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Perkins v. Staskiewicz

June 17, 2010

KIRK A. PERKINS, PLAINTIFF
v.
CHARLES A. STASKIEWICZ, JOHN BROWN AND JEFFREY MILLER, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yvette Kane United State District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania

(Judge Kane)

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Doc. No. 28.) The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons discussed below, the motion will be granted, and the case will be dismissed.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

Plaintiff Kirk A. Perkins is a Trooper First Class with the Pennsylvania State Police.

(Doc. No. 29 ¶¶ 1-2.) In 2003, Perkins was going through a divorce with his wife, Lorien Mickelson. (Id. ¶ 10.) Prior to the divorce, Mickelson signed a power of attorney giving Plaintiff authority to sell or to refinance the mortgage on their marital residence located at 5977 Eberly Drive. (Id. ¶ 13.) The power of attorney was executed on March 8, 2002, and was set to expire on April 1, 2003. (Id.) With Mickelson's knowledge and approval, Plaintiff altered the power of attorney by extending the expiration date to December 31, 2002, and changing the property he was authorized to sell to 2711 Reel Street. (Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff submitted the altered document to a settlement company, Renaissance Settlements, in an attempt to sell the couple's property at 2711 Reel Street. (Id.)

Though Mickelson had given Plaintiff permission to make these changes, on December 27, 2004, Mickelson's divorce attorney, Diane Radcliff, wrote a letter to the Dauphin County District Attorney stating that Plaintiff had forged the power of attorney document. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 15.) The letter was forwarded to the PSP. (Id.) Although investigations are not initiated every time an allegation is made against a PSP officer, on December 30, 2004, Officer Mrgich was assigned to investigate the allegations against Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) Corporal Kern and Defendant Corporal Charles Staskiewicz also took part in the investigation into Plaintiff's conduct. (Id. ¶ 12.)

As part of the investigation, Defendant Staskiewicz e-mailed Plaintiff to notify him of the allegations against him and to request an interview regarding the allegations. (Id. ¶ 16.) Pursuant to PSP regulation AR 4-25, a PSP officer must first be provided with his Miranda rights before being questioned regarding any allegations that could lead to criminal charges. (Id. ¶¶ 19-20.) Plaintiff was informed of his Miranda rights, and upon advice of counsel, invoked his right to remain silent, declining to be interviewed about the allegations. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 21.) Though Plaintiff had always maintained that the changes to the power of attorney were known to and had been approved by Mickelson, neither Plaintiff nor his attorney ever provided Defendants any information related to the allegations, including his account of the facts. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 18.)

Defendant Staskiewicz, along with Officers Mrgich and Kern, conducted an investigation without the benefit of Plaintiff's version of the facts. They spoke with Mickelson's attorney who had provided the initial tip; acquired copies of the modified power of attorney documents; confirmed that the notary public who provided the initial power of attorney had not revised it, extended it, or modified it; interviewed representatives from Renaissance Settlements, the settlement company handling the sale of the Reel Street property; and interviewed Mickelson regarding the allegations. (Id. ¶ 13.) During her interview, Mickelson stated that she authorized the power of attorney only for Plaintiff to refinance the property at 5977 Eberly Drive so that the refinancing could be accomplished while she was deployed to Afghanistan. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 32.) She did not indicate that Plaintiff had altered the official documents with her knowledge or permission.

On September 20, 2005, Staskiewicz gave the final version of the report to Edward M. Marsico, Jr., the District Attorney for Dauphin County, to review and to provide a written prosecutorial decision. (Id.) Pursuant to AR 4-25, no decision to proceeding with criminal charges against a PSP officer may be made without approval from the District Attorney of the county in which the crime allegedly occurred. (Id. ¶ 22.) On January 23, 2006, Staskiewicz received authorization from the First Assistant District Attorney of Dauphin County to charge Plaintiff with forgery, 18 Pa. C.S. § 4101(a), and tampering with records of identification, 18 Pa. C.S. § 4104(a). (Id. ¶ 13, 27.)

Staskiewicz filed the criminal complaint and affidavit of probable cause with Magistrate District Justice Barbara Pianka on February 8, 2006. (Id. ¶ 35.) Prior to that date, Staskiewicz had informed Plaintiff when the filing would take place so that Plaintiff could appear voluntarily and be released on his own recognizance. (Id. ¶ 36.) The following conditions for bail were impressed upon Plaintiff at the time of the preliminary arraignment: he must submit to fingerprinting and photographing and attend all court dates.*fn2 (Doc. No. 32-4 ¶¶ 4, 6-8.) The preliminary hearing was scheduled for February 16, 2006. (Doc. No. 29 ¶ 39.) Plaintiff voluntarily appeared at the preliminary hearing, at which point the forgery charge was withdrawn. (Id. ¶¶ 39, 42.) On September 11, 2006, a bench trial was held on the remaining charge. (Id. ¶¶ 46-48.) At no point was Plaintiff handcuffed, placed in a police vehicle, required to post bail, or detained by law enforcement with respect to any of the charges. (Id. ¶¶ 37, 41.) On September 12, 2006, after a day and a half trial, Plaintiff was acquitted of the tampering charge. (Doc. No. 20 ¶ 28.)

On September 4, 2008, Plaintiff filed this suit against Charles Staskiewicz, who worked on the investigation and filed the initial criminal charges, Lieutenant Colonel John Brown, Deputy Commission of Administration and Professional Responsibility for the PSP, and Jeffrey Miller, Commissioner of the PSP at the time the events giving rise to this action occurred. Defendants have now moved for summary judgment on all counts. The motion is ripe before the Court for disposition.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) provides that summary judgment is appropriate "if 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 factual dispute is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law, and it is genuine only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis that would allow a reasonable fact finder to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986). At summary judgment, the inquiry is whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law. ...


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