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Yeisley v. Pennsylvania State Police

November 18, 2010

SCOTT A. YEISLEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE; JEFFREY B. MILLER; CYNTHIA L. TRANSUE; SIDNEY A. SIMON; GOVAN A. MARTIN, III; JOSEPH T. MARUT; ROBERT L. MURRAY; FRANK KOSCELNAK; ROBERT B. TITLER; AND CARL M. HARRISON, IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL AND/OR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure

MEMORANDUM

I. INTRODUCTION

The instant civil rights action, raised pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, was initiated by the filing of a complaint by plaintiff Scott A. Yeisley on August 12, 2005. (Rec. Doc. No. 1). In his complaint, Yeisley contends that the defendants violated the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The present defendants in the action are the Pennsylvania State Police ("PSP"); Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller; Colonel Cynthia L. Transue; Colonel Sidney A. Simon; Corporal Govan A. Martin, III; Captain Joseph T. Marut; Corporal Robert L. Murray; Major Frank Koscelnak; Captain Robert B. Titler; and Lieutenant Carl M. Harrison. The instant action arises out of Yeisley's employment with the PSP.

Currently before this court is a motion for summary judgment filed by the defendants (Rec. Doc. No. 227) and a motion for partial summary judgment filed by plaintiff Yeisley (Rec. Doc. No. 226). In light of the following, we will grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment and deny the plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On November 14, 2005, Major Koscelnak, Commissioner Miller, and Corporal Martin filed a motion to dismiss. (Rec doc. No. 5). After briefing (Rec. Doc. Nos. 8-10), the Honorable Thomas I. Vanaskie, the judge then assigned to the instant case,*fn1 denied the defendants' motion to dismiss on October 27, 2006. (Rec. Doc. No. 56). Defendants Koscelnak, Miller, and Martin filed their answer to the plaintiff's complaint on December 20, 2006. (Rec. Doc. No. 67).

Plaintiff subsequently filed his first motion for sanctions on January 23, 2007. (Rec. Doc. No. 76). After briefing (Rec. Doc. Nos. 77, 107, and 113), the court, on March 31, 2008, granted the motion in part. (Rec. Doc. No. 132). On February 2, 2007, plaintiff filed a second motion for sanctions. (Rec. Doc. No. 91). After briefing by the parties (Rec. Doc. Nos. 92, 114, and 119), on March 31, 2008, the court denied the plaintiff's motion. (Rec. Doc. No. 133).

On December 18, 2009, plaintiff filed a stipulation of dismissal, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(ii) and concerning particular claims, entered into between the parties. (Rec. Doc. No. 206). First, the parties stipulated and agreed that the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection, substantive due process, and § 1983 conspiracy claims and the Fifth Amendment claims against Commissioner Miller, Colonel Transue, Colonel Simon, Corporal Martin, Captain Marut, Corporal Murray, Major Koscelnak, Captain Titler, and Lieutenant Harrison should be voluntarily dismissed. Id. at 1. Second, the parties stipulated and agreed that the plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claim as against defendants Miller, Transue, Simon, Martin, Koscelnak, Titler, and Harrison should be voluntarily dismissed. Id. at 1-2.*fn2 Third, the parties agreed that the plaintiff's only claim as against the PSP, a claim raised under the Fair Labor standards Act, 8 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., should be voluntarily dismissed. Id. at 2.

On December 21, 2009, the defendants filed a stipulation of dismissal, also pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(ii), in which the parties stipulated and agreed that those claims brought against Colonel Simon, Captain Marut, Corporal Murray, Major Koscelnak, Captain Titler, and Lieutenant Harrison in their official capacities should be voluntarily dismissed. (Rec. Doc. No. 207 at 1).*fn3

On March 31, 2010, plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary judgment, a requisite statement of material facts, and a brief in support. (Rec. Doc. Nos. 226, 232, and 235). On April 14, 2010, defendants filed a motion, with a brief in support, to strike the plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment and supporting materials. (Rec. Doc. Nos. 239, 240). Plaintiffs filed a brief opposing the defendants' motion to strike on the same day (Rec. Doc. No. 242), and the defendants filed a reply brief relating to the motion to strike on May 3, 2010. (Rec. Doc. No. 247). After holding oral argument on the defendant's motion to strike the plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment and supporting material on May 25, 2010 (see Rec. Doc. No. 251), the court granted the motion in part, to the extent that the court struck, without prejudice, the plaintiff's statement of material facts. (Rec. Doc. No. 252).

