United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
AARON J. BRESSI, Plaintiff,
JEFFERY BRENNEN, et al., Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
F. SAPORITO, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
a federal civil rights action. The pro se plaintiff,
Aaron J. Bressi, seeks damages and injunctive relief against
three police officers with the Coal Township Police
Department. Bressi asserts civil rights claims against all
three defendants arising out of his arrest and criminal
prosecution on multiple occasions over a five-year period. In
addition, he claims that one of these defendants failed to
investigate and bring criminal charges against other
individuals based on Bressi's complaints, and another
defendant threatened to jail Bressi on criminal charges if he
didn't lower the price of a house the officer was
interested in purchasing. On September 26, 2017, the Court
received and filed the plaintiff's complaint, which had
been signed and dated by the plaintiff on September 20, 2017.
(Doc. 1). At the time, Bressi was incarcerated at SCI Coal
Township, located in Northumberland County,
December 18, 2017, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss
this action on various grounds. (Doc. 20). On December 28,
2017, the defendants filed a brief in support of their motion
to dismiss. (Doc. 23). On January 11, 2018, Bressi filed a
brief in opposition to the motion. (Doc. 24). On January 24,
2018, the defendants filed a reply brief. (Doc. 25).
part, the pro se plaintiff has filed three separate,
perfunctory motions for summary judgment (Doc. 27; Doc. 37;
Doc. 38), none of which was accompanied by a statement of
material facts, which is required under the local rules.
See L.R. 56.1. He has filed a brief in support of
only one of these three motions for summary judgment (Doc.
35), despite a local rule requiring all such motions to be
supported by a brief in support. See L.R. 7.5. The
defendants have filed two briefs in opposition to the
plaintiff's summary judgment motions. (Doc. 28; Doc. 39).
motions are now ripe for disposition.
claims concern a series of interactions with officers of the
Coal Township Police Department, which occurred over a
five-year period between November 2011 and September 2016.
first encounter concerns Bressi's November 2011 arrest by
Officer Edward Purcell, one of the three defendants in this
action. On November 24, 2011, Purcell arrested Bressi and
swore out a criminal complaint charging him with simple
assault, a misdemeanor, and harassment, a summary offense.
Bressi was arraigned that same day and released on $10, 000
unsecured bail. A preliminary hearing was held before a state
magisterial district judge on July 3, 2012. A criminal
information was filed by the county prosecutor on August 2,
2012. All charges were nolle prossed pursuant to a plea
agreement on December 26, 2012. Bressi alleges that these charges
were based on false statements by the brother of the mother
of Bressi's children.
second encounter concerns Bressi's May 2013 arrest by
Officer Purcell and Officer Jeffrey Brennan, the second of
three defendants in this action. On May 17, 2013, Purcell and
Brennan arrested Bressi and Brennan swore out a criminal
complaint charging him with terroristic threats, a felony,
and disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. On May 21, 2013,
Bressi was arraigned and released on $5, 000 unsecured bail.
A preliminary hearing was held before a state magisterial
district judge on July 16, 2013. That same day, Bressi
pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to
twelve months on probation. The felony terroristic threats
charge was withdrawn. On August 23, 2013, a revocation
petition was filed for violation(s) of the terms of
Bressi's probation. On October 10, 2013, Bressi's
probation was revoked by a common pleas judge and he was
sentenced to serve an additional twelve months on
probation. Bressi alleges that these charges were
based on false statements by non-party Vinny Clausi,
Bressi's former employer and a county commissioner at the
third, fourth, and fifth encounters occurred within the space
of a few days in August 2015. An incident on August 17, 2015,
formed the basis for an August 20, 2015, criminal complaint
by Officer Christopher Lapotsky, the third of three
defendants in this action. Officer Lapotsky charged Bressi
with indecent exposure, a misdemeanor, and the summary
offenses of harassment and disorderly conduct. Bressi was
arraigned on August 20, 2015, and released on $5, 000
unsecured bail. An incident on August 20, 2015, formed the
basis for two August 25, 2015, non-traffic citations by
non-party Officer William J. Carpenter. Officer Carpenter
charged Bressi with the summary offenses of harassment and
public drunkenness. An incident on August 21, 2015, formed the
basis for a criminal complaint filed that same day by Officer
Brennan, charging Bressi with stalking, a misdemeanor
offense. Bressi was arraigned that same day and bail of $15,
000 was imposed. Bressi was unable to post bail at that
appeared before a state magisterial district judge on
September 8, 2015, for a preliminary hearing on the two
misdemeanor cases (concerning the August 17 and 21
incidents), and for disposition of the two summary cases
(concerning the August 20 incident). On October 9, 2015, the
county prosecutor filed a criminal information in each of the
misdemeanor cases. On December 11, 2015, Bressi posted bail
and was released pending trial.
