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Farvardin v. Santos

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 15, 2014

TPR. MICHAEL SANTOS, et al., Defendants.


CYNTHIA M. RUFE, District Judge.

Mohamad Farvardin filed a civil rights complaint against the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) troopers involved in an October 28, 2011 incident, and against PSP Commissioner FRanck Noonan. Prior to trial, Dr. Farvardin settled his claims against the state trooper defendants for monetary damages, but did not settle his claim for injunctive relief against Commissioner Noonan. The Court held a bench trial, at which it heard evidence regarding Dr. Farvardin's claim that Commissioner Noonan failed to properly train and educate state troopers, and failed to correct violations of law. The Court now makes findings of fact and conclusions of law.

I. Findings of Fact

A. The Incident

1. Mohamad Farvardin is 68 years old. He was born in Iran but has been an American citizen for about 35 years. He speaks English with a foreign accent.

2. Dr. Farvardin holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering, and currently works as a consultant in water treatment and waste water management.

3. On October 28, 2011, he was driving his car on Route 841 in Chester County, Pennsylvania when he received a telephone call from a client.

4. Dr. Farvardin moved his vehicle completely off the roadway and parked it to take the telephone call.

5. A passing motorist called the police to report seeing a vehicle parked with the driver slumped over the steering wheel, and Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) Trooper Sromovsky was sent to check on the well-being of the driver.

6. Approximately 10-15 minutes later, while Dr. Farvardin was still on the telephone call, Trooper Sromovsky pulled up behind him.

7. Trooper Sromovsky has been employed as a trooper by the PSP since 2007.

8. Trooper Sromovsky walked up to Dr. Farvardin's car window, knocked on it, and began talking to Dr. Farvardin.

9. Trooper Sromovsky told Dr. Farvardin that someone had reported seeing him slumped over the steering wheel of his car. Dr. Farvardin indicated that he was fine and there was no problem. Trooper Sromovsky observed that Dr. Farvardin was talking on the telephone and appeared in good health.

10. At that point, Trooper Sromovsky had completed the task for which he had been dispatched: to check the status of the driver, Dr. Farvardin. Nevertheless, he continued the encounter.

11. Despite his testimony that he believed he would need to identify Dr. Farvardin for a dispatch report, Trooper Sromovsky never asked Dr. Farvardin for his name.

12. Although he had no cause to detain or arrest Dr. Farvardin, Trooper Sromovsky did not behave as though Dr. Farvardin was free to leave nor could Dr. Farvardin decline to interact with him.

13. Trooper Sromovsky demanded that Dr. Farvardin discontinue his telephone call, which he did, and to exit his car, which he also did.

14. Trooper Sromovsky asked Dr. Farvardin to show him identification. Dr. Farvardin refused to display his identification, insisting that he had done nothing wrong and was therefore not required to show his license. Trooper Sromovsky again demanded identification.

15. At some point early in their encounter, Trooper Sromovsky turned on the audio and video recording equipment in the police vehicle, and recorded the remainder of the encounter.

16. This was done in response to Dr. Farvardin accusing Trooper Sromovsky of asking him for identification only because of his appearance and foreign accent.

17. Trooper Sromovsky told his supervisor, Corporal Ranck, and later noted in his report, that he turned on the camera because Dr. Farvardin had "played the race card." Trooper Sromovsky testified that he would not report that an individual with a French or Swedish accent was "playing the race card" if they made a similar remark, indicating that he was responding to Dr. Farvardin's skin color as well as his accent.

18. Multiple times, Trooper Sromovksy told Dr. Farvardin that he would be arrested for disorderly conduct if he did not produce his identification.

19. Trooper Sromovsky has not, on any other occasion, arrested someone or heard of anyone being arrested for failing to produce a license, although he has written traffic citations for failure to produce a license upon request.

20. Disorderly conduct is generally a summary offense, resulting in the issuance of a citation or summons, and alone is not generally grounds for arrest.[1]

21. After being detained unwillingly, removed from his vehicle, and threatened with arrest, Dr. Farvardin pulled out his license and tossed it on the ground, saying "this is ridiculous, this is ridiculous, here take this." He was angry at being treated disrespectfully, forced to discontinue his call, exit his car, and show identification to the police without legal justification.

22. Immediately after Dr. Farvardin threw his license on the ground, two officers, Trooper Sromovsky and Trooper Santos, who arrived in a second state police vehicle at some point after hearing a police radio report of a man slumped over the steering wheel, pushed Dr. Farvardin to the ground on his stomach, with his hands pulled behind him so that he could not break his fall, causing him to cut and scrape his nose and forehead on the asphalt. They then handcuffed him with his hands behind his back, causing him to scream in pain.

23. Dr. Farvardin was directed to remain seated on the ground and was told he would be cited for disorderly conduct because of his "little temper tantrum."

24. The officers called for an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived, the officers removed the handcuffs. Dr. Farvardin refused to enter the ambulance for medical attention, because he wanted to take pictures to document his injuries prior to ...

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