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Donna Deitrick v. Mark A. Costa

April 29, 2011


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


The above-captioned case is based on a series of unfortunate events Plaintiff Donna Deitrick alleges she experienced at the hands of her estranged husband and his cohorts in August 2004. First, while Deitrick was detained through the efforts of police officers Mark Costa and William Zelinski, a one-ton safe holding four million dollars worth of valuables was stolen from Deitrick's home. Three days later, when Deitrick went to the police station to retrieve her van which had been taken by police, she was physically assaulted by Defendants Vanessa Long and Richard Nichols and then thrown into a prison cell by Defendants Costa and William Miner.

Pending before the Court is a motion to dismiss certain claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed by Defendants City of Shamokin, Shamokin Police Department, Costa, Zelinski, Miner, Nichols, and Robert Searls. (Doc. No. 93.) In their motion, Defendants contend that certain claims levied against them by Deitrick are not legally cognizable and must be dismissed. The Court agrees that several of Deitrick's claims fail as a matter of law; however, several of the challenged claims do not. Therefore, the Court must grant Defendants' motion in part and deny it in part.


The Court begins its analysis with a brief recounting of the allegations in the complaint. (See Doc. No. 1.)

A. August 13, 2004

On Friday, August 13, 2004, Plaintiff Donna Deitrick left home to check on antiques and collectibles she stored at two separate properties in Shamokin, Pennsylvania. Deitrick feared the items may have been stolen or damaged by her husband Robert Yoncuski, whom she was divorcing. When Deitrick arrived at the properties, her fears proved to be well-founded: her antiques and collectibles had been taken. Deitrick drove to another property at Carbon Street, Shamokin, to see if Yoncuski had taken the items there. Deitrick did not find the items; however, she did find other marital property which belonged to her.

Deitrick loaded the items she found into her van, but before she left the Carbon Street property she was approached by Defendants Mark Costa and William Zelinski. Both Costa and Zelinski were employed as police officers with the Shamokin Police Department. Deitrick identified herself to the officers, and Costa and Zelinski recognized Deitrick as Yoncuski's wife. The officers remarked that they would not get involved in this "civil matter," walked to a carwash across the street, and began talking to Defendant Dennis Moore who was standing there.

Deitrick's estranged husband, Yoncuski, arrived at the Carbon Street property in a pickup truck which he pulled in front of Deitrick's van to block her from leaving. As he exited the truck, Yoncuski yelled obscenities at Deitrick and threatened to kill her. Officers Costa and Zelinski heard the threats but did nothing. Yoncuski walked to the carwash and used Moore's cellphone.

Deitrick yelled to Costa and Zelinski that she had a protective order against her husband and she requested they make Yoncuski move his truck so that she could avoid contact with him. Costa and Zelinski did not respond, so Deitrick moved Yoncuski's truck out of the way herself. Deitrick then started to drive her van away from the Carbon Street property. Costa began hitting the window of Deitrick's van, yelling for her to stop. Deitrick again informed Costa of her protective order against Yoncuski. She also told Costa that she was in fear of her estranged husband because he had guns in his possession and he had made threats on her life.

Deitrick left the Carbon Street property in her van, and Costa and Zelinski pursued Deitrick's van in separate police vehicles. After stopping Deitrick on Spruce Street in Shamokin, the officers informed Deitrick that her van had been reported stolen by Yoncuski. Deitrick disputed this charge and requested that the officers contact Defendant William Miner, also an officer with the Shamokin Police Department, to determine whether the van was stolen. When the officers did so, they learned that Deitrick was telling the truth.

Yoncuski arrived at the Spruce Street stop in his pickup truck. Unable to leave the area because her van was blocked in by the officers, Deitrick tried to show her protective order papers to the officers. The officers refused to accept the papers. Instead, they walked across the street and began talking to Yoncuski in a friendly manner. The officers then fabricated a claim that Deitrick did not have valid insurance. When Deitrick attempted to show Costa her valid insurance card and asked that he check on it, Costa refused and stated that her husband probably cancelled the insurance.

Costa then instructed Deitrick to exit her van and told her that he would be taking it to the police station. Deitrick and a passenger exited from the van and called for a friend to pick them up. Costa told Deitrick that she could retrieve the keys to the van from him the following Monday. Costa then instructed Defendant Robert Searls, a City of Shamokin "meter maid," to drive Costa's police vehicle to the police station, and Searls complied.

Fifteen minutes after Costa, Zelinski, and Searls left the area, Deitrick's friend arrived to take her home. Another fifteen minutes passed and Deitrick arrived home. Once there, Deitrick learned that she had been robbed: A one-ton safe containing four million dollars worth of jewelry and cash had been taken from her home. Deitrick avers that it was removed by Defendants Robert Yoncuski, Jeff Adams, Marianne Adams, Thomas Yoncuski, Kevin Balascik, Vanessa Long, Linda Long, James Brown, Moore, and Searls. Deitrick alleges that these Defendants conspired and came to an agreement with Defendants Jane Acri, Costa, Zelinski, Miner, and Shamokin Police Chief Richard Nichols to create a distraction and then physically remove the safe.

B. August 16, 2004

Three days later, Deitrick's situation worsened. On Monday, August 16, 2004, Deitrick went with her brother, Ken Deitrick, and a friend to retrieve her van and keys from the Shamokin Police Station. When Deitrick arrived at the police station, Yoncuski was already there with Defendants Vanessa Long, Nichols, Miner, and Costa. Without provocation, Vanessa Long attacked Deitrick, knocking Deitrick backward against a window and a water cooler and then to the floor. When Deitrick's brother attempted to separate the ...

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