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Spiess v. Pocono Mountain Regional Police Dep't

July 26, 2010

WILLIAM SPIESS; KASHEEN THOMAS; GENE THOMAS, II; JALEEL HOLDEN; AND JOSE LACEN, PLAINTIFFS
v.
POCONO MOUNTAIN REGIONAL POLICE DEPT., TOBYHANNA TWP., MOUNT POCONO BOROUGH, TUNKHANNOCK TWP., COOLBAUGH TWP., CHIEF HARRY W. LEWIS, RICHARD W. LUTHCKE, JOHN P. BOHRMAN, LUCAS BRAY, CHRIS WAGNER, KENNETH LENNING, MONROE COUNTY, MONROE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFF., D.A. E. DAVID CHRISTINE JR., A.D.A. MICHAEL RAKACZEWSKI, DET. WENDY BENTZONI, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is the motion to dismiss the complaint (Doc. 10) filed by Defendants Monroe County, the Monroe County District Attorney's Office, District Attorney E. David Christine Jr., Assistant District Attorney Michael Rakaczewski, and Detective Wendy Bentzoni. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs William Spiess ("Spiess"), Kasheen Thomas, Gene Thomas, II, Jaleel Holden ("Holden") and Jose Lacen ("Lacen") bring this section 1983 action alleging that the defendants violated their civil rights. The plaintiffs were arrested and charged with raping two girls-- sixteen year old AJ and fifteen year old TM-- on the night of February 9, 2008.*fn1 (Compl. ¶ 1; Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department Incident Report at 1 (Doc. 1-4 at 2); Prelim. Hr'g Tr. at 130 (Doc. 1-8 at 36)). Spiess alleges that he did not engage in any sexual acts with either girl. (Compl. ¶ 38). The remaining plaintiffs allege that they engaged only in consensual sex acts with the two girls. (Id.)

On the morning of February 11, 2008, the two girls went to the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department. (Compl. ¶¶ 46, 12). The plaintiffs allege that the two girls were interviewed separately and gave substantially conflicting stories regarding what had occurred on February 9, 2008. (Id. ¶¶ 47, 48). The girls' statements allegedly differed as follows:

1. AJ stated that the girls snuck out from her grandmother's house because TM wanted to see her boyfriend, Lacen. TM stated they snuck out because Lacen and Spiess threatened to harm AJ's grandmother. (Id. ¶ 48).

2. AJ named, in addition to the plaintiffs, five other youths-- "[JJ], [MM], a second Billy, Marcus, and [JC]"-- as being among her attackers. TM did not corroborate this statement. (Id.)

3. AJ stated that TM voluntarily smoked marijuana at Lacen's residence. TM stated that she was forced to smoke marijuana. (Id.)

4. AJ stated that a boy named Marcus drove them home in Spiess' red truck and that Marcus had been at Lacen's residence the entire night. TM stated that the person who drove them home arrived afterwards and drove a black car. (Id.)

5. AJ accused Spiess of undressing and raping her. TM stated that Spiess sat and watched, but did not touch either girl. (Id.)

6. AJ stated that she was taken to another room, separate from TM. TM stated that she and AJ were in the same room during the assaults. (Id.)

7. AJ stated that she was raped by everyone at Lacen's residence, except for Marcus. TM stated that only Lacen had sex with AJ. (Id.)

8. AJ stated that the plaintiffs were drinking. TM denied that alcohol was present. (Id.)

9. AJ stated that a knife was held to her throat during the assaults. TM stated that no weapons were used. (Id.)

The plaintiffs allege that AJ had made two previous complaints of sexual molestation against a family member to the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department. (Compl. ¶ 57). These alleged complaints were made in the Spring of 2006 and October 31, 2007 and were investigated by the Monroe County District Attorney's Office. (Id.) The plaintiffs alleged that the Defendant Detectives Lutchke, Borhman, Bray, Lenning, Wagner, and Bentzoni (the "Defendant Detectives") as well as Assistant District Attorney Michael Rakaczewski ("ADA Rakaczewski") were involved in these prior rape allegations and "were fully aware of AJ's mental health issues and that she had a history of reporting unfounded rape allegations... [and that] she was a pathological liar." (Id. ¶ 63). Ultimately, these prior complaints were allegedly either recanted or closed as unfounded after detectives interviewed the girl's family and investigated her treatment at mental health facilities. (Id. ¶¶ 58, 59, 60, 61, 62). The plaintiffs note that on December 3, 2007, Children and Youth Services closed the second abuse allegation as being unfounded and notified Detective Bohrman. (Id. ¶ 62). Borhman forwarded the file on the second abuse allegation to ADA Rakaczewski who declined to prosecute the family member-- approximately two months before the alleged event underlying this case. (Id. ¶¶ 62, 63).

The plaintiffs allege that a forensic interview and examination of AJ by Dr. Andi Taroli, a forensic pediatrician, was inconsistent with her allegations of rape. (Compl. ¶ 66, 67). Specifically, plaintiffs allege that the results of her medical examination were completely inconsistent with her claim of being sodomized. (Id. ¶ 69). While AJ claimed to have been bleeding from her rectum, the medical examination indicated no tissue damage. (Id.) The plaintiffs allege that Dr. Taroli's findings were consistent with consensual sex, corroborating the plaintiffs' accounts. (Id. ¶ 91). Finally, an examination of Spiess's body contradicted AJ's statement that she had left scratches on his stomach. (Id. ¶¶ 54, 87).

The plaintiffs allege that, despite the apparent inconsistencies and with knowledge of AJ's history of unfounded sexual assault allegations, the Defendant Detectives, Chief Lewis and ADA Rakaczewski took the girls' statements as an opportunity to appear responsive to violent crime and gangs. (Compl. ¶¶ 52, 55, 63, 81, 82, 83, 84, 94, 95). The plaintiffs also allege that their treatment by the defendants was racially motivated-- with the exception of Spiess, the plaintiffs are either African American or Hispanic. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 55).

The plaintiffs allege that the Defendant Detectives, Chief Lewis and ADA Rakaczewski "crafted affidavits of probable cause wherein they knowingly[,] deliberately, or with reckless disregard for the truth, concealed material facts and exculpatory evidence while, at the same time, including statements that they knew or should have known were false." (Compl. ¶ 96). Specifically, these defendants allegedly designed the affidavit to hide inconsistencies in the girls' statements. (Id. ¶ 97). The plaintiffs allege that the Defendant Detectives, Chief Lewis and ADA Rakaczewski withheld facts contradicting or undermining their affidavit, including the following: AJ's history of false sexual assault complaints, AJ's history of mental illness, statements of family members that AJ was pathological liar, the fact that the plaintiffs gave consistent statements, and the fact that video surveillance conflicted with girls' statements about where they stopped on the way to the Lacen residence. (Id. ¶ 98). The plaintiffs allege that, at the time of the initial interviews, the Defendant Detectives, Chief Lewis and the District Attorney's Office had a statement signed by TM and her parents indicating that Plaintiff Spiess was not involved in the rape. (Id. ¶ 85).

Detectives arrested Lacen on February 12, 2008. (Compl. ¶ 70). Spiess, Kasheen Thomas and Gene Thomas, II, were arrested on February 25, 2008. (Id.) Holden was arrested on March 24, 2008. (Id.) The plaintiffs "were charged with, inter alia, multiple felony counts of forcible rape, conspiracy to commit forcible rape, conspiracy to commit involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, and sexual assault." (Id. ¶ ...


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