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Reedy v. Evanson

August 2, 2010


On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (D.C. No. 06-cv-01080) District Judge: Honorable David Stewart Cercone.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jordan, Circuit Judge.


Argued March 11, 2010

Before: BARRY, JORDAN and VAN ANTWERPEN, Circuit Judges.


While working as a cashier at a convenience store, nineteen-year-old Sara R. Reedy was sexually assaulted and robbed at gunpoint by a serial sex offender. She reported the crime to the police within minutes, subjected herself to a rape kit examination, and gave detailed and consistent statements to law enforcement officers and hospital staff. However, Detective Frank Evanson of the Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania Police Department, the lead investigator assigned to Reedy's case, believed that Reedy had fabricated the incident to cover up her own theft of cash from the convenience store. Approximately three months later, Evanson also became the lead investigator on another sexual attack that was substantially similar to the assault on Reedy and that Evanson knew was suspected to be the work of a serial rapist. Six months after the assault on Reedy, Evanson filed a criminal complaint against her, charging her with falsely reporting a crime, theft, and receipt of stolen property. Reedy spent five days in jail. The charges against her were dropped only when the serial rapist was captured and confessed to assaulting her, to committing the theft, and to committing the other sexual assault investigated by Evanson.

Reedy later commenced this suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Evanson and another Cranberry Township Police Officer, Kevin Meyer, and the Township's Public Safety Director, Steve Mannell. She asserted claims of unlawful seizure and unlawful search under the Fourth Amendment, and accompanying state law claims of false arrest, false imprisonment, abuse of process, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The District Court granted summary judgment to the defendants on all of Reedy's claims, and this appeal followed. For the reasons described below, we will vacate in part, reverse in part, and affirm in part, and will remand the case for further proceedings.

I. Background

A. The Assault

Because it is necessary to demonstrate the similarities between the assault on Reedy and the other sexual assault that Evanson was investigating, a graphic description of events is, unfortunately, required.

On July 14, 2004, Reedy was working alone as a cashier at the JG Gulf Station (the "store" or "Gulf Station") in Cranberry Township, located in Butler County, Pennsylvania. At approximately 10:40 p.m., a man later identified as Wilbur Brown entered the Gulf Station. He walked toward the counter where Reedy was standing, lifted his shirt, pulled out a gun, and ordered Reedy to sit on the floor behind the counter while he opened the store's cash register by pushing the "no sale" key.

Although the store was equipped with a panic alarm button, Reedy did not press it. After Brown removed the money from the register, he ordered Reedy to take off her shirt, which she did. He faced her, stared out the store's window, unzipped his pants, and exposed himself. He then began to sexually assault Reedy, fondling her breasts and forcing her to perform oral sex on him. While she was doing so, he yelled, "Suck my dick and don't bite it or I'll shoot you." (App. at 350.) He also told Reedy to insert her finger into his anus, which she did. Brown then ejaculated in Reedy's mouth and threatened to harm her if she did not swallow all of his semen.

After the assault, Brown ordered Reedy to go to the back of the store, where there was an office that held the Gulf Station's safe. When Brown noticed that the store's safe was partially open, he asked Reedy if there was any money inside, to which she responded that there was. Brown or Reedy*fn1 then removed two envelopes of money from the safe. Brown next ordered Reedy to disable the telephone, which she did by pulling the lines from the wall. Finally, he ordered Reedy to remain in the back office for a few minutes while he left. He then fled through the front door of the store. After waiting for a short while, Reedy exited through the back door of the store and ran to a neighboring service station for help. One of the employees there called the police to report the robbery and sexual assault.

B. The Initial Investigation

Officers from the Cranberry Township Police Force arrived at the scene within minutes, and Reedy's boyfriend, Mark Watt, whom she had called, arrived shortly thereafter. Reedy provided one of the police officers, Charles Mascellino, a detailed description of the assault. She also described her assailant as a white male, approximately 5'6" to 5'7", wearing a blue baseball cap, blue jeans, and blue boxer shorts, and appearing in his mid-30s to early 40s.*fn2 Reedy was unsure of which direction her assailant went when he left the store, and she could not provide a description of any vehicle he might have used.Reedy was "crying, shaking, talking real loud," and "hysterical" during the interview. (App. at 252 p. 20.) One of the officers offered Reedy the services of a sexual assault counselor but she refused, stating that she had been sexually abused as a child and knew how to handle the situation. The officers searched the wooded area behind the Gulf Station but could not locate Reedy's assailant. An alert for the suspect was broadcast around the local area. Four fingerprint specimens were taken at the Gulf Station but none of them yielded any useful forensic findings.

