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William J. Donohue v. Jeffrey Rineer

December 10, 2010

WILLIAM J. DONOHUE
PLAINTIFF :
v.
JEFFREY RINEER, AND GEORGE CRONIN DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Conner)

MEMORANDUM

This is a civil rights action filed by plaintiff William J. Donohue ("Donohue") against Jeffrey Rineer ("Rineer") and George Cronin ("Cronin"), both of the Pennsylvania State Police, alleging Rineer and Cronin violated Donohue's Fourth Amendment rights. Presently before the court is a motion (Doc. 8) to dismiss filed by Rineer and Cronin. For the reasons that follow the motion will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Statement of Facts*fn1

The instant matter stems from the unfortunate death of Bernadette Leibon, the mother of Donohue, on or about May 20, 2004. (Doc. 1 ¶ 10). Leibon was discovered deceased in her bed at the residence of Donohue and his then wife, Frances Donohue ("Frances"), after Frances called 911 to report her mother-in- law's passing. (Doc. 13-2, at 10). Corporal Rineer, one of the first Pennsylvania State Police officers to arrive at the residence, was charged with investigating the death. (Id. at 2). Corporal Cronin, also of the Pennsylvania State Police, assisted in the investigation.

Approximately three years later, on or about March 14, 2007, Rineer and Cronin, charged Donohue and Frances with Leibon's death in a four-count criminal complaint. (Doc. 1 ¶ 13). The charges included:

1. Murder of the first degree in violation of 18 PA. CONS. STAT. § 2502(a);

2. Criminal conspiracy to commit murder of the first degree in violation of 18 PA. CONS. STAT. § 903;

3. Murder of the third degree in violation of 18 PA. CONS. STAT. § 2502(c); and,

4. Criminal conspiracy to commit murder of the third degree in violation of 18 PA. CONS. STAT. § 903(c).

(Id.) An arrest warrant issued and Donohue was taken into custody. (Doc. 13-2, at 13-15). Due to the serious nature of the charges, Donohue was ineligible for bail and remained in prison for eighteen months pending trial. (Doc. 1 ¶ 17, 19).

Donohue alleges that Rineer and Cronin lacked probable cause to pursue charges against him and that "[t]here was virtually no competent or significant evidence against" him. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 15). Donohue avers that Rineer and Cronin were cognizant of multiple facts indicating he had no involvement in the death of Leibon. (See id. ¶ 16). For instance, Donohue alleges Rineer and Cronin were apprised of the following: Donohue and Frances had a broken relationship; Frances cheated on Donohue; Donohue had a drinking problem; Frances controlled the couple's finances exclusively, and Frances completely dominated Donohue in their personal and financial affairs. (Id. ¶ 16(a)-(c), (f)). With respect to Leibon's care, Rineer and Cronin were cognizant that Frances retained sole power of attorney over Leibon's affairs, that Donohue had neither procured or expended any of Leibon's money, that Donohue did not in any way participate or assist in Leibon's care, and that Frances openly admitted to police that she conducted, controlled and undertook all care of Leibon without any assistance from Donohue. (Id. ¶ 16(d)-(e), (h)-(i)). Donohue further alleges that the evidence presented against him was "highly exaggerated" and "devoid of merit," and that Rineer and Cronin distorted and misrepresented facts in describing Donohue's actions and statements. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 22). Finally, Donohue avers that Rineer and Cronin falsified evidence during the pre-trial and trial phases of Donohue's criminal prosecution. (Id. ¶ 26). Ultimately, in August 2008, a jury acquitted Donohue of all charges. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 24).

B. Procedural History

On June 25, 2010, Donohue filed the instant action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, against Rineer and Cronin alleging malicious prosecution in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. On August 24, 2010, Rineer and Cronin filed a motion (Doc. 8) to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See ...


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