United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
E.K. PRATTER United States District Judge.
Alan Dress sued Falls Township, Sergeant Bryan White,
Detective Gregory Small, and Officer Brian Fisher pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 for malicious prosecution arising out
of Mr. Dress's arrest, prosecution, and eventual
acquittal for rape and other sexual assault charges. Because
Mr. Dress's amended complaint fails to state a plausible
claim for relief, the Court will grant the Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss.
Allegations in the Amended Complaint
Dress was arrested, tried, and eventually acquitted of rape
and other sexual assault charges stemming from a sexual
encounter in March 2014 with K.S. at a house
party. After drinking with friends at a bar, Mr.
Dress went to a friend's house to attend an after party.
Following the evening of drinking, Mr. Dress went into a
bedroom to go to sleep. K.S., who had also been drinking at
the party, entered the bedroom and lay down on the bed next
to Mr. Dress. Mr. Dress and K.S. then engaged in what Mr.
Dress claims was consensual sexual intercourse. K.S. later
told her sister that she had been raped by “Tim.”
K.S.'s sister placed a call to the police, and K.S.
provided the police with a short description of the alleged
sexual assault. K.S. also went to a hospital to have an exam.
K.S. eventually provided the police with a more detailed
description of the alleged sexual assault, including
statements that (i) Mr. Dress got on top of her and removed
her clothing; (ii) she tore her fingernail on a headboard
when trying to escape from underneath Mr. Dress; (iii) Mr.
Dress pinned her down, covered her mouth, and pushed her head
into a pillow; and (iv) Mr. Dress re-arranged the pillows to
stop the headboard from making noise.
Fisher, who had spoken with K.S. about the alleged events,
went to the scene to conduct an investigation. Officer Fisher
advised Sergeant White of K.S.'s allegations and then
secured the scene for a search warrant at Sergeant
White's direction. Sergeant White then instructed
Detective Small to go to the scene of the alleged assault to
serve as the lead investigator. Detective Small signed an
Affidavit of Probable Cause, which included the details K.S.
had provided to the police, including the statement that K.S.
had torn her fingernail on the headboard. The Defendants
obtained a warrant permitting them to search the subject
bedroom. Officer Fisher prepared a report after police
officers conducted a search of the bedroom, noting that (i)
the bed did not have a headboard, (ii) the wall around the
mattress area did not contain any fresh scratches or damage,
and (iii) no fingernail was recovered. Despite the fact that
the physical evidence did not align with K.S.'s
description of the alleged assault, the Defendants arrested
Mr. Dress. After his arrest, Mr. Dress alleges that Sergeant
White approved an Incident Report Form prepared by Sergeant
Clark that contained the allegedly false
statement that Mr. Dress requested to sit in a holding cell
during his police interview.
Dress was prosecuted for a number of offenses related to the
alleged sexual assault. After a multi-day jury trial in Bucks
County, Mr. Dress was found not guilty of all charges.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes testing the legal
sufficiency of a complaint. Although Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 8 requires only “a short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,
” in order to “give the defendant fair notice of
what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests,
” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555 (2007) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)
(alteration in original), the plaintiff must provide
“more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” Id. (citation omitted).
survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead
“factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Specifically, “[f]actual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level . . . .” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). The question is not whether
the claimant will ultimately prevail, but whether the
complaint is “sufficient to cross the federal
court's threshold.” Skinner v. Switzer,
562 U.S. 521, 529-30 (2011).
decide a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court may look
only to the facts alleged in the complaint and its
attachments. See Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien
& Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). The
Court may also consider documents that are “integral to
or explicitly relied upon in the complaint . . . without
converting the motion [to dismiss] into one for summary
judgment.” In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec.
Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997) (citation
omitted). The Court must accept as true all well-pleaded
allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. Angelastro v.
Prudential-Bache Sec., Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir.
1985). Likewise, the Court must accept as true all reasonable
inferences that may be drawn from the allegations, and view
those facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. See Rocks v. City of Phila., 868
F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989).
Claim Against the Individual Defendants
order to succeed on a Fourth Amendment malicious prosecution
claim pursuant to § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate
that: “(1) the defendant initiated a criminal
proceeding; (2) the criminal proceeding ended in his favor;
(3) the defendant initiated the proceeding without probable
cause; (4) the defendant acted maliciously or for a purpose
other than bringing the plaintiff to justice; and (5) 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, 82
(3d Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). Mr. Dress has not pleaded
a plausible Fourth Amendment malicious prosecution claim
against the individual defendants because his amended
complaint, even read in the light most favorable to Mr. Dress
and with all reasonable inferences drawn in his favor, fails
to establish that the individual defendants initiated a
criminal proceeding against him.
not police, are generally responsible for initiating criminal
proceedings. Brockington v. City of Phila., 354
F.Supp.2d 563, 569 (E.D. Pa. 2005); see also Merrero v.
Micewski, No. 96-8534, 1998 WL 414724, at *6 (E.D. Pa.
July 22, 1998) (“Although a prosecutor may initiate
criminal proceedings based on information received from a
police officer, the prosecutor does so only after
independently reviewing the information and exercising his or
her discretion to initiate such proceedings.”). To hold
a police officer responsible for initiating a criminal
proceeding, a plaintiff needs to demonstrate that the officer
“knowingly provided false information to the prosecutor
or otherwise interfered with the prosecutor's informed
discretion.” Brockington, 354 F.Supp.2d at 569
(quoting Gatter v. Zappile,67 F.Supp.2d 515, 521
(E.D. Pa. 1999), aff'd,225 F.3d 648 (3d Cir.
2000)); see also Gallo v. City of Phila., 161 F.3d
217, 220 n.2 ...