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Robertson v. Fenico

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 29, 2018

CHRISTIAN FENICO, et al., Defendants.


          Baylson, J.

         I. Introduction

         On June 24, 2011, Plaintiff Malik Robertson was stopped by Philadelphia police officers and arrested after matching the physical description of a shooting suspect provided by three witnesses. In 2016, he filed suit against the police officers who had arrested him, Defendants Christian Fenico and Kathleen Barr, alleging malicious prosecution. For the reasons stated below, the Court hereby GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         II. Background

         The following facts are undisputed. At 10:56 AM on June 24, 2011, Plaintiff was stopped by Defendants near the intersection of 29th and Vare Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in regards to a shooting that had occurred that morning at 2806 Cantrell Street in Philadelphia. (Police Report, ECF 27-2.) There is no dispute that at the time of his arrest, Plaintiff, a 24-year-old 6' 1” black male, was wearing a gray t-shirt with the word “PUMA” and gray shorts. (Id.) (Pl.'s Fact Statement, ECF 31, ¶10.)

         That day, three witnesses identified Plaintiff where he had been stopped by police and provided statements to officers identifying Plaintiff as either having fled the house at 2806 Cantrell Street or having been in the vicinity. (Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 3-8, ECF 27-1; Pl.'s SOF ¶¶ 3-8, ECF 31.)

         In a statement provided to police dated that same day, June 24, 2011 at 12:30, Amoni Jones stated that she had stayed overnight at 2806 Cantrell Street and had been woken up by the sound of gunfire. (Jones Witness Statement at 1, ECF 27-3.) From where she was on the living room floor, she saw three black males whom she had never seen before “come running up from the basement.” (Id.) After seeing her cousin Lekirr Brown bleeding from the face and stomach, and calling a friend, she called the police. (Id.) She described the first of these men as “tall, maybe about 6' 0”, brown skin…wearing a gray shirt with ‘PUMA' written in white and gray shorts. He looked like he might be 21 years old.” (Id. at 2.) Jones stated that when police took her to where “the dark skin male wearing the ‘PUMA' shirt” had been stopped at 29th and Winton, she identified Plaintiff as “one…of the males I saw running from the basement.” (Id.)

         Vanessa Brown, whose sister lived at 2806 Cantrell Street, was also taken to the location where Plaintiff was stopped. (Vanessa Brown Witness Statement at 1, ECF 27-5.) In a statement dated 12:00 PM on June 24, 2011, Vanessa stated that she had seen “three guys walking back and forth” “for a couple of hours” outside 2806 Cantrell Street. She described the first of these men as a 24-26 year-old black man of medium build wearing a gray Puma shirt, grey hat, gray pants. (Id.) According to Vanessa's description, he was clean shaven, 6' tall, and had a dark complexion. (Id.) Although Vanessa did not see the men enter the house because she was at the pharmacy until after police arrived or see any of them with a gun, she observed the men “looking at my sister's house” “when they walked by each time.” (Id.) When police “took [her] ¶ 2800 Winton Street” she “identified all of them.” (Id.)

         Linda Brown gave a statement to police dated 12:58 PM on June 24, 2011, in which she had stayed overnight at 2806 Cantrell Street. (Linda Brown Witness Statement at 1, ECF 27-7.) While sitting on the front steps that morning with her sister Vanessa Brown and her friend Joan, she had seen a black man “wearing all gray” who walked up to the steps of 2806 Cantrell Street and “bought cigarettes from Joan, ” then “walked past [her] house again.” (Id.) Linda Brown left the house at approximately 10:06 AM and went to work, but returned home after being informed of the shooting at her house. (Id. at 1-2.) When police took Linda to “29th & Winton Street, by Vare Avenue, ” Linda “looked at the guy [Plaintiff] and told the Officers that he was the same guy I saw lurking on the corner this morning.” (Id. at 2.) Linda described him as “tall, about 6'0”, dark brown skin, wearing a gray t-shirt and gray shorts…in his early 20's (21-22).” (Id.) She did not see him with anyone else before leaving for work. (Id.)

         All three witnesses identified Plaintiff as the man in the gray PUMA shirt at his preliminary hearing or at his criminal trial. (Prelim. Hearing Tr., ECF 27-4, ECF 27-8; Trial. Tr., ECF 27-6). It is undisputed Plaintiff was acquitted at trial on April 28, 2014. (Am. Compl. ¶ 36, ECF 6.)

         At their depositions, Defendant police officers testified they had received a “flash” description of the suspects while responding to a call about the shooting at 2806 Cantrell Street and observed Plaintiff running away while they were driving to the site of the shooting. (Barr Dep 7:1-8:7; Fenico Dep. 10:23-24, ECF 29.) Defendant Barr, who had placed Plaintiff in handcuffs, testified that another officer who was at the 2806 Cantrell Street house had told her that one of the suspects was wearing a gray Puma shirt. (Barr Dep. 15:20-16:10.) At his deposition, Plaintiff testified that he had not run away from police, but stated that he had been wearing a gray Puma shirt and gray shorts on the day he was arrested. (Robertson Dep. 14:6-16:2, ECF 29.)

         III. Procedural History

         On April 22, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court against Defendants Fenico and Barr, the City of Philadelphia, and approximately two dozen other police officers, alleging RICO violations, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Compl., ECF 1.)

         On June 29, 2016, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (ECF 6), the operative complaint in this litigation, alleging three ...

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