In accordance with the court's May 25, 2010 Order, the plaintiff filed a statement of material facts relating to the motion for partial summary judgment on June 7, 2010. (Rec. Doc. No. 254). Defendants filed a brief in opposition to the motion for partial summary judgment on August 5, 2010, as well as an answer to the plaintiff's re-filed statement of facts. (Rec. Doc. Nos. 273 and 274). On August 19, 2010, the plaintiff filed a reply brief. (Rec. Doc. No. 277). Also on August 19, 2010, the plaintiff filed a motion to supplement the record in support of the plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment. (Rec. Doc. No. 276). On September 2, 2010, the plaintiff filed a brief in support of this motion to supplement the record. (Rec. Doc. No. 279).*fn4

Also on March 31, 2010, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, a statement of material facts, and a brief in support. (Rec. Doc. No. 227, 231, and 233). On May 3, 2010, plaintiff filed a brief in opposition to the defendants' motion for summary judgment, as well as his own statement of material facts and an answer to the defendants' statement of material facts. (Rec. Doc. Nos. 244, 245, and 246). On June 25, 2010, defendants filed a reply brief and a reply to the plaintiff's response to the defendants' statement of material facts. (Rec. Doc. Nos. 265 and 266).

Both motions for summary judgment are now ripe for disposition. As such, and in light of the following, we will grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment (Rec. Doc. No. 277) and deny the plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment (Rec. Doc. No. 226).

III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The court first addresses the defendants' motion for summary judgment, as a determination in the defendants' favor would result in the dismissal of the entire action.*fn5 Taken in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, plaintiff Yeisley, the salient facts are as follows.*fn6

A. Trooper Yeisley's Arrival at the Dunmore Barracks

During the time period of relevance to the instant action, May of 2003, plaintiff Yeisley was a trooper with the Pennsylvania State Police at the Dunmore barracks.

On May 4, 2003, Trooper Yeisley arrived at the Dunmore barracks before his assigned shift, which was scheduled to begin at midnight. Upon his arrival, Trooper Yeisley was distraught - he was chain smoking, his hands were shaking, and he was visibly upset. In addition, Trooper Yeisley was armed with his personal weapon, which he was entitled to carry pursuant to PSP regulations. Trooper Yeisley spoke with PSP Corporal Edmund Fret concerning the stress he felt as the subject of a PSP criminal investigation. According to Trooper Yeisley, he "explained to Corporal Fret exactly what had occurred, everything in painful detail during [the PSP's] investigation of [him].... [He] told [Corporal Fret] who did it. [He] told [Corporal Fret] what they did. [He] told [Corporal Fret] when they did it. [He] told [Corporal Fret] where they did it. [He] told [Corporal Fret] who they did it with." This detail, again, concerned the criminal investigation of Trooper Yeisley's alleged purchase, distribution, and use of drugs.

After Corporal Fret concluded that Trooper Yeisley would not be able to work his midnight shift, Fret recommended that Yeisley talk to a Member Assistance Program ("MAP") contact. A MAP contact, Trooper Joseph Kugler, was requested to meet with Trooper Yeisley at the Dunmore barracks upon Yeisley's agreement with Corporal Fret's recommendation. Corporal Fret and Trooper Yeisley waited together until the arrival of Trooper Kugler. Based upon the recollection of Corporal Fret, Trooper Yeisley told Fret that, "if they didn't knock it off, he was going to go another route, whether file grievances or an unlabor [sic] practice or even a lawsuit or hostile work environment, something of that nature."

B. The MAP Session

At about 8:30 p.m., Trooper Kugler arrived at the Dunmore barracks to meet privately with Trooper Yeisley.

At the beginning of this MAP session, and pursuant to MAP procedure, Trooper Yeisley was advised of the confidential nature of the session, and the ways in which such confidentially would be broken: (1) if a person is a clear and present danger to himself or herself; (2) if the person is a clear and present danger to others; (3) if a person committed, confesses to, or reveals details concerning a serious crime; or (4) if reporting is otherwise required by law. These confidentiality rules are according to PSP regulations. Yeisley also was informed that he should not use the names of individuals during the MAP session.

