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David anderson v. Venango County

January 18, 2011

DAVID ANDERSON,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
VENANGO COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, AND JAMES CARBONE,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McLaughlin

MEMORANDUM OPINION

McLAUGHLIN, SEAN J., J. Presently pending before the Court is Defendant James Carbone's Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons which follow, the motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

On or about March 2000, Plaintiff David Anderson ("Anderson") was charged in Venango County, Pennsylvania with several counts of indecent assault and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse based upon allegations that he had engaged in improper sexual relations with three mentally-handicapped patients at Polk Center State Hospital, where Anderson was employed at the time. (Complaint ¶ 8). The first trial concerning these charges took place in February, 2001. (Complaint ¶ 9). At the conclusion of the first trial, the jury found Anderson guilty of indecent assault with respect to one patient, but deadlocked as to the charges concerning the other two patients. (Complaint ¶ 10).

In September 2001, Anderson was tried for a second time with respect to the charges on which the first jury had previously deadlocked. Defendant James Carbone ("Carbone") prosecuted the case on behalf of Defendant Venango County, Pennsylvania ("Venango County"). (Complaint ¶ 12). At the conclusion of the second trial, the jury found Anderson guilty of indecent assault with respect to both patients and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with respect to one of the patients. (Complaint ¶ 11).

Anderson successfully appealed the results of both trials. The Superior Court reversed the February 2001 conviction on procedural grounds and reversed the September 2001 conviction after concluding that Defendant Carbone had engaged in outrageous behavior during closing arguments. (Compliant ¶ 12).

On remand, Anderson was charged again in relation to the two patients involved in the September 2001 trial. Renewed charges were not pursued with respect to the patient at issue in the February 2001 trial. (Complaint ¶ 13).

Prior to trial, the Court of Common Pleas ruled that neither of the patients that Anderson allegedly victimized were competent to testify. This ruling was reversed by the Superior Court based on a finding that the Court of Common Pleas had applied an incorrect standard for competency. Shortly thereafter, Anderson's counsel filed a Motion for Competency Hearing based upon an allegation that Defendant Carbone was improperly coaching and preparing the patient victims for their testimony. (Complaint ¶ 16). A Competency Hearing and Pre-Trial Conference were scheduled for October 29, 2007. However, Defendant Carbone failed to produce the witnesses due to an alleged misunderstanding as to the scheduling order. (Complaint ¶ 18(a)). In the course of rescheduling the Competency Hearing, and in light of the allegations of improper coaching by Defendant Carbone, the court ordered Carbone not to meet with either of the witnesses without a third-party present and to keep a log listing the date and time of any such meetings. (Complaint ¶ 19). The court also ordered Carbone to provide defense counsel with any capacity assessments of the patients that had been performed by Polk Center. (Complaint ¶ 19).

The Competency Hearing was ultimately held on June 6, 2008. With regards to this Competency Hearing, Anderson alleges that the following acts by Carbone deprived him of his right to a fair trial:

a. Defendant Carbone met with one of the witnesses six days prior to the competency hearing, informed the witness of the questions that would be asked at the hearing and gave the witness the answers to those questions. This visit was not logged;

b. Defendant Carbone met with the same witness immediately prior to the competency hearing and again provided the questions that were going to be asked during the hearing and the answers thereto. This meeting was logged inaccurately;

c. During the Competency Hearing, Defendant Carbone did, in fact, ask the witness the questions he had provided to the witness during the meetings before the hearing and the prior week;

d. Defendant Carbone repeatedly, intentionally and actively attempted to conceal his meeting with the witness from the Court by initially denying that any meeting occurred and then by stating that he had only seen the witness long enough to deliver a subpoena when he had, in fact, visited with the witness for the duration of a hockey game;

e. Although capacity assessments conducted on the proposed witnesses had been conducted following the October 29, 2007 hearing, Defendant Carbone did not provide those assessments to defense counsel;

f. On July 31, 2008, during a hearing concerning, inter alia, the defense's motion to dismiss, Defendant Carbone attempted to conceal his misconduct by lying concerning his meetings with the witness, accusing defense counsel of lying and of being a bigot against the mentally disabled and inferring that the Superior Court justices who had previously reversed Plaintiff's convictions based on Defendant Carbone's misconduct had acted with impropriety and had been influenced by a relationship with the defense counsel. (Complaint ¶ 21).

Thereafter, Anderson filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him based upon Carbone's alleged improper conduct. On February 6, 2009, the Court of Common Pleas granted Anderson's motion to dismiss on the grounds that Carbone's misconduct had violated Anderson's Double Jeopardy protections under the Pennsylvania Constitution. (Complaint, Ex. 1). This ruling is still the subject of an appeal in state court.*fn1

On April 2, 2010, Anderson filed the instant civil rights action seeking monetary damages based upon the allegedly improper actions taken by Carbone. Count I of the Complaint, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserts that Defendant Carbone intentionally deprived Anderson of his right to a fair trial and that Defendant Venango County failed to properly train Carbone and/or implemented a policy and practice of improperly coaching and preparing witnesses for competency hearings. Count II raises a claim for abuse of process against Defendant Carbone in his individual capacity based upon Carbone's alleged deprivation of Anderson's right to a fair trial.

Oral argument on Carbone's Motion to Dismiss was held on December 17, 2010. This matter is ripe for review.

II. STANDARD FOR REVIEW

Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that a pleading must set forth a claim for relief which contains a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Erickson v. Pardus, ___ U.S. ___, ___ 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976). The issue is not whether the plaintiff will prevail at the end but only whether he should be entitled to offer evidence to support his claim.

Neitzke; Scheuer v. Rhodes, 419 U.S. 232 (1974). As the United States Supreme Court recently held in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, ___ U.S. ___, 127 S. Ct. 1955 (May 21, 2007), a complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12 (b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at ___, 1974 (rejecting the traditional 12 (b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). The court must accept as true all allegations of the complaint and all reasonable factual inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Securities, Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3rd Cir. 1985). The Court, however, need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint. See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3rd Cir. 2004) (citing Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3rd Cir. 1997)). Nor must the court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Twombly, ___ U.S. ___, 127 S. Ct. at 1965 citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). "Factual allegations must be enough to ...


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