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Milbrand v. Miner

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 18, 2017

WILLIAM MILBRAND, Plaintiff
v.
WILLIAM MINER, individually and in his official capacity, and NATHAN RHODES, individually and in his official capacity, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

         Before the Court is a motion to dismiss Plaintiff William Milbrand's complaint filed by Defendants William Miner (“Miner”), and Nathan Rhodes (“Rhodes”). (Doc. No. 9.) For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         Plaintiff's complaint arises out of criminal charges that were allegedly improperly filed against him and were ultimately dropped. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 16.) At all times relevant to the complaint, Plaintiff was the duly elected Mayor of the City of Shamokin, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, and also served as the President of the Shamokin Cemetery Association volunteering to maintain the Shamokin Cemetery. (Id. ¶ 11.) On or about January 31, 2017, the Defendants, police officers with the City of Shamokin Police Department, arrested Plaintiff, placed him in a police car, and drove him to the office of Magisterial Judge John Gembic in the City of Shamokin. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) On the same date, Defendant Miner filed a criminal complaint against Plaintiff, without review by the District Attorney of Northumberland County, alleging that Plaintiff desecrated burial lots in the Shamokin Cemetery. (Id.) The criminal complaint, attached as Exhibit A to Plaintiff's complaint, charges Plaintiff with fourteen (14) felonies and twenty-eight (28) misdemeanors. (Id.; Doc. No. 1-1 at 2-8.)

         Specifically, the complaint charges Plaintiff with violating 18 Pa. C. S. A. § 3307(a)(2), Institutional Vandalism of a Cemetery or Facility, a felony, with regard to 14 individual graves in the Shamokin Cemetery. The statute provides, in relevant part:

(a) Offenses defined. -A person commits the offense of institutional vandalism if he knowingly desecrates, as defined in section 5509 (relating to desecration or sale of venerated objects), vandalizes, defaces or otherwise damages:
(2) any cemetery, mortuary or any other facility used for the purpose of burial or memorializing the dead . . . .

18 Pa. C. S. A. § 3307. The complaint also charges Plaintiff with desecration of venerated objects and desecration of historic burial lots, both misdemeanors, in violation of 18 Pa. C. S. A. § 5509, with regard to each of 14 individual graves in the Shamokin Cemetery. That statute provides, in relevant part:

         Desecration, theft or sale of venerated objects

         (a) Offense defined. -A person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if he:

(1) Intentionally desecrates any public monument or structure, or place of worship or burial;
(2) Intentionally desecrates any other object of veneration by the public or a substantial segment thereof in any public place; . . .
(a.1) Historic burial lots and burial places. -A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if the person intentionally desecrates a historic burial lot or historic burial place.
(b) Definitions. -As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection:
“Desecrate.” Defacing, damaging, polluting or otherwise physically mistreating in a away that the actor knows will outrage the sensibilities of persons likely to observe or discover the action.

         “Historic burial lot.” An individual burial site within a historic burial place. . . . 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5509. Ultimately, all criminal charges against Plaintiff were withdrawn by the Northumberland County District Attorney on February 21, 2017. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 16.)

         Plaintiff alleges that the criminal complaint filed by Defendant Miner was false and fraudulent, as he maintains that Defendants Miner and Rhodes knew that he had not desecrated any graves at the Shamokin Cemetery, but instead filed criminal charges against him and arrested him in an effort to punish him. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that, in his capacity as Mayor of Shamokin, he advised Defendant Miner that he could not authorize or vote for a pension for him based in part on accumulated sick leave and vacation time, as the Auditor General's office had previously cited the City of Shamokin for including sick time and vacation leave as part of pension awards to previously-retired police officers. (Id. ¶ 12.) Further, as to Defendant Rhodes, Plaintiff alleges that he wanted to “cause the Plaintiff harm for a number of reasons, ” including Plaintiff's vote to lay off Defendant Rhodes in 2004, Defendant Rhodes' wife's relation to Plaintiff's opponent in the upcoming mayoral race in the City of Shamokin, and what Plaintiff describes as a “grudge” held by Defendant Rhodes against Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 13.)

         Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that Defendant knew that he had not taken any action to deface or desecrate any graves at the Shamokin Cemetery, by virtue of Defendant Miner's conversation with Andrew Garancosky, whom Plaintiff alleges told Defendant Miner that he had never observed Plaintiff at the cemetery defacing any graves. (Id. ¶ 19.)

         As part of the criminal complaint lodged against Plaintiff and attached as Exhibit A to his complaint, the Affidavit of Probable Cause (“Affidavit”), pursuant to which Plaintiff was arrested, contains the following statements regarding Defendant Miner's conversation with Mr. Garancosky:

[T]his officer interviewed Andrew Garancoski. Garancoski was the caretaker of the Shamokin Cemetery from 2006-2013. He also served as President from 2008-2013 until he was replaced by the defendant, William Milbrand. Garancoski stated that he also observed several grave sites that had been disturbed and he had concerns regarding grave sites that may have been buried to make room for the cell tower site. He had many more concerns regarding the flow of money through the accounts of the Shamokin Cemetery. While he was President, he requested financial records regarding a trust with M&T Investment Group. Records were forwarded to him but they were intercepted by the secretary and never provided to him. Once other members became aware of his interests in the trust, he was immediately removed from the organization and replaced by Milbrand. He did provide this officer with a M&T Investment Group Asset Summary for the Shamokin Cemetery Company Account #431719202 in the amount of $149, 852.94 as of 09/20/11. That was the only paperwork afforded to him. He stated There is also a checking account held at the First Colombia Bank & Trust 119 ...

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