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Gula v. Noonan

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

November 8, 2017

CARRIE ANN GULA, Plaintiff
v.
FRANK NOONAN, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is a civil rights action brought pursuant to 42U.S.C.§1983, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), by plaintiff, Carrie Ann Gula ("Gula"), in which she alleges violations of her constitutional rights arising out of her employment with the Pennsylvania State Police ("PSP") and an alleged assault incident between Gula and her boyfriend on August 1, 2012.

         Presently before the court is the partial motion for summary judgment on Count II of plaintiff Gula's amended complaint, (Doc. 19), filed by defendants PSP Trooper Lisa Brogan ("Brogan") and Lieutenant Richard Krawetz ("Krawetz"), pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56, (Doc. 28).

         Based upon the following discussion, the partial motion for summary judgment of Brogan and Krawetz regarding Count II of plaintiff's amended complaint will be DENIED.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On August 2, 2012, Gula reported to PSP that she was assaulted by her boyfriend, Eric Thomas, on August 1, 2012. After Brogan and Krawetz conducted an investigation, the PSP found that there was probable cause to arrest Gula for false reports to law enforcement officials and unsworn falsification to authorities. During the investigation, Thomas alleged that Gula had unlawfully accessed his online computer account which lead to a second investigation by Krawetz and the filing of charges against Gula related to unlawful use of a computer and computer trespass crimes. The case was turned over to the Luzerne County District Attorney's Office which determined that criminal charges against Gula were warranted based on both investigations. On December 13, 2012, Gula was arrested. Subsequently, she had a preliminary hearing and the charges against her were bound over to the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas for criminal trial. After her trial was concluded in March 2014, Gula was found not guilty of all charges.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 19, 2014, Gula filed her original complaint under §1983, Title VII and the PHRA. (Doc. 1). She is currently proceeding on her amended complaint which was filed on August 29, 2016. (Doc. 19). The plaintiffs amended complaint is comprised of eight counts. The claims against the remaining defendants are: (1) First Amendment retaliation claim and Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim based on her sex, against the individual defendants[1] in violation of 42 U.S.C.§1983; (2) malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth Amendment and §1983 against Krawetz, and Brogan; (3) sex discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.§2000e, et seq., against PSP; (4) sex discrimination claims against all defendants under the PHRA, 43 Pa. Stat.§95. et seq.; (5) hostile work environment claim based on sex under Title VII against PSP; (6) hostile work environment claim based on sex against all defendants under the PHRA; (7) retaliation claim under Title VII against PSP; and (8) a retaliation claim against all defendants under the PHRA.

         On March 22, 2017, Brogan and Krawetz filed their partial motion for summary judgment regarding plaintiffs Fourth Amendment claim of malicious prosecution in Count II of her amended complaint. (Doc. 28). They simultaneously filed their statement of facts with exhibits and a brief in support. (Doc. 29, Doc. 30, Docs. 37-63). The plaintiff filed her brief in opposition to Brogan and Krawetz's motion and her response to their statement of facts on May 10, 2017. (Doc. 84, Doc. 87). Plaintiff filed exhibits in support of her brief. (Docs. 76-83). Brogan and Krawetz filed a reply brief on June 7, 2017. (Doc. 93). Their motion is now ripe.

         This court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C.§51331 and 1343. The court can exercise pendent jurisdiction over the state law claims under 28 U.S.C. §1337. Venue is proper in this district.

         III. MATERIAL FACTS[2]

         Gula is employed as a trooper with the PSP and in August of 2012, she was stationed in Troop N, at the Fern Ridge Barracks in Monroe County, PA. On August 2, 2012, Gula reported to the PSP that she was assaulted by her boyfriend, Eric Thomas, on August 1, 2012, in his house in Luzerne County, PA., while she was wearing her uniform. The Criminal Investigation Unit at Troop P, PSP Wyoming, in Luzerne County, was assigned to investigate the alleged domestic assault incident since it occurred in that county. Gula was directed to report to Krawetz at PSP Wyoming. Brogan was directed by Krawetz to investigate Gula's assault allegations. As part of the investigation, Brogan instructed Gula to make a written statement on August 2, 2012. At the completion of the investigation, Brogan prepared an Incident Report. (Doc. 40 at 59-65). Krawetz then prepared his own report. (Id. at 66-68).

         Brogan and Krawetz determined that Gula's domestic violence allegations were "unfounded" due to inconsistencies, such as Gula had no visible injuries. However, Gula described non-visible injuries, including a headache and sore neck. They also believed that Gula's allegations were "unfounded" since there was no property damage in Thomas' house. Consequently, they concluded the criminal investigation into Gula's alleged assault incident. (Doc. 40).

         Krawetz then initiated a criminal investigation into Gula for the crime of False Reports regarding her assault allegations against Thomas. During the course of this investigation, Thomas reported that Gula had "illegally accessed his 'My Verizon' online account" and he "provided evidence during the course of that investigation that indicated [Gula] had stolen various notes belonging to [him] that contained login information for a number of his online accounts." (Id.).

         Thus, on August 8, 2012, Krawetz commenced a computer crimes investigation, in addition to the false report investigation, regarding Gula. (Doc. 40 at 76), According to the August 8, 2012 Incident Report:

THOMAS received six notifications from Verizon indicating that the password on his Verizon Account had been changed. THOMAS related that at no time did he authorize any changes to his password on his account. THOMAS stated he did not and he never gave anyone permission to access his account. It can be inferred from this information that an unknown individual had accessed his Verizon account without authorization.

         Upon conclusion of the investigations, the PSP and its officials determined that Gula should be charged with making false statements to law enforcement officials and for computer trespass crimes. On November 13, 2012, Krawetz referred the case to the Luzerne County District Attorney's Office and, he met with the DA, and an Assistant DA and provided them with a copy of his investigation. He requested that a prosecutorial decision regarding Gula be made.

         On December 4, 2012, Krawetz indicated that he met with the DA and that the DA recommended four felony computer charges and three misdemeanor charges relating to false reports be filed against Gula. The basis of the "false report" that Gula allegedly made was her verbal "report [of] an incident where she alleged that she was the victim, and she implicated another in that incident." The basis of Krawetz's charges against Gula for unlawful use of a computer and related offenses was Thomas' ...


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