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Akan v. Summers

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

December 5, 2017



          Joy Flowers Conti, Chief Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Presently before the court are the two motions to dismiss filed, respectively, by defendants Adam Summers, Neil Reinsfelder, and Steven Centra (“University defendants”), and defendants Rufus Jones and Gregory Boss (“City defendants”), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF Nos. 13 and 15). In his pro se complaint, plaintiff Akaninyene Efiong Akan (“Plaintiff”) asserts a single claim against all defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983[1] for alleged violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as a request for declaratory judgment by the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202. (ECF No. 1). This court exercises subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question jurisdiction). Because the complaint shows that the claim asserted under § 1983 is barred by the applicable statute of limitations, defendants' motions will be GRANTED.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff's complaint contains a solitary claim, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges an ongoing conspiracy to deprive him of his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by the defendants' continued seizure of his “person” vis-à-vis a biological/DNA sample obtained from a discarded cigarette. The court now recites the most pertinent facts, as pled in Plaintiff's complaint and contained in records available to the public[2].

         In the early morning hours of September 17, 2010, Plaintiff was departing from a social gathering in the Oakland neighborhood in the City of Pittsburgh. (ECF No. 1 at 7). He entered his vehicle, which was parked in the vicinity of 3612 Bates Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, at or around 2:20 a.m. (Id.). Almost immediately thereafter, an adult male approached the driver's side window and ordered Plaintiff to exit the vehicle. (Id.). The man was Adam Summers, an officer with the University of Pittsburgh Police. (Id. at 3). Officer Summers was in plain clothes, but had a visible belt with a holstered weapon. (Id. at 8). Plaintiff complied with the order out of fear for his wellbeing. (Id. at 8 - 9). Officer Summers had not yet identified himself or the basis for ordering Plaintiff out of the vehicle. (Id. at 9).

         Eventually, other law enforcement officers arrived on the scene. (Id.). These officers included Neil Reinsfelder and Steven Centra of the University of Pittsburgh Police, and Rufus Jones of the City of Pittsburgh Police. (Id. at 4, 10 - 11). None of the officers explained the purpose of Plaintiff's detention or provided their identities. (Id. at 10, 16). After approximately fifty minutes, Plaintiff accepted a cigarette offered by a University of Pittsburgh Police Officer, “Mr. A. Fink[3].” (Id. at 12 - 13). Plaintiff had mostly finished the cigarette when Officer Centra ordered him to throw it on the ground. (Id. at 14). Plaintiff complied. (Id.).

         At or around 3:20 a.m., Plaintiff was informed that he was free to leave. (Id. at 15 - 16). When plaintiff inquired about the purpose of his detention, Officer Centra stated only that “we mistook you for a burglar.” (Id. at 16). Officers Summers, Reinsfelder, Centra, and Jones filed reports of their encounter with Plaintiff. (Id. at 17). None observed any criminal conduct; Officers Summers, Reinsfelder, and Centra, however, all recounted that Officer Jones took the spent cigarette discarded by Plaintiff for possible future use as a biological sample. (Id.). Officer Jones' report made no mention of the cigarette. (Id.).

         On or about October 7, 2010, Gregory Boss - a detective with the City of Pittsburgh Police - took possession of the cigarette recovered by Officer Jones. (Id. at 5, 18). Detective Boss was the lead investigator for a crime which occurred in the Southside Flats neighborhood of the City of Pittsburgh on September 5, 2010. (Id. at 18). Video surveillance at the scene of the crime was thought to show Plaintiff as the perpetrator. (Id. at 18 - 19). The cigarette was sent to the Allegheny County Crime Lab (the “Lab”) for biological/DNA testing. (Id. at 19).

         On November 30, 2010, Plaintiff was charged with one count of burglary, two counts of rape, four counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, one count of sexual assault, one count of indecent assault, one count of terroristic threats, one count of unlawful restraint, and one count of simple assault. (ECF No. 14-3 at 1 - 3). Following a jury trial in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, Plaintiff was found guilty of all charged conduct, and on June 26, 2012, he was sentenced to four consecutive terms of eight to twenty years' imprisonment. (Id. at 4 - 6). Judgment of sentence was affirmed by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania on November 25, 2013. (ECF No. 14-1 at 3). Plaintiff's petition for allowance of appeal was denied on May 30, 2014. (Id.). On October 17, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Post Conviction Relief Act petition, which was dismissed without a hearing. (Id.). An appeal of this dismissal was also denied on February 1, 2016. (ECF No. 14-2). Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at SCI-Forest.

         The complaint in the instant case was filed by Plaintiff, pro se, on January 19, 2017. (ECF No. 1). Motions to dismiss, and accompanying briefs, followed on May 23, 2017. (ECF Nos. 13 - 16). Plaintiff's response was filed on July 3, 2017. (ECF Nos. 25 and 26). The matters are fully briefed, and ripe for disposition.

         III. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain a short and plain statement of a claim, and show that the pleader is entitled to relief. Dismissal of a complaint or portion of a complaint is justified under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) when a claimant fails to sufficiently state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Avoiding dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) requires a pleading party's complaint to provide “enough factual matter” to allow the case to move beyond the pleading stage of litigation; the pleader must “‘nudge his or her claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.'” Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 - 35 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atlantic Co. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 570 (2007)).

         In assessing the merits of a claim subject to a motion to dismiss, a court must engage in a two-part analysis. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 - 11 (3d Cir. 2009). First, factual and legal elements of a claim must be distinguished. Id. Second, it must be determined whether the facts as alleged support a “plausible claim for relief.” Id. In making the latter determination, the court must be mindful that the matter pleaded need not include “detailed factual allegations, ” Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555), and the court must construe all alleged facts, and draw all ...

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