United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, J.
Sylvester Ekwunife (“Plaintiff”) brought this
suit against the City of Philadelphia, the former
Philadelphia District Attorney, a former assistant district
attorney, and two individual police officers following his
three-year detention on the basis of sexual assault
allegations that were later withdrawn. Plaintiff brings
claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for false arrest,
false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, failure to
intervene, and conspiracy in violation of 42 U.S.C. §
1985, and a state law claim for intentional infliction of
emotional distress, alleging that there was no probable cause
to arrest, imprison, or prosecute him, and that the
defendants knew or should have known that the sexual assault
allegations were fabricated. All of the defendants except the
individual police officers filed motions to dismiss
Plaintiff's claims, which the Court granted. The two
remaining defendants now move for summary judgment. Plaintiff
opposes the motion.
reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendants'
motion for summary judgment.
early December 2011, Sharon McFayden and her daughter, K.R.,
Plaintiff's step-grandchild, who was 11 years old at the
time, walked into the Special Victim's Unit (“the
SVU”) of the Philadelphia Police Department and told
Defendant Detective Laura Hammond (“Detective
Hammond”) that K.R. had been sexually assaulted. See
Hammond Dep. at 8:11-21, June 9, 2017, ECF No. 47-9. At the
time, Detective Hammond documented the complaint via
computer, and a forensic interview was later arranged with
the Philadelphia Children's Alliance (“the
PCA”). Id. at 9:18-10:22.
December 21, 2011, the PCA interviewed K.R. and her mother,
McFayden, regarding the alleged sexual assault. See Forensic
Interview Summary (“PCA Report”) at 1, Defs.'
Mot. Summ. J. (“Mot.”) Ex. 1, ECF No. 47-1. The
PCA first interviewed McFayden, and then interviewed K.R. See
Id. at 3-4. According to the PCA's summary of
the December 21, 2011 interview with McFayden, McFayden
reported that on December 3, 2011, K.R. told her that
Plaintiff, K.R.'s step-grandfather, had raped her. See
Id. at 2. McFayden explained that when K.R. first
told her about the alleged rape, K.R. would not answer
questions about when the alleged abuse occurred. See
Id. McFayden further stated that the morning after
K.R. reported the rape to her, McFayden took K.R. to the
hospital, where she was examined, and no signs of physical
trauma were found. See Id. Regarding the amount of
contact K.R. would have had with Plaintiff during K.R.'s
lifetime, McFayden told the PCA interviewer that K.R. had
lived with Plaintiff until she was two years old, and
thereafter, up until 2007, K.R. visited Plaintiff nearly
every weekend, including overnight visits. See id.
separately interviewed K.R., who reported that Plaintiff
anally and vaginally raped her when she was three or four
years old. See Id. at 5. K.R. told the interviewer
that Plaintiff told K.R. he would kill her if she told anyone
about the abuse. See id.
the PCA's general policy, PCA interviews are watched
through closed circuit television by a police officer from
the SVU and by a caseworker from the Philadelphia Department
of Human Services (“DHS”). See Mot. Ex. 2 at 2,
ECF No. 47-2. The interview is also taped for later viewing
by a prosecutor from the Philadelphia District Attorney's
Office (“the D.A.'s Office”). See
Id. In this case, Detective Kim Boston
(“Detective Boston”) observed the PCA interview
in place of Detective Hammond. See PCA Report at 2.
the PCA interview, Detective Hammond, who was not present at
the interview, filled out an affidavit in support of an
arrest warrant. See Hammond Dep. at 10:13-24. Detective
Hammond testified at her deposition that she based the
affidavit on (1) the video of the PCA interview; (2) the
written summary of the PCA interview; and (3) an interview
with McFayden on January 28, 2012. See Id. at
Detective Hammond's affidavit of probable cause,
Plaintiff's name, social security number, and date of
birth were correct. See Aff. Probable Cause at 1, Mot. Ex. 5,
ECF No. 47-5. However, Plaintiff's race and gender were
entered incorrectly: Plaintiff was identified as a white
woman instead of an African-American man. See Id.
This misinformation was repeated on the warrant itself. See
Warrant of Arrest, Mot. Ex. 5, ECF No. 47-5. Detective
Hammond subsequently appended information to Plaintiff's
arrest report stating “Defendant's race and sex was
entered in error, please ensure corrections.” Phila.
Police Dept. Arrest Report at 2, Mot. Ex. 5, ECF No. 47- 5.
Defendant Police Officer Joseph Carter (“Officer
Carter”) executed the arrest warrant and arrested
Plaintiff at his home on February 27, 2012. See Id.
at 1-2. It is unclear from the record whether Detective
Hammond's correction to the arrest report was made before
or after Plaintiff's arrest.
alleges that he was incarcerated for three years pending
trial. See Fourth Am. Compl. (“FAC”) ¶¶
2, 54, ECF No. 32. In January 2015, on the morning of the
trial, K.R. recanted the majority of her allegations against
Plaintiff, except her allegation that Plaintiff had digitally
penetrated her on one occasion when she was five years old.