It appears clear that, during the MAP session, Trooper Yeisley made a statement that Trooper Kugler believed to be a threat to harm others. In fact, Trooper Yeisley acknowledges telling Trooper Kugler that Yeisley had "a meeting with Captain Marut on Wednesday... [and he] was afraid that [Captain Marut] was going to open his mouth and start saying some shit and [Yeisley] was going to snap and go right over the desk at [Captain Marut]." Although Kugler remembers Trooper Yeisley specifically mentioning Captain Marut's names, Yeisley does not believe he used any names, as Kugler had informed him at the beginning of the session that names should not be used.*fn7

Upon Trooper Kugler's request for Trooper Yeisley to surrender his personal gun, Yeisley stated, "[Y]ou don't have to worry about me using a gun on him. I wouldn't use a gun anyway." Although Trooper Yeisley is unable to recall the exact content of what he said, he does admit stating something to the extent that, if he were to confront someone, he would not use a gun. Trooper Yeisley stated that he would prefer to use his hands or feel his hands around the other person's throat. In addition, Trooper Yeisley stated the following: "[I]f I did snap, God knows I might not stop by pounding him into the ground. I might go upstairs after the other idiots, too...."*fn8

During the MAP session, Trooper Yeisley also referred to the "blue door." In the Dunmore barracks, troopers and corporals in the patrol unit apparently are separated from those of higher ranks by a blue door. Trooper Yeisley has stated that he "didn't have a problem with everyone on the other side of the blue door. [He] had a problem with three people who worked at the Dunmore barracks... [and] it just so happened that all of those three people worked on the other side of the blue door." These three people were Captain Marut, Lieutenant Gilbert, and Sergeant Lavelle. Yeisley is unable to recall the exact number of times he made statements to this effect.

During the MAP session, Trooper Kugler called MAP manager and SEAP coordinator, Commissioner Martin, informing Martin of the statements made by Trooper Yeisley and that the rules of confidentiality had been broken. Trooper Kugler informed Commissioner Martin that Trooper Yeisley had said that he wanted to put his hands around Captain Marut's neck and choke him. Martin provided Kugler with the name of a mental hospital for Yeisley.

C. Trooper Yeisley's Transport to the Mental Hospital

In the early morning of May 5, 2003, Corporals Fret and Schultz transported Trooper Yeisley to the decided-upon mental hospital, located outside of State College, Pennsylvania. Trooper Yeisley does not remember the exact details of his conversation with Corporals Fret and Schultz. However, he does remember that he "summarized the whole mess from 2002... right up to the point... where [he] was feeling lousy and [he] couldn't eat and [he] couldn't sleep and [he] was shaking like a leaf and [he] was needing help." Although Trooper Yeisley cannot remember anything further that was said during the trip, Corporal Schultz noted that Yeisley stated, during the trip, "I want to feel my hands around their throat." During the trip, Corporal Schultz informed Trooper Yeisley that he was assigned to conduct the criminal investigation.

At the time of the incident at Dunmore barracks, Sergeant Farrell was the officer of the day. The officer of the day assumes the troop commander's duties beyond regular business hours; as such, Corporal Fret needed Sergeant Farrell's approval so as to bring a trooper in to cover Trooper Yeisley's shift. Corporal Fret notified Sergeant Farrell of the situation with Trooper Yeisley while Fret and Yeisley were waiting for Trooper Kugler to arrive. Commissioner Martin, as the MAP manager, called Sergeant Farrell several hours later and informed Farrell that Trooper Yeisley had made threats relating to a number of superior officers during a MAP session. As the officer of the day, it was Sergeant Farrell's responsibility to deal with the situation upon this notification. Sergeant Farrell called Corporals Fret and Schultz to come to the Dunmore barracks and transport Trooper Yeisley to the mental hospital.

Sergeant Farrell assigned Corporal Schultz to the criminal investigation stemming from the statements made by Yeisley during the MAP session. Because of this decision, Sergeant Farrell assigned to Corporal Schultz the task of transporting Trooper Yeisley to the mental hospital.

On May 4, 2003, Captain Marut was on leave, and Lieutenant Robert Evanchick was the acting captain and troop commander. Because of Lieutenant Evanchick's status on May 4, 2003, Sergeant Farrell informed Evanchick of the Yeisley incident. On the night of May 5, 2003, Lieutenant Evanchick notified Major Koscelnak of the statements made by Trooper Yeisley.

Lieutenant Evanchick and Captain Marut testified that, upon Marut's return to work on May 5, 2003, Evanchick informed Marut of the threats made by Trooper Yeisley.

D. Assignment of the Investigation

Corporal Schultz apparently was "reticent" to undertake the criminal investigation of Trooper Yeisley's statements; however, the decision as to who should lead the investigation was up to Sergeant Farrell. Although Corporal Schultz testified that he was told he was investigating a terroristic threats charge, the incident ...


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