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Mar-Lin Minatee v. City of Philadelphia

September 9, 2011

MAR-LIN MINATEE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert F. Kelly, Sr. J.

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment submitted by Defendants the City of Philadelphia (the "City"), Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey ("Commissioner Ramsey"), Mayor Michael Nutter ("Mayor Nutter"), Officer Brian Murphy ("Officer Murphy"), Officer James Dambach ("Officer Dambach"), Officer John McCloskey ("Officer McCloskey"), Lieutenant Joseph Martin ("Lt. Martin"), Sergeant Sean McGlinn ("Sgt. McGlinn"), Sergeant Susan Green ("Sgt. Green"), Detective Brian Boos ("Det. Boos"), and Detective Edward Davis ("Det. Davis") (collectively, "Defendants") and the Response filed by Plaintiff, Mar-Lin Minatee ("Plaintiff").*fn1 For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion will be granted.*fn2

I. FACTS

A. Plaintiff's Arrest*fn3

On June 30, 2007 at approximately 2:00 a.m., Plaintiff and his and then fiancee, Donna McCrary ("McCrary"),*fn4 had just returned home from dinner. According to Plaintiff, he was driving McCrary's newly purchased vehicle, and all paperwork pertaining to the vehicle was current. Plaintiff then entered the street where the residence was located so that they could go into the house. Apparently, parking is very limited in the area, and they were unable to immediately locate a parking spot. Plaintiff pulled the vehicle next to his own vehicle, which was parked on the corner of the two-way street, to let McCrary out of the vehicle so she could go into the house while he continued to look for a parking spot. Plaintiff admits that, at this point, the vehicle was double-parked. Plaintiff then exited McCrary's vehicle to retrieve something from his own parked vehicle. Plaintiff alleges that, a Philadelphia Police patrol vehicle then passed them, performed a u-turn, and came back towards them slowly, while he was in between the two vehicles. The Officers in the car were Officer Rosa Ramos ("Officer Ramos") and Officer Cynthia Frye ("Officer Frye"). The Officers informed Plaintiff that he would have to move the double-parked vehicle, and he responded "hold up one minute, I'm grabbing something, one second, I'm going to go ahead, I'm going to move." McCrary then exited the vehicle from the passenger side and attempted to cross the street to enter the residence. Officers Ramos and Frye continued to drive slowly towards them and to tell them to move the vehicle.

The officers then cut McCrary off with their patrol car when she attempted to enter the residence. McCrary then became agitated and "put her hands up." She then turned around, returned to her double-parked vehicle, and entered through the driver's side to retrieve some items. She then "sucked her teeth" at the Officers while attempting to return to her residence.

Apparently, Officer Ramos then jumped out of the patrol car and asked to see McCrary's license and registration. Plaintiff and McCrary informed Officer Ramos that Plaintiff had driven and that it was unnecessary for McCrary to produce her information. It was around this time that Plaintiff asked the Officers to call a supervisor. Plaintiff actually made the call for a supervisor himself. When McCrary finally produced her information to Officer Ramos, Officer Ramos ran her license through her system and found that it was suspended. Next, Lt. Lyghts arrived on the scene and spoke with Plaintiff. Plaintiff showed Lt. Lyghts his identification, explained the situation, and told him that he works as a correctional officer. Plaintiff also contested the fact that McCrary's license was suspended and argued that she had paid all of her tickets pertaining to the suspension. Lt. Lyghts informed Plaintiff that Officers Ramos and Frye were turning the stop into a "Live-Stop"*fn5 and that a tow truck was en route to tow the vehicle. When the tow truck arrived, Plaintiff got into the vehicle and sat in the passenger seat to prevent it from being towed. Lt. Lyghts attempted to reason with Plaintiff and explained that the Officers were going to take the vehicle and that Plaintiff should do as he was asked and exit the vehicle. After a disputed amount of time had passed, Plaintiff did exit the vehicle but continued to stand close to it and to argue over the legality of the tow.

Lt. Lyghts informed Plaintiff that he should file a Complaint if he wished to complain of the Officers' actions and demanded that he step away from the vehicle so they could tow it. In response, Plaintiff stated, "Y'all not taking shit," and refused to comply. At this point, Plaintiff admits he was yelling. Lt. Lyghts then pointed a taser gun at Plaintiff and asked him again whether he would comply, but Plaintiff still refused to back down from the vehicle. Plaintiff asserts that Lt. Lyghts then fired the taser at his chest approximately three to four times.*fn6

Plaintiff then became "aggravated," pulled all the taser prongs out of his chest except for one, and announced that he was ready to be arrested. He then turned around and put his hands behind his back.*fn7

Next, Plaintiff claims he was "hit upside the head, hit with a nightstick, toppled to the ground, kicked in [the] jaw, [and] kicked in [the] back." Although Plaintiff could not recall specifically who hit him with a nightstick, punched him, or kicked him at his deposition, he was provided with discovery indicating the identity of those people. At Plaintiff's deposition, he was able to recall that three or four officers made physical contact with him. Plaintiff could not recall whether Officers Ramos or Frye were involved in the fray. Plaintiff has submitted a Philadelphia Police Memorandum relating to his Citizen's Complaint that states Officer Paul Guercio ("Officer Guercio") was involved in his arrest. In addition, Plaintiff alleges that Officer John Descher ("Officer Descher") "used control holds on [him] the night of the incident." (Am. Compl. ¶ 7.)

