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Elaine Scattergood v. Lee Billiter

June 18, 2012


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


Pro se plaintiff Elaine Scattergood accuses the defendants*fn1 of violating her civil rights by harassment, intimidation, false arrest, and false imprisonment. The defendants have moved for summary judgment. I find that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the statute of limitations and qualified immunity and are otherwise unsupported by record evidence. For the reasons that follow, I will grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismiss Plaintiff's complaint with prejudice.


Plaintiff separated her complaint into six separate "incidents" that form the bases of her claims against the defendants. These incidents involve plaintiff's relationship with Gerald McDonald ("Mr. McDonald"), to whom she was married and in the process of divorcing when he died on June 12, 2003.*fn2 At times during their marriage, she resided with Mr. McDonald at 1808 Crooked Oak Drive. Plaintiff describes the relationship as physically abusive and noted that she had numerous interactions with the Manheim Township Police due to domestic disputes. Pl. Tr. at 57:7-13.

A. December 1999 Incident (Am. Compl. "Incident IV")*fn3

Plaintiff testified that she was aware that Officer Billiter reported to the Crooked Oak property on December 12 or 13, 1999 in response to plaintiff's report that Mr. McDonald had pulled a knife on her. Pl. Tr. at 183:22-184:7. She alleges that the police entered the house, requested that she file a complaint, told her she had to file a complaint, and then forced her to leave the house. Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 42-49. She testified that the police were wrong to have reported to the house, that they should not have asked her to leave, and that she was "intimidated by the police" in relation to being asked to file a complaint against Mr. McDonald. Pl. Tr. at 176:21-177:6; 179:3-9.

B. July 8, 2000 Incident (Am. Compl. "Incident V")*fn4

On or about July 8, 2000, Plaintiff called the Manheim police to report that Mr. McDonald had physically assaulted her.*fn5 Officer Billiter and a second officer reported to the Crooked Oak property. After Plaintiff informed the officers that Mr. McDonald would disable the home phone, they advised Plaintiff to get a cell phone and suggested that she leave the house.

Pl. Tr. at 37:4-10; 164:5-10. Plaintiff requested the officers get Mr. McDonald medical treatment for an injury to his leg. Officer Billiter reportedly stated "he didn't feel like dealing with a drunk" and that Mr. McDonald would be fine. The officers then left. Pl.'s Statement of Disputed Facts at 14.

The following day Mr. McDonald called the police and told them Plaintiff had injured his leg. Officer Leed, whom plaintiff alleges is a close friend of Mr. McDonald's son, William McDonald, together with Officer Billiter and a third officer reported to the house in response to Mr. McDonald's call. The police officers saw that Mr. McDonald had a wound on his leg. Officer Billiter handcuffed Plaintiff and told her that she was under arrest for aggravated assault. According to the Plaintiff, Officer Leed stated that plaintiff was a "witch" and a "leech." She was taken to the police station and held on bail of $40,000.

Plaintiff also asserted that Officer Billiter threatened to have her bail increased, attempted to trip her by sticking his foot out, and threatened to arrest her for assault after standing behind her car when she was leaving the police station. She also stated that Officer Keenan blocked her car at the police station. Plaintiff alleges the defendants brought a false charge and acted improperly by jeering at her and harassing her with threats of increased bail.

C. November 17, 2002 and Earlier Incidents (Am. Compl. "Incident III")

Under the heading "Incident III," Plaintiff alleged that the Manheim Township police "would threaten [her] with arrest . . . and force [her] to leave the house." Am. Compl. ¶ 34. She noted two specific interactions with the police.*fn6 In the first incident, Officer Kennan "slammed the phone down while [she] was waiting to speak with [her] lawyer and chased [her] out into the street." Am. Compl. ¶ 37. In the second interaction, Plaintiff alleges that Officer Keenan forced her to leave Mr. McDonald's house and that she saw Mr. McDonald hand Officer Keenan money. Plaintiff testified that the police harassed her by forcing her to leave her marital home without a coat or wallet, by laughing at her, and by telling her she could sleep in prison if she wanted. Pl. Tr. at 179:19-180:12.

D. June 15, 2003 Incident (Am. Compl. "Incident II")

Mr. McDonald was found dead in his home on June 12, 2003. On June 15, 2003,*fn7

Plaintiff went to the Oak Drive property for Mr. McDonald's funeral and was asked to leave by Michael McDonald, son of Mr. McDonald. Plaintiff was handed a letter signed by Michael McDonald that stated, "Pls [sic] accept this letter as my request as the owner of property at 1808 Crooked Oak Dr., that you not trespass upon the property until further written notice from me." The letter is dated "December 15, 2003," but plaintiff testified that the letter was "written on or about June 13, 2003" and that she was presented with the letter on the day she visited the Crooked Oak property for Mr. McDonald's funeral. Pl.'s Statement of Disputed Facts at 8.

Plaintiff stated that on the day she was handed the no-trespass letter, Officer Billiter and an unnamed officer threatened to arrest her and that Officer Billiter tried to trip her and to bar her from reaching her car.

E. June 25, 2003 Incident (Am. Compl. "Incident I")

On June 25, 2003, Plaintiff went to the Crooked Oak property to check on "Howard the cat." She testified that she was in the yard, she did not see the cat, and she left the property. A short time later, she was approached by Officer Keenan and another officer at a nearby market, told she was under arrest, handcuffed, her car keys were taken, and she was put in a police car (although not transported anywhere). Plaintiff stated that she understood that a neighbor of the Crooked Oak property had seen her on the property and called Michael McDonald. The neighbor or Michael McDonald then contacted the Manheim police. Pl. Tr. at 121:14-22.

The police incident report states that she was "taken into custody for an outstanding warrant." She testified that she was told she was under arrest for trespass. Pl. Tr. at 121:7-10. However, she also testified that she had a hearing pending before a District Justice on a different matter. Id. at 124:20-24.

Plaintiff was released with a "Citation/Summons" for criminal trespass. The citation form provides two options for "Case instituted by:" on-view arrest or citation/summons. On-view arrest is checked and crossed out and citation/summons is checked.

Plaintiff testified she was "horribly embarrass[ed]" and suffered "grave consternation and distress" because these events took place outside a grocery store in front of neighbors and strangers.Id. at 123:18-19. In addition, she stated she had red marks on her wrists from the handcuffs which were on her wrists for approximately thirty minutes. The police report indicates that she complained the handcuffs were too tight and hurting her wrists, that she was told to sit in a way that avoided leaning on the handcuffs, that she was advised that arguing would lead to more time in handcuffs because the officer "couldn't talk and write at the same ...

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