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Beverly Henderson v. City of Philadelphia

March 29, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, J.


Plaintiff Beverly Henderson brings suit against Defendant Police Officer William J. Gress, Jr. under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged constitutional violations. Additionally, Henderson brings claims against Gress for alleged violations of state law. I exercise federal question jurisdiction over Henderson's § 1983 claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343(a), and supplemental jurisdiction over her state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Gress moves for summary judgment on Henderson's federal malicious prosecution claim, and on her state law claims of malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress.*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, I will grant Gress's motion in part and deny it in part.


Shortly after midnight on May 9, 2009, Plaintiff Beverly Henderson was walking with several friends on South Street in Philadelphia. Pl.'s Ex. 1 ¶ 4. Henderson and her friends were near the intersection of 3rd Street and South Street when they witnessed police officers from the Philadelphia Police Department making arrests at the intersection. Pl.'s Ex. 1 ¶ 5. There was a large gathering of people observing the arrests. Pl.'s Ex. ¶ 5. Officer Gress was there dispersing the crowd at the intersection. Gress Decl. ¶ 32.

As Henderson was crossing the intersection, she pulled out her cell phone to take a picture of the crowd. Pl.'s Ex. 4 at 56:10-17. As she was about to take the picture, Officer Gress came charging toward Henderson with his baton. Pl's Ex. 4 at 57:24-58:8. Officer Gress grabbed Henderson with his baton and pulled her shirt. Pl.'s Ex. 3 at 65:8-12; Pl.'s Ex. 3 at 109:4-8. Henderson's shirt was ripped open, exposing her bra. Pl.'s Ex. 1 ¶ 9. Officer Gress repeatedly hit Henderson with his baton. Pl.'s Ex. 1 ¶ 11; Pl.'s Ex. 3 at 65:8-14. Officer Gress and other police officers then pushed Henderson into the metal gate of a closed store. Pl.'s Ex. 1 ¶ 13; Pl.'s Ex. 3 at 66:19-67:2, 109:4-11. Despite her requests, the police officers never allowed Henderson to close her blouse. Pl,'s Ex. 1 ¶ 14. Following the incident, two female police officers took Henderson to a police car to arrest her. Pl.'s Ex. 4 at 66:6-8. Another police officer came over and told the female police officers, "Just let her calm down and she can go." Pl.'s Ex. 4 at 66:8-13. However, Officer Gress ran over and said, "no, it's my arrest." Pl.'s Ex. 4 at 66:13-14.

That early morning of May 9, Henderson was arrested and taken into custody. Gress Decl. ¶ 32, 42. Officer Gress filed a Complaint or Incident Report alleging that he observed Henderson committing the following crimes: failing to disperse, engaging in disorderly conduct, obstructing the highway, and resisting arrest. Def.'s Ex. U. Specifically, Gress alleged that while he was dispersing a large crowd, Henderson got in his face and shouted, "Get their fucking badge numbers." Def.'s Ex. U. Gress also alleged that Henderson "became unruly and belligerent," shouted "obscenities" at the officers, and swung a cell phone at him. Def.'s Ex. U. Moreover, Gress alleged that Henderson incited the crowd and resisted arrest when she told another individual, "Don't let them take me, get him," and then ran. Def.'s Ex. U.

A Criminal Complaint against Henderson was filed on May 9, 2009. Def.'s Ex. V. The complainant was Officer Gress. Def.'s Ex. V. As explained by Officer Gress: "Based on information I provided to the detective assigned to investigate this arrest, Ms. Henderson was charged with criminal conspiracy, aggravated assault on a police officer (me), hindering apprehension, simple assault (on me), recklessly endangering another person, obstructing the administration of law, resisting arrest, failure to disperse and disorderly conduct." Gress Decl. ¶ 43.

Following her arrest, Henderson was held in a cell for more than twenty-four hours. Pl.'s Ex. 1 ¶ 15. On May 10, 2009, Henderson posted bail in the amount of $5,000 and was released from custody. Def.'s Ex. D. Despite her release, Henderson was unable to attend a graduation ceremony from college because she had to be in court responding to the charges filed against her. Pl.'s Ex. 1 ¶ 25.

At the preliminary hearing on July 23, 2009, the hindering apprehension charge was dismissed and the remaining charges were held for trial. Def.'s Ex. D. On February 17, 2010, Henderson's trial began. Def.'s Ex. D. After a three-day trial, on February 19, 2010, a jury found Henderson not guilty of all charges. Def.'s Ex. D.


Summary judgment will be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A fact is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law . . . ." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "genuine" if the evidence would permit a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The nonmoving party must then "make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of [every] element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Id. at 322. In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all inferences from the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). However, the nonmoving party may not "rely merely upon bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions" to support its claims. Fireman's Ins. Co. of Newark, N.J. v. DuFresne, 676 F.2d 965, 969 (3d Cir. 1982).

In essence, the inquiry at summary judgment is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail ...

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