C. The Hospital

Mascellino took Reedy and Watt to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Cranberry Township, where Reedy underwent a rape kit examination and where she first met Detective Evanson. Evanson was the lead detective assigned to investigate the incident.He had been a police detective for Cranberry Township since 1986 and, by the time of these events, had investigated more than ten rapes in his career. On the night of the incident, Evanson traveled to the hospital, where he introduced himself to Reedy and asked her what happened. She provided an account of the assault that matched in detail what she had told Mascellino. Reedy later said that, after hearing her description of the attack, Evanson asked her how many times she did "dope" each day. (App. at 396.) He then called her a liar and repeatedly accused her of stealing the money from the store. He asked Reedy where she had put the stolen money, to which she responded that she did not know where the money was. When Reedy began to cry under this hostile questioning, Evanson told her not to bother, "because [your] tears aren't going to save [you] now."*fn3 (App. at 398.)

After speaking with Evanson, Reedy provided another full and consistent description of the assault to Mary Beth Farah,*fn4 the nurse who was treating her and who administered the rape kit. According to Farah's notes from the conversation, Reedy told her that none of the assailant's semen had gotten onto her face and that, during the few minutes she was forced to wait in the back room while her assailant escaped, she gargled with water twice and washed her hands with soap. She also told Farah that Evanson had called her a liar. In sum, by the time the night of the assault was over, Reedy had provided separate, detailed, and consistent accounts of the incident to Mascellino, Farah, and Evanson, and had been accused by Evanson of being a liar and a thief.

During their confrontational conversation at the hospital, Evanson took note of Reedy's physical appearance. He said that her eyes looked dilated and that her speech was slow. According to Evanson, he asked Reedy if she had "consumed prescribed or unprescribed narcotics," to which she responded she had not. (App. at 351.)Shortly thereafter, Evanson learned that Reedy's urine samples had tested positive for marijuana. He asked Reedy if she had used marijuana recently, and she answered that she had smoked it five or six days ago but had not consumed any other medication. According to Evanson, "[t]hat information led [him] to question [Reedy's] credibility and to ask the hospital to test for drug usage... blood samples that had been taken [from Reedy]... as part of the 'rape kit'...." (Appellees' Answering Br. at 7.) Thus, without speaking to Reedy, Evanson directed the hospital to perform additional toxicology testing on Reedy's blood samples.

Eight days later, on July 23, 2004, Evanson obtained and executed a search warrant for Reedy's medical records. The records included the results of the additional toxicology screening that Evanson had ordered, which revealed that Reedy had ingested diazepam, better known as Valium, and confirmed that Reedy had used marijuana. When Evanson later asked Reedy about the diazepam, during a visit he made to her home a couple of weeks later,*fn5 Reedy explained that Watt, who had a legal prescription for the drug, brought her a pill on the night of the assault to "assist her in calming down." (Id. at 356.)

D. Information From The Gulf Station's Manager

In the days following the incident, Evanson spoke with Carol Hazlett, Reedy's supervisor at the Gulf Station.*fn6 Hazlett told Evanson that, on the day of the attack, she left the Gulf Station at 3:00 p.m., when Reedy's shift began.*fn7 At approximately 11:20 p.m. that night, she returned to the Gulf Station because she had received a phone call at her home from Security Systems of America ("SSA"), the Gulf Station's security monitoring company, informing her that there had been an interruption in the power source for the store's alarm system.*fn8 SSA called Hazlett at home after receiving no answer when it attempted to call the Gulf Station. A report from SSA reveals that Hazlett was notified at approximately 11:15 p.m. about a power failure that had occurred at approximately 10:15 p.m.

The day after the incident, Hazlett went back to the Gulf Station. When she was in the back room trying to fix the phone lines that had been torn from the wall, she noticed that the alarm system's power cord, which was located behind a desk, had been unplugged. She also learned, by looking at the Gulf Station's cash register tape, that the register had been opened by pressing the "no sale" key at the exact time that Reedy had noted. Finally, Hazlett discovered that $606.73 in cash was missing from the store.

