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Gula v. Noonan

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 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 42 U.S.C. §1983, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §2000e, et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), 43 Pa.C.S.A. §951, et seq., 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 pending is the partial motion for summary judgment motion of defendants Brogan, Krawetz, O'Hara, Captain David Dougalas (“Dougalas”), Major Edward Hoke (“Hoke”), and the PSP, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56, regarding Counts I, III, IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII of the plaintiff's amended complaint, (Doc. 19).[1] (Doc. 34).

         Based upon the following discussion, the Doc. 34 partial motion for summary judgment will be DENIED IN ITS ENTIRETY.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Gula is proceeding on her amended complaint under §1983, Title VII and the PHRA which was filed on August 29, 2016. (Doc. 19). The plaintiff's amended complaint raises eight counts, to wit: (1) First Amendment retaliation claim and Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim based on her sex against the individual defendants[2] in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983; (2) malicious prosecution claim in violation of the Fourth Amendment and §1983 against Krawetz, and Brogan; (3) sex discrimination claim under Title VII against PSP; (4) sex discrimination claim against all defendants under the PHRA; (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) retaliation claim against all defendants under the PHRA.

         On March 22, 2017, Brogan, Krawetz, O'Hara, Dougalas, Hoke, and the PSP filed a partial motion for summary judgment motion, pursuant to Rule 56, regarding Counts I, III, IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII of the plaintiff's amended complaint. (Doc. 34). They simultaneously filed their statement of facts with exhibits and a brief in support. (Doc. 35, Doc. 36, Docs. 37-63). The plaintiff filed her brief in opposition to the Doc. 34 motion and her response to their statement of facts on May 10, 2017. (Doc. 86, Doc. 87). Plaintiff filed exhibits in support of her brief. (Docs. 76-83). Defendants filed a reply brief on June 7, 2017. (Doc. 91). Their Doc. 34 motion is now ripe for disposition by the court.

         This court has jurisdiction over Gula's federal claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331 and §1343 as well as 42 U.S.C. §2000e-5(f)(3). The court can exercise pendent jurisdiction over the state law claims under 28 U.S.C. §1367. Venue is proper in this court under 28 U.S.C. §1391.

         II. MATERIAL FACTS

         The court incorporates by reference the material facts of this case from its November 9, 2017 Memoranda, (Doc. 94, Doc. 96).[3]

         At all relevant times, Gula was an employee of the PSP. She was a PSP Trooper assigned to the Patrol Section at the Trevose Barracks, Troop M, from August 2009 until October 29, 2011. (Doc. 84, Ex. 9). While at the Trevose Barracks, Gula filed a complaint with the PSP alleging that she was being sexually harassed by PSP Trooper Donald C. Brackett, who was also assigned to that barracks. As a result of Gula's complaint, an internal affairs investigation (“IAD”) was initiated in August 2010 which focused on Brackett (“Brackett IAD”), IAD 2010-05726, and his alleged harassment of Gula. Brogan, Hoke, Krawetz and Dougalas were not aware of the Brackett IAD prior to the filing of the instant action.

         Additionally, when Gula was stationed at the Trevose Barracks, she provided statements in other IAD investigations which were conducted at the Trevose Barracks. Brogan, Hoke, Krawetz and Dougalas were not aware that Gula had made statements in other IAD investigations at the Trevose Barracks. O'Hara testified that he reviewed prior IADs involving Gula when he was investigating the false report misconduct charges against Gula. He reviewed the Brackett IAD, the Joyce Knoll IAD, and the Greener case, all of which involved allegations of sex discrimination in which Gula was listed as a witness.

         On October 29, 2011, Gula received a hardship transfer to Troop N, Fern Ridge Barracks, in Monroe County, PA, where she was assigned to patrol under the supervision of Station Commander Sean Jennings.

         Gula's former supervisor at Trevose Barracks issued a report finding that she was subjected to sexual harassment by Brackett. On July 18, 2012, a Department Disciplinary Officer (“DDO”) issued misconduct charges against Brackett, namely, Unbecoming Conduct, Discrimination or Harassment, Sexual Impropriety, Performance of Duty, Use of Equipment and Property. Gula's claims of sexual harassment were then sustained by the PSP. Brackett was disciplined and he received a 15-day Suspension Without Pay (“SWOP”) in July 2012. Brackett filed a grievance regarding the SWOP and it was reduced eight days. Also, the charge of sexual impropriety was removed from his record based on his grievance.

         Gula's evidence, (Doc. 86 at 2), also shows as follows:

As of August 2012, Gula was the only female in her barracks at Fern Ridge. Of the handful female members of Troop M, Gula's Troop, two were subject to a court martial in recent years: Andrea Young and Carrie Gula. (Exhibit 13; Exhibit 71). Both Young and Gula's court martials were overturned through arbitration and they were awarded back pay. (Id.). Both Young and Gula have subsequently been promoted to the rank of Corporal. (Exhibits 11, 13).

         In August of 2012, Gula remained stationed in Troop M, at the Fern Ridge Barracks. On August 2, 2012, Gula reported to Jennings that she was assaulted in her uniform by her boyfriend, Eric Thomas, on August 1, 2012, in his house in Luzerne County, PA. Jennings contacted the Troop Headquarters and talked to Lieutenant Brian Tobin and Dougalas, and he was advised to make a report to Troop P, Wyoming.

