United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
Cynthia Reed Eddy, United States Magistrate Judge
before the Court are cross motions for summary judgment. For
the reasons stated herein, the Defendants' motion will be
granted and Plaintiff's will be denied.
Procedural and Factual Background
Clifford Joseph Karolski, proceeding pro se and
currently confined at SCI-Camp Hill based on an unrelated
incident, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
claiming that his federal rights were violated by the
Defendants when he was falsely charged with numerous counts
of arson, notwithstanding his alibi, and was incarcerated for
approximately one month until his charges were dismissed by a
magistrate at his preliminary hearing.
second amended complaint was filed on January 27, 2017. (ECF
No. 43). On April 4, 2017 the Court dismissed defendant City
of Aliquippa from this case with prejudice (ECF No. 49),
leaving as defendants Couch, Davis, and Roberts. The
remaining claims are: wrongful arrest, malicious prosecution
and false imprisonment. Discovery ended on July 21, 2017.
(ECF No. 59).
September 5, 2017, Defendants filed their motion for summary
judgment with brief in support, as well as concise statement
of material facts and an appendix. (ECF Nos. 65, 66, 67, 68).
Plaintiff filed his motion for summary judgment on September
13, 2017, with exhibits attached thereto (ECF Nos. 70, 71),
although he did not file a concise statement of material
facts, in derogation of the local rule and our order to do
so. (ECF No. 50, citing L.R. 56). Plaintiff also filed a
response to the Defendants' motion for summary judgment
on September 29, 2017. (ECF No. 71). Defendants filed a brief
in opposition to Plaintiff's motion on February 12, 2018.
(ECF No. 73). Thus, the matter has been fully briefed and is
ripe for disposition.
otherwise stated, the following facts are not in dispute.
Plaintiff's claims arise out of his arrest on November 8,
2013 and subsequent prosecution on arson related criminal
charges arising out of a fire on August 29, 2013 at his house
in Aliquippa, Beaver County, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania
State Police investigated the cause and origin of the fire
and determined that the fire originated inside the house, was
deliberately set, and found its cause to be
“incendiary.” Defendant Detective Steven Roberts
investigated the arson on behalf of the city of Aliquippa,
and after his two-month long investigation, he filed an
Affidavit of Probable Cause and Criminal Complaint
(“the Affidavit”) charging Plaintiff with
offenses including arson, recklessly endangering death and
injury and arson/collect insurance, 18 Pa. C.S.A.§
3301(a)(i) and 3301(c)(3). A magisterial district judge
issued a warrant for plaintiff's arrest and Plaintiff was
arrested and detained on November 8, 2018 pursuant to that
warrant. Following a preliminary hearing on December 12,
2013, the magisterial district judge dismissed all charges.
affidavit of probable cause is contained in the record herein
as Exhibit 11 to Defendants' motion. (ECF No. 65-11 at
7). Defendant Roberts, then-detective, was the affiant.
Roberts has also filed with the court a declaration (ECF No.
65-1), which provides a summary of the Affidavit, as well as
was the Aliquippa's only detective in 2013. He
investigated the suspected arson at 2023 McLean Street,
Aliquippa, Beaver County, Pennsylvania on August 29, 2013.
The house was vacant and nearly empty of all contents. The
fire's origin was in the interior of the house in the
dining room area. All utilities were off at the time of the
fire. The Aliquippa Fire Department determined that the fire
was suspicious, and called for investigative help from the
Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal, which also confirmed
the fire was suspicious in nature. The laboratory test
results for “ignitable liquids” on items
collected from the fire scene came back negative. The
Affidavit did not state this. The Affidavit accurately states
that the State Police investigator concluded that despite the
negative results for ignitable liquids, it was intentionally
caused by means of an “accelerant.” The fire was
classified as "incendiary, " i.e. intentionally
August 29, 2013, Plaintiff came into the Aliquippa police
station and informed Defendant (then-Assistant Chief) Couch
that he had worked from 2:15 p.m. until 11:45 p.m. on August
28, 2013, but that he would not make any statements regarding
the fire. The next day Detective Roberts interviewed
Plaintiff's wife, Delina D'Arcangelo. She informed
him she had had the locks changed on the house at 2023 McLean
after she obtained a protection from abuse order against K
arolski which required him to move out of the house. She had
had new dead bolt locks installed on the front and rear
doors. She had moved out of the house in mid-July, 2013 due
to the utilities being shut off. When she moved out she gave
her keys to the house to her in-laws. Plaintiff lived with
his parents and Ms. D'arcangelo thought he would have
access to the keys. She had not made any extra copies of the
keys to the house while living there due to her fears that an
extra key would somehow come into the possession of
their Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, Defendants
concede there were multiple keys to the house. (ECF No. 67 at
¶ 30, citing the Amended complaint, ECF No. 43 at p.2).
There is no dispute that Plaintiff had a key to the house. He
had been seen removing items from the house after Ms.
D'Arcangelo moved out of the house.
Beaver County Real Estate records and a mortgage settlement
agreement provided to Roberts by Ms. D'Arcangelo, Roberts
learned that the sole owner of the house at 2023 McLean
Street was Plaintiff. Roberts also confirmed that the
electricity at the house had been shut off prior to the fire
due to non-payment. Furthermore, Roberts learned Plaintiff
was behind in his mortgage payments; Chase Bank was in the
process of taking action against him. Ms. D'Arcangelo
told Roberts that while living at 2023 McLean she had
received several letters from Chase Bank addressed to
Plaintiff sent by certified mail. Roberts searched court
records and learned that civil actions had been filed at the
magistrate level for unpaid debts, suggesting that Plaintiff
was having financial difficulties.
August 31, 2013, Roberts was contacted by James Thomas of
Travelers Insurance Company, which insured the property,
advising it was conducting an "origin and cause"
investigation. Travelers further advised Roberts Plaintiff
had made a claim for the fire loss. On September 17, 2013
Roberts spoke with James Thomas, investigator for Travelers
Insurance. He informed Roberts that Plaintiff provided an
alibi that he was at the Rivers Casino and that M s .
D'Arcangelo was also listed as an insured on their
to the Affidavit, after speaking with the Travelers
Investigator, Roberts spoke with Ms. D'Arcangelo to
inquire why she had not told him she was also listed on the
insurance policy. She informed Roberts that she did not know
that she was on the policy until Travelers contacted her
about the claim. She learned this information after her last
conversation with Roberts. According to Plaintiff, he had
told the police that his wife was not listed on the policy;
he had owned the house prior to their marriage.
attorney James Villanova advised that his client would not
provide a statement and that surveillance videotapes would
show Plaintiff was at the Rivers Casino at the time relevant
to the fire. Roberts contacted the Rivers Casino to determine
whether their records would provide an alibi for Plaintiff.
Rivers Casino explained that through Plaintiff's
Player's Club Card and their video surveillance they were
able to establish that he arrived at the Casino at 1:48 a.m.
on August 29, 2013, played one machine, and then left the
Casino at 2:08 a.m., twenty ...