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Michael Zenquis v. City of Philadelphia

March 16, 2012



Now pending before the court in this matter are the motion to dismiss the claims against the City of Philadelphia ("the City"), filed by the City on April 11, 2011 (Docket No. 7), and the City's motion for leave to file a reply brief to the plaintiff's response to the motion to dismiss, filed on May 18, 2011 (Docket No. 10). For the reasons that follow, I will grant the motion for leave to file a reply brief nunc pro tunc, but I will deny the motion to dismiss.

I. Background

A. Factual Allegations

The following narrative is drawn from the plaintiff's amended complaint, filed on July 20, 2011 (Docket No. 15). The well-pleaded factual allegations of the amended complaint must be assumed to be true in evaluating a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

On the morning of June 1, 2009, an eleven-year-old girl was brutally raped in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Philadelphia police officers received an unsubstantiated tip that an individual known as "Romeo" may have been involved in the rape. Michael Zenquis was known in Kensington by the nickname "Romeo." Upon receiving the tip, the defendant police officers began to advise citizens in the Kensington area that Zenquis had committed the rape.*fn1 In fact, Zenquis was innocent and entirely unconnected to the crime.

The public identification of Zenquis as a suspect in the rape occurred over the course of several hours on June 1, the day of the crime. The officer defendants distributed a photograph of Zenquis to citizens in the area and advised the citizens that they should detain Zenquis, and they specifically advised citizens to use physical force.

The citizens to whom the officer defendants spoke understood that "the clear message from the officers [was] that they would be free to assault [Zenquis] with impunity." Am. Compl. ¶ 24.*fn2

On the afternoon of June 1, Zenquis was assaulted by several individuals in Kensington. The altercation began when Zenquis was walking in the area of Argyle and Ontario Streets and was called over to Argyle Street by a man whom he knew from the neighborhood. On Argyle, Zenquis was approached by two other men whom he also knew from the neighborhood. One of the newcomers struck Zenquis in the eye with a piece of lumber. The three men then threw Zenquis to the ground and assaulted him. Several other individuals joined the violence, using improvised weapons (including pieces of lumber and a baseball bat), punches, and kicks. As he was being beaten, Zenquis heard a woman yelling that he was a "rapist." Zenquis yelled that he was innocent and had done nothing wrong. "The civilians who assaulted [Zenquis] had spoken to at least one or more of the individual defendants, and were told . . . that they should detain [Zenquis] and that they would be permitted to use force against [Zenquis]." Am. Compl. ¶ 32.

The assault ended when some of the officer defendants, including Officer Raymond Singleton, arrived at the scene. Zenquis was arrested. At the time, the police did not investigate the assault on Zenquis and did not arrest or question any of the other persons at the scene. Zenquis was then transported to a hospital "for treatment of the multiple physical injuries he sustained during the assault, including serious bruising to his face, back, and foot, and lacerations to his ankle and elbow." Am. Compl. ¶ 35.*fn3

After Zenquis was released from the hospital, he was taken to the Special Victims Unit of the Philadelphia Police Department and interviewed by one or more of the officer defendants, including Detective Peter Marcellino. Zenquis told the police that he was innocent, and he volunteered to provide a DNA sample. After DNA testing, the police determined that Zenquis was innocent. He was released from custody.

On the following day, June 2, 2009, Zenquis gave a statement to the police concerning the individuals who had assaulted him. The police had not initiated any investigation of the assault until contacted again by Zenquis. Zenquis was able to identify the two individuals who had begun the attack on Argyle Street. Police sought arrest warrants for these two individuals on June 8, 2009.*fn4 Ultimately, the charges against one individual were dropped, but the other individual pleaded guilty.

In the interim, the police continued to investigate the June 1 rape, which Zenquis had been mistakenly identified as committing. On June 2, 2009, the police came to suspect an individual named Jose Carrasquillo. The police, including at least one of the officer defendants, advised citizens in Kensington that Carrasquillo had committed the rape. As they had done with Zenquis, the police "made clear to the civilians that they would be permitted to use physical force against Carrasquillo." Am. Compl. ¶ 44.

On the afternoon of June 2, Carrasquillo was detained on the streets of Kensington by citizens who had been informed by the police that Carrasquillo committed the rape. Carrasquillo was chased down and then assaulted by a group of individuals using "improvised weapons, such as a piece of lumber. The assault, which was captured on a video surveillance camera, caused Carrasquillo serious injuries." Am. Compl. ¶ 45. When police officers arrived on the scene, Carrasquillo was arrested. He was later charged with committing the June 1 rape. He pleaded guilty to the crime and is currently serving a sentence of thirty to sixty years in prison.

In the wake of the public capture of Carrasquillo, Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter stated that the citizens' actions were "a further demonstration that Philadelphians care passionately about the city, about our quality of life, and certainly about our children." Am. Compl. ¶ 49. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey stated, after the fact, that "members of the community were very upset over this [rape], and some may have used more force than a trained police officer." Am. Compl. ¶ 50. Ramsey also publicly announced that no criminal charges would be brought against the individuals involved in capturing Carrasquillo. Two of the individuals later received an $11,000 award at a public ceremony.

B. Prior Proceedings

On March 1, 2011, Zenquis initiated the present action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City and various "John Doe" police officer defendants (Docket No. 1). The City moved to dismiss the complaint on April 11, 2011 (Docket No. 7). Zenquis opposed that motion on April 29, 2011 (Docket No. 9).

On May 18, 2011, the City filed a motion for leave to file a reply brief to the plaintiff's opposition to the motion to dismiss (Docket No. 10). The City attached its proposed "Reply Memorandum" to the motion. The motion for leave to file a reply remains formally pending. On May 31, 2011, Zenquis filed a memorandum in response to the City's motion for leave to file a reply (Docket No. 11). For docketing purposes, I will grant the City's motion for leave to file a reply nunc pro tunc to May 18, 2011, and I will deem the attached proposed reply memorandum filed as of that date. I have fully considered all of the arguments raised in both parties' filings.

On July 13, 2011, Zenquis submitted an unopposed motion to file an amended complaint (Docket No. 13). The motion was granted on July 20, 2011 (Docket No. 14). The amended complaint substituted the names of the officer defendants for the "John Does" named in the initial complaint, but the pleading did not alter the allegations against the City. To prevent duplicative motion practice, I noted in my order granting the motion to file an amended complaint that I would consider the City's April 11, 2011, motion to dismiss (and, by implication, the responses and replies thereto) as though it were addressed to the amended complaint. The ...

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