         On August 8, 2012, Jennings also sent an email summary of his August 2 meeting with Gula to his supervisors, Hoke and Dougalas. The Criminal Investigation Unit at Troop P, PSP Wyoming, in Luzerne County, was then assigned to investigate Gula's alleged domestic assault incident. Jennings told Gula to report to Krawetz, Commander of the Criminal Section at PSP Wyoming. Krawetz then directed Brogan to investigate Gula's assault allegations. As part of her investigation, Brogan told Gula to make a written statement regarding her allegations on August 2, 2012. Jennings was never interviewed by Krawetz or Brogan regarding Gula's allegations. On August 7, 2012, Brogan and Krawetz determined that Gula's domestic violence allegations were “unfounded.” On August 8, 2012, Krawetz entered a Blue Team Entry into PSP's internal affairs reporting system indicating that there was an allegation of misconduct by Gula, namely, the filing of false reports. Krawetz did not determine the outcome of the Blue Team Entry. Rather, he only reported the alleged misconduct by Gula and the fact that he initiated a criminal investigation into Gula for the crime of false reports regarding her assault allegations against Thomas. Also, during the course of the investigation into the alleged assault incident Gula had reported, Thomas claimed that Gula had “illegally accessed his ‘My Verizon' online account.” Thus, on August 8, 2012, Krawetz commenced a criminal investigation regarding Gula for computer crimes in addition to false reports. (Doc. 40 at 76).

         On August 9, 2012, Dougalas placed Gula on restricted duty status pending the outcome of the criminal and internal affairs investigations regarding her alleged false statements. Upon conclusion of the investigations, the PSP and its officials determined that Gula should be criminally charged with making false statements to law enforcement officials and for computer trespass crimes.

         In November 2012, Krawetz met with members of the Luzerne County DA's Office and gave them a copy of his criminal investigation into Gula. On December 4, 2012, the DA approved of criminal charges and, Krawetz filed the criminal complaint against Gula on December 13, 2012. Also, a felony arrest warrant for Gula was obtained by Krawetz from Magisterial District Judge Joseph J. Carmody. (Doc. 81-6, Doc. 81-7).

         Further, on December 13, 2012, Gula was suspended without pay by Hoke. The PSP is required under the Confidence In Law Enforcement Act (“CILEA”) to suspend any members who are charged with crimes that can result in prison sentence of one year or greater.

         After obtaining the arrest warrant, Krawetz arrested Gula and took her into custody at PSP Hazleton. Gula was charged with the following crimes: Unlawful Use of Computer; Computer Trespass; Criminal Use of Communication Facility; False Report-Falsely Incriminate Another; False Reports-Reported Offense Did Not Occur; Unsworn Falsification to Authorities. See the docket sheet for the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, Case No. CP-40-CR-0001057-2013, Commonwealth v. Carrie Ann Gula.[4] (Doc. 81-7, Doc. 55-1). She was then arraigned and released on unsecured bond.

         On December 4, 2012, Gula complained to Jennings, the Fern Ridge station commander, regarding alleged constituted harassment. Jennings decided Gula's complaints of harassment warranted a Blue Team Entry report which he issued. (Doc. 53 at 86, 88). Jennings informed his supervisors, including Hoke, that he issued the Blue Team Entry regarding the alleged inappropriate conduct directed toward Gula by male troopers in the Fern Ridge Barracks. As such, an Internal Affairs Investigation, number IAD 2012-0811, was commenced in December 2012.

         On December 10, 2012, Hoke sent an email with the subject “Carrie Gula” to Captain Degnan, Commanding Officer of Troop P Wyoming, with a copy to Robert Bartal, the investigator for Jennings's Blue Team Entry. This was sent at the time that Troop P was investigating the domestic violence incident alleged by Gula.

         On December 12, 2012, IAD of the PSP interviewed Gula regarding the Blue Team Entry filed by Jennings pertaining to the harassment she was allegedly experiencing. Hoke indicated that he spoke with the person who interviewed Gula that day. Later on December 12, 2012, Krawetz met again with the Luzerne County DA with respect to the Gula criminal investigation. As indicated, the next day Gula was arrested on criminal charges.

         On March 27, 2013, Gula had her preliminary hearing with respect to her the criminal charges, (Doc. 81-8), and the charges were bound over to county court for trial.

         Gula's criminal trial commenced on March 17, 2014. (Doc. 81-12). Prior to trial, the ADA withdrew Count 1, Unlawful Use of Computer and Count 3, Computer Trespass. (Doc. 81-13). At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found Gula not guilty of all remaining charges.

         On March 21, 2014, Gula was placed on restricted duty by Lieutenant Daniel J. Gentile, Jr. pending the outcome of the internal affairs investigation into her alleged false reports. Gula was then disciplined for providing false information to investigators regarding the alleged domestic violence incident.

         On June 11, 2014, a Disciplinary Action Report (“DAR”) was issued to Gula charging her with the following violations of field regulations: Unbecoming Conduct; Conformance to Laws; Internal Investigations; and Providing False Information.

         On September 24, 2014, PSP brought administrative charges relating to false statements which notified her that she was to be dismissed from the PSP, and would be placed in a suspension without pay status pending the filing of any grievance by her.

         On September 25, 2014, a memo was issued indicating that the PSP decided to court martial Gula. Lt. Col. George Bivens approved Gula's court martial on September 30, 2014.

         Subsequently, Gula successfully pursued a grievance against the PSP through arbitration. The arbitration award dated March 16, 2015 sustained Gula's grievance regarding her court martial and the arbitrator found that the Commonwealth failed to show just cause for Gula's termination by clear and convincing evidence. However, Gula remained on suspension without pay until the award was issued. Gula was then reinstated to her position as a trooper with the PSP with all the entitlements of employment, including back pay for the period of suspension imposed pursuant to the CILEA.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the “pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Turner v. Schering-Plough Corp.,901 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir. 1990). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, and is material if it will affect the outcome of the trial under governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Aetna Casualty & Sur. Co. v. Ericksen,903 F.Supp. 836, 838 (M.D. Pa. 1995). At the summary judgment stage, “the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; see also Marino v. Indus. Crating Co.,358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. ...


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