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Scott v. Farrell

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 9, 2013

TIMOTHY SCOTT,
v.
DETECTIVE WILLIAM J. FARRELL, et al.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

THOMAS J. RUETER, Magistrate Judge.

Presently before the court is defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 19), and plaintiff's opposition thereto (Doc. 20). For the reasons that follow, defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

This is a civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff's suit arises from his arrest for two armed robberies of the Caprice Villa Bar and a Wine and Spirits store located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After completion of discovery, plaintiff has whittled down his claims to two: federal malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the state law tort claim of malicious prosecution. See Stipulations (Docs. 15 and 16).

The undisputed facts show that on June 16, 2009, two black males entered the Caprice Villa Bar, located at 5000 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and, at gunpoint, robbed the bar and individual patrons of various amounts of money. (Farrell Decl. ¶ 3 (Motion Ex. B).) On June 17, 2009, two black males entered the Wine and Spirits store, located at 4600 Lancaster Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and, at gunpoint, took money from the store register. Id . ¶ 4.

Philadelphia Police Detectives William P. Farrell and David J. Tighe, were assigned to investigate these two robberies.[1] Id . ¶ 5. During the course of the investigation, Detective Farrell received information from his supervisor that plaintiff, Timothy Scott, was one of the two individuals who committed the robberies. Id . ¶ 6. The tip identifying plaintiff was received by his supervisor from another law enforcement agency. Id.

After receiving the tip, Detective Farrell retrieved the most recent arrest photograph of plaintiff that was available from police files, and he determined that plaintiff matched the physical description given by witnesses of one of the males present at both robberies. Id . ¶ 7. Detective Farrell then created a photo array, which included plaintiff's recent arrest photograph, along with seven photographs of other individuals. Id . ¶ 8. Detectives Farrell and Tighe then showed the photo array to the owner of the Caprice Villa Bar, and to several individuals present during the Wine and Spirits store robbery. Id . ¶ 9. Both the owner of the bar and at least one of the individuals present during the Wine and Spirits store robbery identified plaintiff as one of the individuals who robbed those establishments. Id . ¶¶ 10-11.

Based on these positive identifications of plaintiff, Detective Farrell concluded that probable cause existed to arrest plaintiff. Id . ¶ 12. Plaintiff was arrested and a Philadelphia Police Department Arrest Report ("PARS") was created (Motion Ex. A), which contained the information Detectives Farrell and Tighe developed during the course of their investigation. Id . The PARS was sent to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, which made the decision to formally charge plaintiff with multiple felony and misdemeanor counts. Id . ¶ 14. Once the District Attorney made the decision to formally charge plaintiff, neither Detective Farrell nor Detective Tighe was involved in the decision to continue to prosecute plaintiff. Id . ¶ 15.

The District Attorney charged petitioner with aggravated assault, robbery with intent to inflict serious bodily injury, criminal conspiracy - aggravated assault, possessing firearms without a license, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, carrying firearms in public, possession of an instrument of crime, possession of an offensive weapon, terroristic threats, simple assault, and recklessly endangering another person. (State Court Docket at 11 (Motion Ex. D).) On July 24, 2009, a preliminary hearing was held before Municipal Court Judge Frank T. Brady, who found probable cause for all the charges and held plaintiff over for trial. Id.

Plaintiff alleges that because bail was set "prohibitively high, " he remained incarcerated from June 23, 2009 through October 22, 2010. (Opp'n ¶¶ 19, 21.) Plaintiff further states that the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office withdrew all the charges "on the advice of the defendants." Id . ¶ 20.

II. STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Summary judgment is proper "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 factual dispute is material when "it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, " and genuine when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986). To defeat summary judgment, the party opposing the motion cannot "rely merely upon bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions" to support its claim, Fireman's Ins. Co. v. DuFresne , 676 F.2d 965, 969 (3d Cir. 1982), but must go beyond the pleadings and present specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). See Matsushita Elec. Ind. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In considering a motion for summary judgment, "the court is required to examine the evidence of record in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, and resolve all reasonable inferences in that party's favor." Wishkin v. Potter , 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007). See also Matsushita , 475 U.S. at 587-88 (same).

III. DISCUSSION

In order to prove that defendants maliciously prosecuted him, plaintiff must produce evidence that: (1) defendants initiated criminal proceedings; (2) the criminal proceedings ended in plaintiff's favor; (3) the proceedings were initiated without probable cause; (4) defendants acted maliciously or for a purpose other than bringing plaintiff to justice; and (5) plaintiff suffered a deprivation of liberty consistent with the concept of seizure as a consequence of the legal proceedings. DiBella v. Borough of Beachwood , 407 F.3d 599, 601 (3d Cir. 2005). To overcome defendants' motion for summary judgment, plaintiff must proffer sufficient evidence to create a triable issue of fact as to all the above elements; otherwise the malicious prosecution claim will fail as a matter of law. Domenech v. City of Philadelphia , 2009 WL 1109316, at *9 (E.D. Pa. April 23, 2009), aff'd, 373 F.App'x 254 (3d Cir. 2010). See also Cosmas v. Bloomingdales Bros., Inc. , 660 A.2d 83, 85 (Pa.Super. Ct. 1995) (to make out successful state law claim of malicious prosecution, plaintiff must show that defendants instituted proceedings without probable cause, with malice, and that ...


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