E. Meeting at the Police Station

On the morning of July 15, 2004, while Reedy was still in the hospital, Evanson requested that she come to the police station to provide a written statement to the police. The next day, July 16, 2004, she traveled to the Cranberry Township Police Station with her mother and stepfather, where she provided a detailed, written statement about the incident.*fn9 Her description again matched what she had previously told Mascellino, Farah, and Evanson.She also included the assertion that Evanson had accused her of lying.

While Reedy was writing her statement, Evanson spoke with Reedy's mother and stepfather, Debbie and Paul Bosco, Jr. He suggested that Reedy and Watt were responsible for the theft at the Gulf Station and that he would soon be able to prove it. He told the Boscos that, on the night of the attack, Watt had not gotten out of his car right away when he arrived at the scene, which Evanson thought was suspicious. Evanson also told them he found it suspicious that Reedy had reported that the crime happened around 10:40 p.m. and that the cash register had been opened at exactly that time. In his view, "nobody that's in this kind of a hysteria would know exactly what time it was, so she had to have preplanned this because nobody would know this." (App. at 448-49.) Finally, he told Reedy's parents that "the sooner [Reedy] confessed... he could wrap it up." (Id. at 449.) He warned the Boscos that it was only "a matter of time... before he tied up the loose ends and put it all together so it would be in [Reedy's] best interest if [they] would encourage her to... admit it."(Id. at 22 (first and third alterations in original).) He also told Paul Bosco that he wanted to "burn" Watt.*fn10 (Id.)

Evanson then spoke directly with Reedy. He asked her about the alarm being unplugged. Specifically, he asked whether she had been ordered to disable any wires besides the phone lines on the night of the incident, and, if so, where those wires were located.Reedy responded that she did not believe that the assailant had disabled anything other than the phone line and, thus, did not know how the alarm system had been disabled.

According to Evanson, when he asked Reedy how the power failure on the alarm could have occurred, she grew "verbally abusive" and stated "I just want to drop the whole thing" and "I just want this whole thing to go away." (Id. at 197-98 ¶¶ 47-48.) According to Reedy, on the other hand, Evanson was hostile toward her during the meeting and repeatedly accused her of lying and of taking money from the store.Therefore, according to Reedy, any hostility or desire on her part to end the proceedings was due to "Evanson's hostility, baseless accusations and badgering." (Id. at 321 ¶¶ 47- 48.) Reedy's stepfather also stated that Reedy was not "verbally abusive" during the interview but was simply "upset" at being falsely accused less than two days after being sexually assaulted.*fn11 (Id. at 451-52.)

F. Meeting at the Trailer Park

On August 17, 2004, Evanson and Detective Kevin Meyer, another detective from the Cranberry Township Police Force, went to the trailer park where Watt and Reedy were living.*fn12 According to Reedy, the officers asked her to step outside her trailer. She did so and they had her sign a waiver of her Miranda rights. They then began to press her to change her earlier written statement about the assault. Evanson presented Reedy with the hospital toxicology report and demanded to know why her blood contained illegal substances. In her deposition, Reedy described the encounter with Evanson, saying, "I asked him to leave several times, just leave, leave me alone. [I said] I'm not changing my statement. And he refused.

... He had me completely hysterical, and,... [i]t was totally embarrassing, insulting."*fn13 (Id. at 407-08.) This meeting appears to be the last investigative effort regarding Reedy that Evanson took before he charged her nearly five months later with making false reports to the police, theft, and receiving stolen property.

G. The Landmark Attack on October 13, 2004

On October 13, 2004, approximately three months after the attack on Reedy, another woman was sexually assaulted and robbed at gunpoint in Cranberry Township. That attack, which occurred while the woman was leaving the Landmark Building, was the only other reported sexual assault in Cranberry Township in 2004 and was also assigned to Evanson as the lead investigator. The Landmark attack bore several similarities to the attack on Reedy:*fn14

* Both occurred in Cranberry Township, separated by 3 months.

* Both occurred at businesses located on Route 19, approximately 1.5 miles apart from one another.

* Both attacks occurred at the same time of evening -- approximately at 10:40 p.m.

* In both attacks, the assailant made no effort to conceal his identity.