Plaintiff was then taken to Einstein Hospital to remove the remaining taser prong. While at the hospital, Det. Boos took a post-Miranda statement from Plaintiff and photographed his injuries, which consisted of the taser laceration and bruises. After the taser prong was removed, Plaintiff was taken to jail, where he was confined for at least several hours. Plaintiff alleges that Det. Davis "might have been the one that cuffed [him] to the bench inside the precinct." Police reports show that Det. Davis took a statement from Plaintiff at the station. Plaintiff was charged with harassment, obstruction of justice, disorderly conduct, terroristic threats, and resisting arrest.

Plaintiff also alleges that a number of other officers played a role in his arrest and prosecution. He alleges that Officer Murphy, Officer Dambach, and Officer McCloskey, "signed off on the report which caused Plaintiff to be charged in state court." (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 8-10.) Plaintiff makes no further allegations linking these Defendants to his arrest or prosecution.

B. Plaintiff's Citizen's Complaint Against Officer Ramos and Officer Frye

Shortly after Plaintiff was released from custody, he filed a Citizen's Complaint against Officers Ramos and Frye.*fn8 (Mot. Summ. J., Ex. D, Pltf.'s Citizen's Compl.) Plaintiff listed two witnesses and recounted his version of the events in some detail. (Id.) Plaintiff admits that at least one of his witnesses was interviewed by Philadelphia Police Department of Internal Affairs and he has produced reports from Internal Affairs relating to the investigation of his report. (Id. at Ex. E, Internal Affairs Rpts.) However, after what appears to have been a full investigation, the Internal Affairs Department exonerated all officers.

Plaintiff alleges that the investigation of his Citizen's Complaint was directly linked to his criminal prosecution. Plaintiff further alleges that if the officers were not exonerated, he would not have been prosecuted. (Am. Compl. at 6.) Thus, he states that the officers who investigated his Citizen's Complaint, Sgt. Green and Lt. Martin, "are being sued in [their] official capacity for [their] involvement in assisting [the arresting officers] to get me Maliciously Prosecuted." (Id.) (emphasis in original). Plaintiff further alleges that Sgt. Green "interviewed [McCrary] and her son Tevin Williams" in relation to his Citizen's Complaint and that Sgt. McGlinn "approved the Investigation Report which caused Plaintiff to be charged in State Court."

C. Procedural History

On July 24, 2009, Plaintiff filed a pro se Complaint against the Philadelphia Police Department, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (the "Commonwealth"), Governor Edward G. Rendell ("Governor Rendell"), the City, Commissioner Ramsey, Mayor Nutter, Officer Ramos, Officer Frye, and Lt. Lyghts. In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleged that the Philadelphia Police Department, the Commonwealth, Governor Rendell, the City, Commissioner Ramsey, Mayor Nutter, Officer Ramos, Officer Frye, and Lt. Lyghts maliciously prosecuted him in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, thereby entitling him to monetary damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983").*fn9 As we will explain below, construing the Complaint and Amended Complaint liberally, Plaintiff also alleges supervisory liability claims against the City of Philadelphia, Commissioner Ramsey, and Mayor Nutter and excessive force claims against Officer Guercio, Officer Descher, and Lt. Lyghts.

On September 3, 2009, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's claims against Governor Rendell and the Commonwealth. We granted the Motion on October 9, 2009 and dismissed Governor Rendell and the Commonwealth from this action, finding that they were not "persons" amenable to suit under § 1983.

On October 28, 2009, Plaintiff filed a "Motion to Modify Complaint" seeking leave to "modify his complaint to remove his claims against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Governor Edward G. Rendell." (Mot. to Modify Compl. at 2.) We granted the Motion on March 3, 2010. On March 26, 2010, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint adding ten more Philadelphia police officers as defendants, allegedly because they "had involvement in assisting other Police Officers in the institution of the prosecution of the Plaintiff." (Am. Compl. at 1.) Plaintiff amended his Complaint to add Officer Guercio, Office Descher, Officer Murphy, Officer Dambach, Officer McCloskey, Lt. Martin, Sgt. Green, Det. Boos, Sgt. McGlinn, and Det. Davis. (Am. Compl. at 2-3.) In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff also alleges that Officers Murphy, Dambach, and McCloskey occupy a supervisory position in the Philadelphia Police Department and that they "signed off on the report which caused Plaintiff to be charged in State Court." (Id. at 2.) Furthermore, Plaintiff alleges that Lt. Martin, Sgt. Green, Det. Boos, Sgt. McGlinn, and Det. Davis investigated his Citizen's Complaint. (Am. Compl. at 3.) Plaintiff also increased his demand for damages to $30 million.*fn10 (Am. Compl. at 7.)

On June 3, 2011, both Parties met before the Court for a pretrial status conference. At the conference, we ordered that any further motions were to be filed by June 10, 2011. (June 3, 2011 Status Conf., June 3, 2011, 15:25-16:2.) On June 9, 2011, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment alleging that Plaintiff had failed to state a cause of action against Defendants the City, Commissioner Ramsey, Mayor Nutter, Officer Murphy, Officer Dambach, Officer McCloskey, Lt. Martin, Sgt. McGlinn, Sgt. Green, Det. Boos, and Det. Davis. On June 23, 2011, Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that we should dismiss Defendants' Motion as untimely because it was filed after the deadline in our Revised Scheduling Order of ...


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