September 29, 2016, Bressi pleaded guilty to misdemeanor
harassment in connection with the August 17, 2015, incident,
and to misdemeanor simple assault in connection with the
August 21, 2015, incident. All other charges were nolle
prossed in exchange. The common pleas court immediately
sentenced Bressi to two consecutive terms of twelve months on
probation. Notwithstanding his guilty plea, Bressi
appealed his conviction and sentence, which was affirmed by
the Superior Court of Pennsylvania on October 25,
alleges that Brennan filed all three sets of charges in
August 2015, despite being away on vacation at the time of
the incidents. Bressi appears to imply that the charges are
fabricated or otherwise defective as a result.
sixth encounter occurred in June 2016. Bressi alleges that
Officer Lapotsky and his sister came to look at a house
Bressi had for sale. Bressi alleges that Lapotsky threatened
to “make sure I go to jail and lose my home” if
he didn't knock $10, 000 off the price for her.
seventh encounter involved a three-month period-June, July,
and August 2016-during which Bressi was allegedly harassed
and abused by the mother of his children and her
then-boyfriend. Bressi alleges that he called the police and
stopped by the police station to report this harassment, but
Officers Brennan and Purcell refused to investigate or charge
Bressi's alleged harassers.
eighth encounter concerns a vehicular collision between
Bressi and the mother of his children on September 30, 2016.
Bressi alleges that she backed into his car two times at two
different locations, and that he called 911 more than seven
times over a 90-minute period. But instead of her being
prosecuted, Bressi alleges that Officer Purcell and
unidentified probation officers turned up at Bressi's
home, handcuffed him and took him under arrest to the Coal
Township police station. Bressi alleges that, at the police
station, Officer Brennan placed him in a holding cell, told
Officer Lapotsky what charges to put on the arrest paperwork,
and then “harassed” Bressi the whole time he was
there. Later, when it was time to transport Bressi to the
Snyder County Prison,  Bressi alleges that Officer Brennan
“grabbed me by my neck and threatened me and my future
with my children.” Bressi alleges that Officers Purcell
and Brennan then transported him to Snyder County Prison,
“threaten[ing] me and harass[ing] me the whole
September 30, 2016, Officer Lapotsky swore out a criminal
complaint charging Bressi with felony aggravated assault and
a variety of related misdemeanor and summary offenses. Bressi
was arraigned that same day and bail was set at $50, 000,
which Bressi was unable to post. On November 22, 2016, a
preliminary hearing was held before a state magisterial
district judge. On December 16, 2016, a criminal information
was filed by the county prosecutor. On October 27, 2017,
following a jury trial, Bressi was found guilty of felony
aggravated assault, two counts of misdemeanor terroristic
threats, and other misdemeanor and summary offenses. On
November 20, 2017, Bressi was sentenced to serve an aggregate
term of four to eight years in prison. Bressi has filed an
appeal, which remains pending before the Superior Court of
September 20, 2017, Bressi constructively filed this federal
civil rights action seeking $1 million in damages from the
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes a
defendant to move to dismiss for “failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). “Under Rule 12(b)(6), a motion to dismiss may
be granted only if, accepting all well-pleaded allegations in
the complaint as true and viewing them in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff, a court finds the plaintiff's
claims lack facial plausibility.” Warren Gen. Hosp.
v. Amgen Inc., 643 F.3d 77, 84 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56
(2007)). Although the Court must accept the fact allegations
in the complaint as true, it is not compelled to accept
“unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences, or
a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.”
Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160, 165 (3d Cir. 2013)
(quoting Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d
Rule 12(b)(6), the defendant has the burden of showing that
no claim has been stated. Kehr Packages, Inc. v.
Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991);
Johnsrud v. Carter, 620 F.2d 29, 32-33 (3d Cir.
1980); Holocheck v. Luzerne County Head Start, Inc.,
385 F.Supp.2d 491, 495 (M.D. Pa. 2005). Although a plaintiff
is entitled to notice and an opportunity to respond to a
motion to dismiss, he has no obligation to do so-he may opt
to stand on the pleadings rather than file an opposition. The
Court must nevertheless examine the complaint and determine
whether it states a claim as a matter of law. Stackhouse
v. Mazurkiewicz, 951 F.2d 29, 30 (3d Cir. 1991);
Anchorage Assocs. v. Virgin Islands Bd. of Tax
Review, 922 F.2d 168, 174 (3d Cir. 1990). In deciding
the motion, the Court may consider the facts alleged on the
face of the complaint, as well as “documents
incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of
which a court may take judicial notice.” Tellabs,
Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308,
defendants have moved for dismissal of Bressi's claims on
multiple grounds. For the reasons set forth below, we agree
that all of the plaintiff's claims should be dismissed
for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
November 2011 and May 2013 Arrests
alleges that his November 2011 arrest and related criminal
proceedings were based on false charges by the brother of the
mother of his children. Bressi similarly alleges that his May
2013 arrest and related criminal proceedings were based on
false charges by his former employer, non-party Vinny Clausi.
Although the nature of Bressi's claims concerning these
arrests-e.g., false arrest, false imprisonment, or malicious
prosecution-is not entirely clear from the allegations of the
complaint, any claims Bressi could bring that arise out of
these arrests and the related criminal charges are barred by
the applicable statute of limitation.
civil rights claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
are subject to Pennsylvania's two-year statute of
limitations applicable to personal injury actions.
Bougher v. Univ. of Pittsburgh, 882 F.2d 74, 78-79
(3d Cir. 1989); see also 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann.
§ 5524. Although the running of a statute of limitations
is an affirmative defense, which generally must be raised by
way of answer to the complaint, see Fed. R. Civ. P.
8(c), where that defense is obvious from the face of the
complaint and no development of the record is necessary, a
court may dismiss a time-barred complaint for failure to
state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). See Robinson v.
Johnson, 313 F.3d 128, 135 & n.3 (3d Cir. 2002);
Chester v. Beard, 647 F.Supp.2d 534, 540 (M.D. Pa.
2009); see also Collins v. Village of Palatine, 875
F.3d 839, 842 (7th Cir. 2017) (“Although the statute of
limitations is an affirmative defense, dismissal under Rule
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is
appropriate if the complaint contains everything necessary to
establish that the claim is untimely. Moreover, judicial
notice of public court documents is appropriate when ruling
on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.”) (citations
the first arrest at issue occurred in November 2011, and the
ensuing criminal proceedings were completed in December 2012.
The second arrest occurred in May 2013, and the ensuing
criminal proceedings were completed in October 2013. The
complaint in this action was filed in September 2017, well
more than two years after the last possible date of accrual
for claims arising out of either of these arrests or the
related criminal proceedings.
it is recommended that all claims concerning the
plaintiff's November 2011 and May 2013 arrests and
related criminal proceedings be dismissed for failure to
state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of
August 2015 Arrests
it is not entirely clear from the allegations of the
complaint, Bressi appears to claim that the several criminal
charges and proceedings initiated in August 2015 were
fabricated by or at the behest of Officer Brennan.
August 20 Incident
extent Bressi asserts any claims arising out of the August 20
incident that formed the basis of non-traffic citations
issued by non-party Officer Carpenter, charging Bressi with
the summary offenses of harassment and public drunkenness,
these claims are clearly time-barred. The incident giving
rise to these two summary cases occurred on August 20, 2015.
The summary proceedings were completed on September 8, 2015.
Bressi did not appeal. The complaint in this action was
constructively filed when Bressi presented it to prison
officials for mailing on September 20, 2017, more than two
it is recommended that any claims concerning the August 2015
citations by Officer Carpenter-arising out of an incident
that occurred on August 20, 2015-and the related summary
offense proceedings be dismissed for failure to ...