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Raymond Chappell v. Stanley Wychock and Jacob Kaluzny

February 3, 2011

RAYMOND CHAPPELL,
PLAINTIFFF
v.
STANLEY WYCHOCK AND JACOB KALUZNY, DEFENDANTS



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

MEMORANDUM

Before the court for disposition is the motion for summary judgment of Defendants Stanley Wychock and Jacob Kaluzny. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

BACKGROUND

On August 16, 2008, Plaintiff Raymond Chappell ("Chappell")was arrested and charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance. (Compl. ¶ 9 (Doc. 1)).This section 1983 action relates to Chappell's claim that he was maliciously prosecuted without probable cause.

On Saturday August 16, 2008, Wilkes-Barre Police Officers Stanley Wychock ("Wychock") and Jacob Kaluzny ("Kaluzny") were on patrol in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. (Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("DSMF") ¶ 3 (Doc. 19)). They received a call of an armed robbery at Pizza Fellas in Wilkes-Barre. (Id. ¶ 4). Wychcok and Kaluzny responded to the call, and were subsequently directed to 525 South River Street upon information that the suspect vehicle was parked outside that address. (Id. ¶¶ 6-11).

Wychock and Kaluzny arrived at 525 South River Street and positioned themselves at the rear of the house. (Id. ¶ 12). Kaluzny was positioned behind a neighbor's shed while Wychock was behind a neighbor's tree. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 15). Wychock states that he observed a second-floor window being opened at the rear of 525 South River Street. (Id. ¶ 17). According to Wychcok, the window appeared to crank open from the bottom and Wychock saw a black male wearing a white tank-top shirt unsuccessfully attempt to climb out. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 22, 26). Wychock then saw the same man throw a white plastic bag out the window into the neighbor's yard. (Id. ¶ 27). Wychcok informed Kaluzny of what he had seen and reported the same over the radio. (Id. ¶ 28).

Officers at the front of the 525 South River Street knocked on the door and detained the house's occupants, Chappell and his brother Edris Nathan Chappell ("Nathan"). (Edris Nathan Chappell Dep. ("Nathan Chappell Dep.") at 23-24 (Doc. 21-3)). Wychock and Kaluzny were advised by officers at the front of 525 South River Street that the house was clear. (DSMF ¶ 31). Wychock and Kaluzny then retrieved the white bag, inside of which was a brown bag containing packets of heroin. (Id. ¶¶ 32-36). The officers showed the contents to Sergeant William Harden. (Id. ¶ 37).

Wychock and Kaluzny went to the front of 525 South River Street, where Chappell and Nathan were detained. (Id. ¶ 38). Chappell was wearing a white tank top shirt. (Id. ¶ 23). Wychock identified Chappell as the man he had seen throw the white bag out the rear second-floor window. (Id. ¶ 39). Chappell and Nathan were taken into custody. (Id. ¶ 23).

On August 16, 2008-- the day of the events in question-- Officers Wychock and Kaluzny filed an affidavit of probable cause as part of a criminal complaint against Chappell, to which they swore the following day before a magisterial district judge. (Crim. Compl. / Aff. of Probable Cause (Doc. 21-2)). The affidavit largely restates the facts described above, with slight differences. For instance, the affidavit can be read to say that both affiants, and not Wychock alone, witnessed Chappell throw the bag from the window. (Id.) The affidavit states that the white bag landed in the neighbor's yard south of 525 South River Street, and not the yard to the north. (Id.) The affidavit also states that the white plastic bag held a grey plastic bag, and not a brown bag, which contained seventeen taped paper packets of suspected heroin. (Id.) The affidavit states that Chappell was taken into custody, processed, and charged. (Id.)

Chappell and his brother Nathan have a different account of what happened that day. Chappell testified that he was watching television downstairs on the evening in question, having had no work that day. (Raymond Chappell Dep. at 27-29 (Doc. 19-2)). Nathan testified that he was upstairs changing out of his work clothes after a day of work. (Nathan Chappell Dep. at 16-19). There came a knock at the door and Nathan looked out the window to see about a dozen police officers outside with guns drawn. (Raymond Chappell Dep. at 31; Nathan Chappell Dep. at 19-21, 27). Nathan yelled downstairs to Chappell that police were outside, at which time Chappell opened the door for the officers. (Raymond Chappell Dep. at 32; Nathan Chappell Dep. at 21). Chappell was handcuffed and detained on his neighbor's porch. (Raymond Chappell Dep. at 36; Nathan Chappell Dep. at 23-24). Police called Nathan outside and detained him on the porch of their residence. (Raymond Chappell Dep. at 32, 36; Nathan Chappell Dep. at 30, 33).

The police questioned the brothers as to whether they owned the van parked in front of their residence. (Raymond Chappell Dep. at 33; Nathan Chappell Dep. at 61). Chappell and Nathan each denied knowing who owned the van. (Raymond Chappell Dep. at 33; Nathan Chappell Dep. at 61). Subsequently a man whom Chappell and Nathan surmised to be the robbery victim from Pizza Fellas was brought to the residence. (Raymond Chappell Dep. at 38, 75; Nathan Chappell Dep. at 45-48). The victim indicated that neither Chappell nor Nathan were responsible for the robbery. (Raymond Chappell Dep. at 76).

Chappell testified that Officers Wychock and Kaluzny came from the rear of the house holding a white plastic bag. (Raymond Chappell Dep. at 40). There was a discussion among the officers and they asked Nathan who owned the bag. (Raymond Chappell Dep. at 41-42; Nathan Chappell Dep. at 67-68). Nathan denied owning, or having seen the bag. (Raymond Chappell Dep. at 43). Nathan indicates that one officer pointed him out as the man he had seen throw the bag from a second-floor window. (Nathan Chappell Dep. at 33-39, 68). Chappell and Nathan each testified that the rear second-floor window was screwed shut and could not be opened. (Raymond Chappell Dep. 55, 57 - 59; Nathan Chappell Dep. at 53-56).

Chappell and Nathan were transported to the police station. (Raymond Chappell Dep. at 44). Nathan was processed but released the same day, without being charged. (Raymond Chappell Dep. at 46; Nathan Chappell Dep. at 49-50, 66). Chappell was kept from Saturday until Tuesday when he posted bail. (Raymond Chappell Dep. at 48; Nathan Chappell Dep. at 52). Chappell indicates that he was arrested and charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance (Heroin), 35 PA. STAT. § 780-113 (a)(30), and possession of a controlled substance (Heroin) 35 PA. STAT. § 780-113 (a)(16). (Compl. ¶ 9). Chappell was tried in county court.*fn1 (Nathan Chappell Dep. at 74- 75).

Chappell filed his complaint in this court on November 13, 2009. (Doc. 1). The complaint raises two claims against the defendants for malicious prosecution: first, a claim under section 1983 for violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, and second, a claim under Pennsylvania common law. (Id.) The defendants answered the complaint on January 15, 2010. (Doc. 10). The parties engaged in discovery and the defendants filed the instant ...


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