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Cesar Galligani v. Northern York County Regional Police Department

October 31, 2012

CESAR GALLIGANI,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
NORTHERN YORK COUNTY REGIONAL POLICE DEPARTMENT, AND OFFICER MARK BAKER, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Conner)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the court in the above-captioned matter are plaintiff Cesar Galligani's ("Galligani") objections (Doc. 59) to the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Methvin, recommending dismissal of Galligani's malicious prosecution claim. Galligani filed objections to the Report and Recommendation (Doc. 71), on August 10, 2012, and defendants filed a response (Doc. 73), on August 16, 2012. The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

I. Factual and Procedural History*fn1

Galligani is a resident of York County, Pennsylvania. (Amended Complaint, Doc. 59 ¶ 1). Galligani and his wife, Jennifer, separated on June 24, 2007. Defendant Northern York County Regional Police Department ("Northern Regional") is a police department and state government agency, and defendant Baker is an officer working for Northern Regional. (Id. ¶ 2, 3).

On February 7, 2008, Jennifer filed charges of rape against Galligani with the York Area Regional Police Department ("YARPD"). She alleged that, on January 31, 2008, at about 2:40 a.m., Galligani called her cell phone, asking her to come over to his home to help with their child, who was staying with him. (Affidavit of Probable Cause, Doc. 64-3). She alleged that, when she arrived, the apartment was dark, and when she entered the child's bedroom, Galligani assaulted her, forcibly removed her clothing, and raped her. (Id.) Based on these charges, a Detective with YARPD applied for a search warrant on February 8, 2008, which was granted on February 9, 2008, directing the search and seizure of "[b]edclothes to include blankets, sheets, pillow cases, and any other miscellaneous items deemed to be related to a sexual assault." YARPD officers, along with Officer Baker, conduct a search of Galligani's residence. The parties disagree as to whether the search occurred on February 9, as Galligani alleges, or February 11. YARPD eventually decided that the rape allegations were unsubstantiated, due at least in part to a lack of direct medical evidence of rape, a lack of physical evidence found during the February 9 search, Galligani's polygraph test, and Jennifer's recanting of her rape accusation. (Doc. 59, ¶ 7).

On February 10, 2008, Officer Baker sought and obtained a search warrant for Galligani's residence and vehicle. (Doc. 59, ¶ 9(b)). Galligani characterizes this warrant as being in connection with the rape allegations, but the affidavit of probable cause is focused almost entirely on separate allegations of harassment and stalking, made by Jennifer in a February 7 complaint. The affidavit only makes a passing reference to a sexual assault allegation that was under investigation by YARPD. A York County Magisterial District Judge approved the warrant on February 10, 2008, though as will be discussed in detail infra, Galligani argues strenuously that this warrant was based upon evidence illegally seized during the February 9 search.

Baker seized Galligani's Blackberry and laptop, a notebook with phone numbers, and a variety of files. (Doc. 59, ¶ 9). Northern Regional subsequently filed a number of charges against Galligani, including one count of harassment by lewd communication and one count of harassment by course of conduct with no legitimate purpose, felony stalking, unlawful use of a computer, intercepting communications, and disclosure of intercepted communications. (Id. 59, ¶ 9).

Galligani alleges that, on March 27, 2008, despite knowing that Galligani had been cleared of all rape charges, Northern Regional arrested and jailed him on the stalking charges. On December 2, 2008, Galligani and Jennifer appeared before Magisterial Judge Shoemaker, wherein Jennifer requested that all charges be dropped. At that hearing, Northern Regional dropped all charges, except the charge of harassment by lewd communications. Galligani alleges that, when asked by Judge Shoemaker why Northern Regional was pressing forward with the harassment charge, Northern Regional stated that "they had to charge Plaintiff with something." (Id. at ¶18).*fn2

Galligani filed an application for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition ("ARD") on December 17, 2008 to address the pending harassment charge. While initially agreeing to proceed through the ARD program, Galligani ultimately decided to withdraw his application, appearing pro se before the Honorable Gregory Snyder at an ARD acceptance hearing, and withdrawing his plea. Galligani alleges that the York County District Attorney abandoned the charge against him on October 20, 2009, by entering a nol pros.

II. Discussion

To succeed in a claim for malicious prosecution under 28 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must prove five elements: (1) that the defendant initiated a criminal proceeding; (2) that the criminal proceeding ended in favor of the plaintiff; (3) that the defendant initiated the proceeding in the absence of probable cause; (4) that the defendant acted maliciously, or for a purpose other than bringing the plaintiff to justice; and (5) that the plaintiff suffered deprivation of liberty consistent with the concept of seizure as a consequence of a legal proceeding. Johnson v. Knorr, 477 F.3d 75, 81-82 (3d Cir. 2007). Galligani has also alleged that Northern Regional is liable for instituting a policy or custom that lead to his malicious prosecution, pursuant to Monell v. Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). In her Report and Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Methvin recognized that the first and fifth elements of the plaintiff's claim had easily been satisfied, but that Galligani failed to make a prima facie showing of elements two, three, and four. The court will adopt Judge Methvin's Recommendation, but on alternative grounds.

A. Malicious Prosecution

Galligani filed objections to Magistrate Judge Methvin's recommendation that his claim be dismissed for failing to meet the second, third, and fourth elements of a malicious prosecution claim. The court will address them seriatim.

i. Favorable Termination

The Third Circuit has identified six means by which criminal proceedings may end "favorably" for a defendant, for purposes of a later malicious prosecution action. Most relevant to this matter, the "formal abandonment" of criminal charges by the public prosecutor can constitute a favorable termination of proceedings. See Hilfirty v. Shipman, 91 F.3d 573, 579 (3d Cir. 1996) (citing RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF TORTS § 659 (1976)).*fn3 In her Report and Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Methvin reasoned that, because the charges against Galligani were terminated via nolle prosequi and he paid $692.84 in court costs and dismissal fees, he has failed to ...

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