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Lawson v. City of Coatesville

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 29, 2013

JOSEPH PATRICK LAWSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF COATESVILLE, et. al. Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

ANITA B. BRODY, District Judge.

Plaintiff Joseph Lawson ("Lawson") alleges that Defendants Coatesville Police Officers Brenden Boyle and Jeffrey Ingemie, former Coatesville Police Chief Julius Canale and the City of Coatesville violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 when they searched, seized and arrested him without probable cause. Lawson alleges that the City of Coatesville and former Police Chief Canale violated his constitutional rights by failing to establish and maintain a policy to train and supervise police officers as to the proper exercise of police powers, including the power to seize and arrest citizens. Lawson also brings state law claims of false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and civil conspiracy against former Police Chief Canale and Officers Boyle and Ingemie. I exercise jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss and/or Summary Judgment, or in the alternative, Partial Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 11). For the reasons stated below I will deny Defendants' motion to dismiss without prejudice and grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motion to strike.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

On October 29, 2010, Jeffery Middleton contacted the City of Coatesville Police Department and reported that he had been robbed by three black men. Police Officers Brenden Boyle and Jeffrey Ingemie, both white, arrived at the scene. Middleton told the officers that he was robbed at gunpoint for $70.00 and prescription pills. He said that the robbers were still in the area. He rode in the officers' vehicle and identified the robbers, a practice known as a "field show up."

At approximately 10:22 p.m., Officers Boyle and Ingemie arrested Plaintiff Joseph Lawson. The facts leading up to Lawson's arrest are unclear. Lawson maintains that the police officers arrested him because he was a black male in the vicinity, while blatantly ignoring evidence pointing to other suspects and failing to thoroughly investigate the robbery. He was charged with robbery, theft, terroristic threats and conspiracy. He was incarcerated in Chester County Prison from October 30, 2010 to December 22, 2010, a total of fifty-four days. At a preliminary hearing on December 22, 2010, Middleton testified that

They [the police] came to the gas station and asked me what happened. I explained what happened, and they went, put me in the car, and went over to where the individuals were and I identified two people that I saw fleeing me when the incident happened, "... "They &mdash I recognized Maxwell, so I was able to say
Maxwell. And the other person I identified by pointing him out. Compl. ¶ 14. He stated that the police "picked up Mr. Lawson, not the person that they should have picked up" and that Lawson was not one of the individuals he pointed out. Id. Middleton testified that he thought he identified the robber when he was in the police car:
There was a younger man, and I thought I identified him. And they never showed me a person while I was at the police station, they said they had who it was. And the reason I know Mr. Lawson wasn't the one who did it was because the person who did it did not have gray hair, for one thing, and the person was wearing a white and black jacket with white stripes on it...

Id. He concluded, "... I don't know how Mr. Lawson got involved, but apparently he did." Id.

The Court dismissed all charges against Lawson. From December 30, 2010 to January 10, 2011, as a result of his arrest and imprisonment, Lawson was hospitalized at the Coatesville VA Medical Center for "major depressive disorder, recurrent, " and "suicidal feelings/thoughts."

Defendants maintain that Lawson fit Middleton's description of the robbers and that Middleton positively identified him during the field show up. Def. Mot. at 6. In Officer Boyle's incident report[2] he recounted that

[t]he victim stated that he had just been robbed by three black males across the street from the Gas Stop. He stated that two of the actors were still in the area, and were standing by a van on the east side of Pennsylvania Avenue by Harmony Street. [Officer Boyle] did make contact with Joseph Lawson and Lewis Maxwell, hereafter known as the defendants. The defendants fit the description of the actors provide by the victim, and was [sic] also positively identified during a field show up.

Def. Mot. Ex. at 4.

In addition to his claim against Officers Boyle and Ingemie, Lawson alleges that former Police Chief Julius Canale knew or should have known of the constitutional deprivations they committed. Lawson brings a policy, custom, pattern and practice claim against the City of Coatesville and Canale for failure to train and supervise officers regarding arrests, exercise of police power, failure to monitor officers and take disciplinary action against officers subject to complaints of misconduct, and use of force not reasonably related to police duties. In paragraphs 27 through 36 he ...


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