* In both attacks, the female victim was assaulted while at work or while leaving work.

* Both victims described their assailant as a Caucasian male with brown (Reedy) or light brown hair (Landmark), wearing blue jeans.

* Both victims described their assailant as being around the same age. The Landmark victim described her assailant as in his late-30s while Reedy described her assailant as in his mid-30s to early 40s.

* In both attacks, the assailant used a black handgun.

* Both victims were robbed, in addition to being sexually assaulted.

* Both victims were ordered to bare their breasts and had their breasts fondled by the assailant.

* Both victims were forced to perform oral sex upon the assailant.

H. The Affidavit

In January 2005, six months after Reedy had reported the assault, and three months after the Landmark attack, Evanson began drafting the Affidavit he would submit with the criminal complaint against Reedy. Evanson sent an initial version of the Affidavit to William Fullerton, an Assistant District Attorney for Butler County, Pennsylvania. Fullerton reviewed the draft and advised Evanson that it was inadequate. Specifically, on January 11, 2005, Fullerton sent the following email to Evanson:

I got your PC [probable cause Affidavit] and [police] report. I did not know they would be virtually identical.... I dont [sic] have the time to edit and re-write the whole thing. If you want to re-draft the PC and include a description of the evidence that makes out the elements, I would be glad to review that. My thinking is that the PC needs to set forth that a report of a crime was made and what information you have, in brief, [that] shows that the event reported did not occur.

( 725.) Fullerton confirmed in his deposition that he sent an email to Evanson encouraging Evanson to "explain the elements, [and] why [he] th[ought] the crime [was] there." (Id. at 703.) Although Fullerton expected to see another draft of the Affidavit, Evanson never sent a revised draft to him.

On January 14, 2005, Evanson learned from the Pennsylvania State Police that DNA analysis linked the Landmark attack to other sexual assaults in Pennsylvania. That same day, Evanson sent a copy of his police report about the Landmark attack to another town's police department via fax, with the subject line "Serial Rapist." (App. at 609.) Also on that same day -- six months after Reedy was attacked, five months after Evanson's investigative efforts had ceased, and three months after the Landmark attack -- Evanson filed the criminal complaint and Affidavit against Reedy with a Pennsylvania Magisterial District Judge. Assistant District Attorney Fullerton did not see the final Affidavit until after Evanson had filed it, and the only changes Evanson had made to the Affidavit from the draft that was earlier sent to Fullerton involved removing portions from the prior draft.

Later that month or early in February, Evanson gave details about the Reedy attack during a teleconference conducted by a State Police task force organized to catch the serial rapist.*fn15 Evanson also sent a copy of the police reports on the Reedy incident and on the later Landmark incident to Corporal George Cronin, the State Police officer in charge of the serial rapist task force.

I. Reedy's Arrest and Subsequent Developments

Reedy was notified of the warrant for her arrest and, on January 19, 2005, turned herself in. She was unable to post bond and was taken into custody and transported to the Butler County jail, where she spent five days awaiting a bail reduction hearing. Later, in February, Reedy called a State Police tip line that had been set up to obtain information about the serial rapist. She explained that she had been sexually assaulted but had been criminally charged for reporting the assault. On May 9, 2005, while charges were still pending against Reedy, Evanson was advised by the State Police that Reedy had contacted the task force tip line about the assault at the Gulf Station.

Reedy's criminal trial was scheduled to begin on September 19, 2005. On August 22, 2005, Wilbur Brown was apprehended while he was assaulting a female convenience store clerk in Brookville, Pennsylvania. Brown subsequently confessed to both the attack on Reedy and the Landmark attack. On September 1, 2005, the Butler County District Attorney dropped all charges against Reedy.

J. Procedural History

On August 14, 2006, Reedy filed the present suit against Evanson, Meyer, Steve Mannell (the Public Safety Director for Cranberry Township), Butler County, Assistant District Attorney Fullerton, and Timothy F. McCune, the Butler County District Attorney. On March 12, 2008, after Butler County, Fullerton, and McCune were dismissed from the suit, Reedy filed an amended complaint*fn16 against Evanson, Meyer, and Mannell, containing the following counts:

Count 1: Unlawful search in violation of the Fourth Amendment, based on the toxicology screening performed on Reedy's blood;

Counts 2, 3, and 4: Unlawful seizure, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth ...

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