See Mot. Ex. 4 at 4, ECF No. 47-4. The D.A.'s Office
subsequently dropped the charges and Plaintiff was released
from incarceration less than a week later. See Ekwunife Dep.
at 48:14-17, June 9, 2017, ECF No. 47-8.
a report prepared by DHS dated January 14, 2015, K.R. later
explained that her mother had told her to lie, and to
conflate Plaintiff's actions with those of another
relative, who had raped K.R. on numerous occasions when she
was in third and fourth grade. See Report of Suspected Child
Abuse at 2-3, Mot. Ex. 4, ECF No. 47-4. K.R. reported that
her mother told her to lie and state that Plaintiff committed
all of the abuse against her, because the other relative who
raped her was a minor and the accusations would “ruin
his life.” Id. at 2.
filed an initial pro se complaint on January 21, 2016,
asserting claims against the City of Philadelphia (“the
City”) and the D.A.'s Office. ECF No. 3. The Court
dismissed Plaintiff's claims against the D.A.'s
Office pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), explaining that
(1) a district attorney's office is not an
“entity” for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983
and therefore is not susceptible to suit, and (2) the
doctrine of absolute immunity shields prosecutors from
liability related to their official acts. ECF No. 2.
amended his complaint on February 10, 2016. ECF No. 4.
Plaintiff's amended complaint brought only one claim, the
violation of Plaintiff's due process rights under the
Fourteenth Amendment, and named only three defendants: the
City, Former Assistant District Attorney Heba Gore
(“Former ADA Gore”), individually and as an
official, and Detective Hammond, individually and as an
official. Id. On March 1, 2016, the Court issued an
order dismissing Plaintiff's claims against Former ADA
Gore pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) under the doctrine
of absolute prosecutorial immunity. ECF No. 5.
11, 2016, the City filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's
amended complaint. ECF No. 9. On June 27, 2016, after
Plaintiff had retained counsel and following a hearing, the
Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss without
prejudice, allowing Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint
and add additional defendants. See ECF No. 16. Plaintiff
filed a second amended complaint on July 18, 2016, ECF No.
18, followed by a third amended complaint on July 19, 2016,
ECF No. 19. The third amended complaint added Officer Carter
and Former District Attorney Seth Williams (“Former DA
Williams”) as defendants, and added back Former ADA
Gore. See Id. Defendants filed two motions to
dismiss the third amended complaint, which the Court granted
on October 17, 2017, dismissing Plaintiff's claims
against all defendants without prejudice and with leave to
amend. See ECF No. 31.
November 3, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Fourth Amended Complaint,
bringing claims for violation of due process and failure to
train (Counts I and II), malicious prosecution (Count III),
false arrest and false imprisonment (Count IV), failure to
intervene (Count V), failure to investigate (Count VI),
conspiracy (Count VII), intentional infliction of emotional
distress (Count VIII), and false arrest and false
imprisonment in violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution
(Count IX). ECF No. 32. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and
punitive damages in the amount of $15 million. Id.
December 2, 2016, Former ADA Gore and Former DA Williams
(“the DA Defendants”) moved to dismiss
Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint. ECF No. 34. On
December 6, 2016, the City, Detective Hammond, and Officer
Carter moved to dismiss all claims against the City. ECF No.
35. The Court granted both motions, dismissing
Plaintiff's claims against the DA Defendants and the City
with prejudice. ECF No. 40.
26, 2017, the two remaining defendants, Detective Hammond and
Officer Carter, filed a motion for summary judgment. ECF No.
47. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition on August 9,
2017. ECF No. 48. The Court is now ready to rule on the
judgment is awarded under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56
when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Liberty Mut. Ins. Co.
v. Sweeney, 689 F.3d 288, 292 (3d Cir. 2012).
“A motion for summary judgment will not be defeated by
‘the mere existence' of some disputed facts, but
will be denied when there is a genuine issue of material
fact.” Am. Eagle Outfitters v. Lyle &
Scott Ltd., 584 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir. 2009)
(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 247-48 (1986)). A fact is “material” if
proof of its existence or non-existence might affect the
outcome of the litigation, and a dispute is
“genuine” if “the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
undertaking this analysis, the court views all facts in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party. “After
making all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's
favor, there is a genuine issue of material fact if a
reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party.”
Pignataro v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 593 F.3d
265, 268 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Reliance Ins. Co. v.Moessner,121 F.3d 895, 900 (3d Cir. 1997)). While
the moving party bears the initial burden of showing the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact, meeting this
obligation shifts the burden ...