

Plaintiff provided a statement from Alan Richardson's son. (Pl.'s Resp. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 2, doc. no. 74.) As expressed in the statement, Richardson is a drug addict and is subject to a Protection Order, which he violated. (Id.) It further states Plaintiff did not shoot at Richardson and "the Phila [sic] Police from the 35th 39th [sic] district told my father [(Richardson)] to lie [about Plaintiff]."*fn4 (Id.)

On February 16, 2001, Officers Paul Siwek ("Siwek") and Michael Durkin ("Durkin") received an assignment to serve a Protection from Abuse Order on Plaintiff. (Id. at Ex. D.) The officers knocked on Plaintiff's door. (Id.) When Plaintiff came to the door, the officers asked him to step outside onto his porch in order to serve the Protection from Abuse Order and to inform him that he must stay away from a certain complainant.

(Id.)

Meanwhile, Defendant Schneider and Officer Antoine Small overheard on the police radio that Siwek and Durkin were serving a Protection from Abuse Order on Plaintiff. (Id. at Ex. E.) The officers picked Richardson up in an attempt to obtain a positive identification in order to effectuate Plaintiff's arrest for shooting at Richardson. (Id. at Ex. E.) At the scene, Richardson identified Plaintiff as the man who shot at him. (Id. at Exs. D, E.) Plaintiff was arrested following the positive identification. (Id.) Siwek and Defendant Schneider both swore under oath that neither he nor any other officer entered Plaintiff's home. (Id. at Exs. D, E.)

On June 25, 2007, Plaintiff was deposed. (Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. F, doc. no. 71-3; Pl. Dep. 20:14-25, 21:1-8, 22:23-25, 23:1-16, June 25, 2007.) Plaintiff said he was under sedation when the officers arrived on February 16, 2001, and that he has "no recollection of what happened other than the fact that [he] was removed from the residence . . . ." (Pl. Dep. 20:17, 21:2-6.) Plaintiff reiterated that he has "no recollection of [when the officers came to his home on February 16, 2001.]" (Id. at 23:7-8.) Plaintiff was then asked whether he recalls being "physically forced . . . from his sick bed in pajamas and [being arrested,]" Plaintiff replied, "no." (Id. at 23:9-16.) He was then asked, "how do you know that happened?" (Id. at 23:17.) In response, Plaintiff said, "[w]ell, I didn't go voluntary [sic], and I was under a doctor's orders." (Id. at 22-23.)

Plaintiff also claims that Defendant Thomas lied about arresting Plaintiff for drug possession on September 21, 2004, at 4001 Monument Road, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 2 p.m. Plaintiff avers that he was in Graterford Prison at that time. An arrest report from the Philadelphia Police Department dated September 22, 2004, substantiates that Plaintiff was indeed arrested for drug possession on September 21, 2004. (Pl.'s Third Am. Compl. Ex. B, doc. no. 65-2.)

B. Procedural History

This case was initiated on October 22, 2001, against then Mayor of Philadelphia John Street ("Mayor Street"), District Attorney Lynn Abraham ("Abraham"), Police Commissioner John Timmoney ("Timmoney"), Defendant Cianfrani, Defendant Schneider, and Defendant Howard. Since then, the case was closed then reopened, placed in suspense then removed from suspense, dismissed for lack of prosecution then reopened twice, Mayor Street, Abraham, and Timmoney have been dismissed as defendants, three amended complaints have been filed, and currently before the Court is Defendants' second motion for summary judgment. Discovery has been obtained, including Plaintiff's deposition, and it is now closed. Plaintiff indicated that no further discovery was necessary at a hearing held on November 14, 2008.*fn5

Put succinctly, the Court has exhibited extreme forbearance towards Plaintiff as a pro se litigant.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A fact is "material" if its existence or non-existence would affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of fact is "genuine" when there is sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could find in favor of the non-moving party regarding the existence of that fact. Id. at 248-49. "In considering the evidence, the court should draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party." El v. Se. Pa. Transp. Auth., 479 F.3d 232, 238 (3d Cir. 2007).

"Although the initial burden is on the summary judgment movant to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, 'the burden on the moving party may be discharged by showing-that is, pointing out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case' when the nonmoving party bears the ultimate burden of proof." Conoshenti v. Pub. Serv. Elec. & Gas Co., 364 F.3d 135, 140 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Singletary v. Pa. Dep't of Corr., 266 F.3d 186, 192 n.2 (3d Cir. 2001)). Once the moving party has thus discharged its burden, the nonmoving party "may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleading; rather, its response must--by affidavits or as otherwise provided in [Rule 56]--set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2).

B. Section 1983

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code provides a cause of action for an individual whose constitutional or federal rights are violated by those acting under color of state law.*fn6 See generally Gonzaga University v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 284-85 (2002) (recognizing that Section 1983 provides a remedy for violations of individual rights "secured by the Constitution and laws" of the United States). Defendants concede that they were acting under color of state law during the events giving rise to Plaintiff's complaint. The only remaining question is whether Defendants retaliated against Plaintiff in violation of the Constitution or federal law.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Plaintiff's Claims Against ...


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