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Tia Jordan v. Special Agent John Cashman

May 24, 2011

TIA JORDAN
v.
SPECIAL AGENT JOHN CASHMAN



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Padova, J.

MEMORANDUM

Defendant Special Agent John Cashman has filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, which asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and violation of her due process rights, as well as a claim under the Pennsylvania Constitution. For the reasons that follow, we grant the Motion insofar as it seeks dismissal of the due process and Pennsylvania constitutional claims, but we deny the Motion insofar as it seeks dismissal of the false arrest and malicious prosecution claims.

I. BACKGROUND

The facts as set forth in the Amended Complaint and the documents upon which the Amended Complaint relies are as follows.*fn1 On January 4, 2001, Plaintiff Tia Jordan purchased a .45 caliber Ruger Handgun as a gift to her then-boyfriend, Dion Jordan. (Am. Compl. ¶ 3.) At the time of the purchase, the law required gun purchasers to complete a federal form known as the ATF Form 4473. (Id. ¶ 4.) Question 9(a) of the form asked: "Are you the actual buyer of the firearm indicated on this form? If you answer 'no' to this question the dealer cannot transfer the firearm to you. (See Important Notice 1.)" (Id. ¶ 5; Ex. 1 to Def.'s Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss ("Def.'s Mem.") at 1 ¶ 9(a).) "Important Notice 1" was on the reverse side of the form. (Id. ¶ 6.) It provided as follows:

WARNING -- The federal firearms laws require that the individual filling out this form must be buying the firearm for himself or herself or as a gift. Any individual who is not buying the firearm for himself or herself or as a gift, but who completes this form, violates the law.

Example: Mr. Smith asks Mr. Jones to purchase a firearm for Mr.Smith. Mr. Smith gives Mr. Jones the money for the firearm. If Mr.Jones fills out this form, he will violate the law. However, if Mr.Jones buys a firearm with his own money to give to Mr. Smith as a birthday present, Mr. Jones may lawfully complete this form. A licensee who knowingly delivers a firearm to an individual who is not buying the firearm for himself or herself or as a gift violates the law by maintaining a false ATF F 4473. (Id. ¶ 6; Ex. 1 to Def.'s Mem. at 3 ¶ 1.) Because Plaintiff was purchasing the firearm as a gift for Dion Jordan and was using her own money, she answered "yes" to Question 9(a). (Am. Compl. ¶7.)

On June 13, 2001, Plaintiff purchased a second firearm as a gift for Dion Jordan. (Id. ¶ 8.) She again filled out an ATF Form 4473, which was the same version of the form that she had filled out in January of that year. (Id. ¶¶ 9-10; Ex. 2 to Def.'s Mem. at 3 ¶ 1.) Again, because Plaintiff was buying the firearm as a gift for Jordan, and because she was using her own money to purchase the firearm, she answered "yes" to Question 9(a). (Am. Compl. ¶ 11.)

Six years later, on December 12, 2007, Plaintiff called the police, seeking assistance in connection with a domestic dispute with Jordan, to whom she was then married. (Id. ¶ 12.) When law enforcement officers responded to her call, she told them that Jordan had threatened to assault her. (Id. ¶ 13.) She also told the officers that Jordan had two handguns in the house, i.e., the two handguns that she had purchased for him in 2001. (Id.) The officers retrieved the two guns, arrested Jordan, and took Plaintiff to the police station to be interviewed. (Id. ¶ 14.) The detective assigned to investigate the assault interviewed Plaintiff first. (Id.¶ 15.)

After that first interview, Defendant Special Agent John Cashman interviewed Plaintiff regarding the handguns. (Id.) Plaintiff told Defendant that she had purchased the guns as gifts for Jordan. (Id. ¶ 16.) Defendant questioned Plaintiff regarding the purchases using "an updated and significantly different version of the [ATF] form [4473]." (Id. ¶ 17.) Defendant read Question 12(a) on the updated form to Plaintiff. (Id.) That question asked: "Are you the actual buyer of the firearm(s) listed on this form? WARNING: You are not the actual buyer if you are acquiring the firearm(s) on behalf of another person. If you are not the actual buyer, the dealer cannot transfer the firearm to you." (Id.) Without advising Plaintiff that he was reading from an updated version of the ATF form, not the version that she had completed and signed when she purchased the handguns, Defendant asked Plaintiff if, when she had purchased the handguns, she had truthfully answered the actual buyer question. (Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff answered: "Obviously, no." (Id.)

Thereafter, Defendant initiated a criminal arrest warrant and complaint against Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 20.) In the Affidavit of Probable Cause, Defendant represented that, based on the facts and circumstances that he set forth in the Affidavit, he had probable cause to believe that an arrest warrant should be issued for Plaintiff for six felonies and two misdemeanors, all of which involved false statements to firearms dealers. (See Ex. 3 to Def.'s Mem. at 1.) Among the facts Defendant set forth in the affidavit were the following:

During the . . . arrest of Dion Jordan . . . , [Jordan] made [a] spontaneous statement . . . that Tia Jordan had bought guns for him because he could not buy a gun. During discussions with complainant Tia Jordan, she stated to police officers that she had bought the guns for Dion because he could not buy a gun.

(Id. at 2.) Defendant also represented in the Affidavit that Plaintiff had admitted in a statement to him that, both times she had purchased a firearm, she had been untruthful in answering "yes" to Question 9(a) on the ATF form "since she was buying the firearm for Dion Jordan." (Id. at 3.)

Plaintiff alleges in her Amended Complaint, and the Affidavit itself confirms, that Defendant did not mention in the Affidavit that he had confronted Plaintiff with a different version of the ATF form than the one she had completed and signed in 2001. (Am. Compl. ¶ 20; see also Ex. 3 to Def.'s Mem.) Defendant also failed to mention in the Affidavit that Plaintiff had told Defendant that she had purchased the guns as gifts for Jordan. (Am. Compl. ¶ 20; see also Ex. 3 to Def.'s Mem. ) Finally, Defendant did not mention in the Affidavit that the ATF form that Plaintiff completed and signed in 2001 included "Important Notice 1," which advised that an individual purchasing a firearm as a gift qualified as an "actual buyer." (Am. Compl. ¶ 20; see also Ex. 3 to Def.'s Mem.) Plaintiff therefore alleges that the Affidavit of Probable Cause was false and misleading. (Am. Compl. ¶ 20.)

Based on the Affidavit of Probable Cause, Plaintiff was arrested on or about March 10, 2008, and charged with two counts of criminal conspiracy in violation of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 903; two counts of making material falsehoods during the purchase of a firearm in violation of the Uniform Firearms Act, 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6111; two counts of tampering with public records in violation of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4911; and two counts of unsworn falsification to authorities in violation of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4904. (Id. ¶ 21.) The state court dismissed the conspiracy and Uniform Firearms Act counts prior to ...


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