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Arnold v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 19, 2017

CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Stewart Arnold alleges Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations against the City of Philadelphia and several individual police officers based on his 2014 arrest and incarceration until February 2016, when charges against him were dropped. Am. Cplt. (doc. 44) at 12-27. Defendants seek summary judgment (doc. 67), contending all of Arnold's claims must be dismissed based on the undisputed facts. City Br. (doc. 67-1) at 9. I agree that all claims against the City of Philadelphia, Victor Valenzona, and Confidential Informant (“CI”) 01338 must be dismissed.[1] I further dismiss the claims for unlawful search and seizure (Count IV) and assault and battery (Count VIII) against all defendants because Arnold concedes they lack merit. See Pl. Br. (doc. 70) at 10, 18.

         The remaining claims for false arrest/imprisonment and malicious prosecution against Officers Campbell, Eleazer, McKnight, Mouzon, and Towman, however, are not subject to summary judgment. According to the officers, they had probable cause to arrest Arnold when they executed the search warrant, there was no constitutional violation, and they are entitled to qualified immunity. According to Arnold, the officers realized they lacked probable cause to arrest him and intentionally misled prosecutors by completing the investigative report, arrest report, and property receipts with misleading and/or incorrect information. A reasonable jury could credit Arnold's version of events over the officers', precluding a grant of summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         I. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where “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). Disputes are “genuine” if the evidence could support a verdict for the non-moving party, and “material” if they “might affect the outcome of the case.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In determining whether there is a genuine dispute of material fact, the evidence and any inferences from the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Ray v. Warren, 626 F.2d 170, 173 (3d Cir. 2010). If reasonable minds could conclude that there are sufficient facts to support a plaintiff's claims, summary judgment should be denied. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Alternatively, summary judgment should be granted if no “reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, ” based on the evidentiary record. Reedy v. Evanson, 615 F.3d 197, 210 (3d Cir. 2010).

         II. The Facts in the Light Most Favorable to Arnold

         Arnold was hired by Julius Phillips, a childhood friend, to demolish the wall between the dining room and kitchen at 2607 North Hollywood Street beginning on July 9, 2014. Arnold Dep. at 22-23. Phillips agreed to pay Arnold $50 per day for two days, and let Arnold into the property at approximately 8:00 a.m. on July 9. Id. at 24-25, 56. Arnold worked in the back part of an attached living room/dining room area, behind a black drape that was hung to protect the front section of the house from debris. Id. at 23, 29. While he worked, Arnold noted that Amir Crawley, an acquaintance who lived in the area, was “coming and going.” Id. at 26-27. Arnold could hear music playing, but did not know for certain what Crawley was doing, although he knew that Crawley was “not a good kid.” Id. at 29, 31. Arnold let himself out around noon or 1:00 p.m., locking the door's bottom lock behind him. Id. at 24-25, 37.

         Between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. on July 9, Philadelphia police officers McKnight and Mouzon had a CI purchase illegal drugs from someone at 2607 North Hollywood Street, using marked bills. July 10, 2014 Investigative Report, attached as Exhibit D to Pl. Br. (“Inv. Rep.”) at 1. They returned within the hour, this time with Officer Eleazar, to conduct a second controlled buy. Id. Although McKnight now claims he saw Arnold answer the door and let the CI inside during this second purchase, N.T. 7/29/14 at 18; see also McKnight Dep. at 100, 114-15, Arnold denies it, Arnold Dep. at 24.

         Later that day, McKnight prepared a probable cause affidavit to obtain a search warrant for 2607 North Hollywood Street. Search Warrant 181310. According to the affidavit, the first, $20 purchase recovered substances in four green ziplock packets that tested positive for marijuana using field test “E.” Id. The second, $10 purchase was conducted by the same CI, and McKnight attested that he saw an unknown black man let the CI into the property. Id. This second controlled buy recovered two green-tinted Ziplock bags. Id. According to the search warrant, the substance in these bags tested positive for cocaine using field test “G.” Id.

         McKnight also completed two Property Receipts (“PR”) on July 9.[2] PR 34 is consistent with the search warrant affidavit, and describes four green-tinted ziplock bags of marijuana, as confirmed by field test “E.” PR 34. PR 35 is inconsistent with the search warrant affidavit. It describes two green-tinted ziplock bags of marijuana, confirmed by field test “E, ” instead of the cocaine confirmed by field test “G” described in the probable cause affidavit. PR 35. The “from whom taken” box on each receipt is filled out “Confines of the 22nd Dist.” McKnight's search warrant was approved the following day, July 10. Id. at 1. Arnold arrived at 2607 North Hollywood Street that day at 10:00 a.m. Arnold Dep. at 25. Again, he was aware of Crawley at the residence, including during the few minutes it took Arnold to go to a local store, purchase a sandwich for lunch, and return. Id. at 26. Arnold testified he never saw the quarter pound of marijuana, shotgun, and scale later found in the front area of the living room. Id. at 30. While he was eating lunch, Arnold heard a “commotion, ” peeked around the drape, and saw Crawley had run out of the front door. Id. at 28, 61. Afraid that someone was about to get shot, Arnold ran out of the house's back door without seeing anyone enter.[3] Id. at 28, 32.

         Behind 2607 North Hollywood Street, Arnold encountered one plainclothes police officer who identified himself as police. Arnold Dep. at 33. After Arnold surrendered, two uniformed officers joined them. Id. at 33, 57. One uniformed officer, Towman, tackled Arnold, lacerating Arnold's right hand. Am. Cplt. at ¶ 132-33; Arnold Dep. at 35. Arnold was brought to the front of 2607 North Hollywood Street through an adjacent lot, and McKnight asked Arnold for his name, address, and other identifying information. Arnold Dep. at 58. When Arnold told McKnight that 2607 North Hollywood was not his residence, McKnight responded by saying something to the effect of, “That sucks for you.” Id. at 65. Arnold was taken to the hospital, where doctors spent about an hour stitching up his hand. Am. Cplt. at ¶ 134, Arnold Dep. at 36.

         Later on July 10, 2014, McKnight prepared an Investigative Report. He described the controlled buys from July 9 the same way he had in the search warrant, including that the second purchase's product tested positive for cocaine using test “G” and that an “unidentified” black male had opened the door for the CI. Inv. Rep. at 1. Arnold was not identified as the male.

         Further down that same page, however, McKnight described “another black male, ” whom he had “later [identified] as Arnold Steward, ” leaving the property. Id. McKnight included a description of a third controlled buy that took place on July 10 before the search warrant was executed, as well as descriptions of the search warrant execution and arrests. Id.

         According to this Investigative Report, Crawley shut the front door on Officer Campbell as he tried to execute the search warrant and, once police gained entry, they saw Arnold run from the living room towards the back of the house. Id. McKnight was behind the house, and saw Arnold run out of the back of the property and climb over the gate. Id. In searching Arnold, police recovered $97 in unmarked bills and a silver key for 2607 North Hollywood Street. Id.

         In the living room, officers found a shotgun, shotgun shells, one clear baggie with a significant amount of marijuana, one clear baggie containing other clear baggies containing marijuana, and a marijuana grinder and scale. Id. From the second floor bedroom, the officers recovered two scales, one packet of unused green ziplocks, one packet of unused blue ziplocks, and six clear baggies with ...

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