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Barren v. Pennsylvania State Police

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

August 20, 2014

DAVID MORRIS BARREN, Plaintiff,
v.
PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE; TROOPER WESLEY BERKEBILE; TROOPER SERGEANT ANTHONY DELUCA; TROOPER MIKE SCHMIDT; TROOPER JOHN A. LITCHKO; TROOPER MICHAEL J. VOLK; TROOPER STUART FROME; OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section; ATTORNEY GENERAL GERALD J. PAPPERT; DEPUTY A.G. JESSE D. PETTIT; DISTRICT ATTORNEY LISA LAZARRI-STRASISER, Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

MAUREEN P. KELLY, Magistrate Judge.

I. RECOMMENDATION

It is respectfully recommended that the Complaint be dismissed before being served pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act because it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

II. REPORT

David Morris Barren ("Plaintiff") is currently a federal prisoner who seeks to sue a number of individuals, who were involved either in the arrest of Plaintiff, the search of Plaintiff and the car in which he was riding in February, 2003, or who were involved in the June, 2004 forfeiture of Plaintiff's property seized in those searches. Plaintiff also names as defendants, the governmental units who employed the individual defendants. Plaintiff asserts that his constitutional rights were violated by his arrest, by the searches and seizures and by the state court forfeiture proceedings.

The instant civil rights Complaint should be dismissed for several reasons, including: 1) the claims are time barred, because Plaintiff's cause of action accrued in February 2003 and he did not file the present action until June of 2014; 2) the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars this Court from reviewing what transpired in the state court forfeiture proceedings and from holding that those state court forfeiture proceedings violated Plaintiff's rights; and 3) the doctrines of prosecutorial immunity and testimonial immunity bar Plaintiff's claims against some of the individual defendants.

A. PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL HISTORY

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed his Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, ECF No. 1, which was granted. ECF No. 2. Plaintiff's Complaint was filed. ECF No. 3. The Complaint primarily concerns incidents that occurred in February, 2003 with his arrest and the seizure of his property, and in June, 2004 when the state court forfeiture proceedings occurred.

Specifically, Plaintiff complains that Trooper Wesley Berkebile ("Berkebile") illegally stopped the car in which Plaintiff was riding and illegally arrested Plaintiff. ECF No. 3, at ¶¶ 16-19. Plaintiff also alleges that the application for the search warrant by Trooper Michael J. Volk ("Volk") contained intentional misrepresentations. Id., ¶ 21. Plaintiff further alleges that Berkebile and Volk illegally seized Plaintiff's property. See id., ¶ 23. Plaintiff also alleges that Trooper Sergeant Anthony DeLuca ("DeLuca") recorded that the property seized by the two other troopers was found on and recovered from Plaintiff. Id., ¶ 25. Plaintiff further complains that Defendant Deluca permitted Trooper Stuart Frome ("Frome") to misrepresent material facts so that the Commonwealth could speciously forfeit Plaintiff's property. Id., ¶ 26.

On or about February 11, 2004, Plaintiff was charged with possession of firearms without a license and with receiving stolen property. On February 20, 2004, all charges against Plaintiff were dismissed at the preliminary hearing, according to Plaintiff. Id., ¶¶ 27-28.

On June 17, 2004, the Commonwealth filed a Petition for Forfeiture and Condemnation of Plaintiff's property that was seized. Id., ¶ 29. Plaintiff alleges that Deputy Attorney General Jesse Pettit ("Pettit"), who filed the Petition for Forfeiture made knowing misrepresentations of material facts. Id., ¶ 30.

Apparently, the nature of the misrepresentations made in the course of the forfeiture proceedings was that the property which was to be forfeited was in the possession of Jacquae Taylor, also known as, Gary Hill, and that Jacquae Taylor appeared to be the owner of the property. Id., ¶ 36. In contrast, Plaintiff asserts that many of the Defendants knew that the property to be forfeited belonged, in fact, to Plaintiff. Id., ¶¶ 32, 35. Plaintiff asserts that the Defendants knew the property belonged to Plaintiff notwithstanding that Plaintiff apparently signed a form indicating that the money found on him did not belong to Plaintiff. Id., ¶ 61.

Plaintiff also complains that he was not served with the Petition for Forfeiture and/or any Rule to Show Cause why the property should not be forfeited. Id., ¶ 34. Plaintiff asserts that "[h]aving no knowledge that his property had been forfeited, the Plaintiff-Mr. Barren filed a Motion For Return of Property' on December 28, 2011, a Motion for Judgment for Failure to Respond' on May 22, 2012, a Writ of Praecipe' on October 15, 2012, a request for Records' on or about July 25, 2013, and a Request for Docket Correction' on or about August 30, 2013." Id., ¶ 40.

On August 20, 2013, Judge John Cascio of the Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County scheduled a hearing to be held on October 30, 2013 on Plaintiff's Writ of Praecipe and Motion for Return of Property. Id., ¶ 43. Plaintiff complains that at the hearing, Defendant Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser, the District Attorney for Somerset County, made knowing misrepresentations during the course of the hearing. Id., ¶¶ 46-48. Plaintiff contends that the Commonwealth eventually conceded that two earrings which were still in the possession of the Commonwealth could be returned to Plaintiff. Id., ¶ 52. Plaintiff further asserts that it was not until November 7, 2013, when the Commonwealth ...


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