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Quintana v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 30, 2018

NOEL QUINTANA a/k/a CHRISTOPHER SANDLE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          GERALD J. PAPPERT, JUDGE

         Noel Quintana sued the City of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and eighteen individuals including officers, detectives and assistant district attorneys, after being prosecuted and acquitted of attempted rape and related offenses. Following the Court's July 21, 2017 Memorandum Opinion dismissing a number of parties and claims, some with leave to amend, the Court now considers Defendants' motions to dismiss Quintana's Third Amended Complaint. With this fourth and final iteration of his allegations, Quintana asserts claims for malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Pennsylvania law, conspiracy under § 1983, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotion distress under state law. The Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' Motions for the reasons that follow.

         I[1]

         A

         In November of 2010, the Philadelphia Police Department's Special Victims and Homicide units were investigating a string of rapes and murders that occurred in Kensington. (Third Am. Compl. ¶¶ 36, 37, 54, ECF No. 37.) The police believed that one unidentified suspect, dubbed the “Kensington Strangler, ” had committed these horrific crimes against at least three women. (Id. at ¶¶ 37, 54.)

         Against this backdrop, on November 28, 2010 at approximately 10:45 p.m., Rachel Patterson was attacked on the 1900 block of Backius Street in Kensington, which was near her home at the time. (Id. at ¶¶ 38, 63.) Patterson, a prostitute under the influence of crack cocaine, entered a vacant lot to engage in sexual conduct, whereupon the male she was with forcibly grabbed her and put what she believed to be a knife or box cutter to her neck. (Id. at ¶¶ 38, 50-51.) Patterson screamed, after which her attacker attempted to choke her. (Id. at ¶ 38.) She fought back and screamed again, causing her attacker to flee. (Id.) At 10:47 p.m., Officers John Cole and Timothy Miller responded to a radio call reporting Patterson's assault. (Id. at ¶ 39.) Cole and Miller took Patterson's initial report and relayed information about the attacker over police radio. (Id.) Her attacker was described as a light-skinned, skinny male, 5'8” to 5'11”, about 180 to 200 pounds, in a black hat and gray hoodie. (Id. at ¶ 40.)

         Approximately fifteen minutes later, Quintana was walking on the 2000 block of Wheatsheaf Lane (about a mile away from 1900 Backius) when Officers Jeffrey Schmidt and Sean Matrascez stopped him. (Id. at ¶ 41.) Quintana, a 5'5” to 5'6”, approximately 154 pound Puerto Rican male, dressed in a gray hoodie, dark jeans and a black and yellow jacket with a closely shaved goatee, provided the officers with his identification and thereafter was permitted to leave. (Id. at ¶¶ 42-44, 92.) Later, after further discussion with Patterson, Officers Cole and Miller provided updated information on Patterson's attacker over police radio. (Id. at ¶¶ 43-44.) The suspect was further described as wearing dark jeans with a black and yellow jacket and a goatee. (Id.)

         Patterson was taken to the Special Victims Unit where she met with Detective Michael McGoldrick who took her statement around midnight. (Id. at ¶¶ 47-48.) She described her assailant as a 35-year-old, 5'11” Puerto Rican male with light skin, a medium build and a goatee, wearing dark jeans, a gray hoodie and a black and yellow jacket.[2] (Id. at ¶ 48.) She said that he never sexually touched her nor tried to remove any of her clothing. (Id. at ¶ 49, 52.) She stated that she did not see a knife or a box cutter, but that she felt the blade against her neck. (Id. at ¶ 50.) McGoldrick informed Homicide of Patterson's attack, believing the perpetrator to be the Kensington Strangler. (Id. at ¶¶ 55, 102.) At no point was Patterson asked by responding or investigating officers whether she was under the influence of any substance. (Id. at ¶ 51.)

         The next morning at approximately 11:30 a.m., homicide Detective Phillip Nordo, [3] who was working the Kensington Strangler investigation, interviewed Patterson. (Id. at ¶ 59.) The pair drove around Kensington so that Patterson could identify the location of her attack. (Id. at ¶ 61.) Nordo then showed her various photo arrays using an imaging machine in an attempt to have her identify her attacker. (Id. at ¶¶ 59, 64.) When she was unable to do so, Nordo separately showed Patterson Quintana's picture, as Homicide had by now tied Quintana's pedestrian stop to the Kensington Strangler investigation. (Id. at ¶¶ 58, 65, 67.) Apparently unable to obtain and show Quintana's picture with the imaging machine, Nordo pulled up Quintana's driver's license picture and Patterson positively identified Quintana as her assailant. (Id. at ¶¶ 66, 67.) Detective Crystal Williams contacted McGoldrick at approximately 12:30 p.m. to inform him of the positive identification. (Id. at ¶ 71.) Quintana does not allege any additional details about the process used by Detective Nordo, nor whether McGoldrick was provided with any information about the procedure used.

         At that point, the police believed Quintana to be the Kensington Strangler and accordingly distributed his information online, including allegedly posting a picture of Quintana as the Kensington Strangler. (Id. at ¶¶ 68, 69, 73.) That day, Detective Nordo, with approval from Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Mitrick, prepared an affidavit of probable cause[4] and Quintana was arrested. (Id. at ¶¶ 70, 74, 83.) While Quintana was apparently told he was being brought in “solely for questioning, ” he believes he was arrested for the Kensington Strangler murders. (Id. at ¶¶ 75, 77.) He was handcuffed, photographed, fingerprinted, strip searched, shown pictures of the Kensington Strangler murder victims and repeatedly questioned about the murders. (Id. at ¶¶ 74-76, 78, 96.) Patterson's assault was allegedly never discussed. (Id. at ¶ 77.)

         Quintana asserts that at some point after being taken into custody as the Kensington Strangler, Defendants “knew that they had arrested the wrong person.” (Id. at ¶ 79.) He believes he was then arrested for Patterson's assault in an attempt to cover up the false arrest and justify his retention in custody. (Id.) Quintana alleges that Detectives Nordo, Williams and James Bamberski[5] provided Patterson with his “description and particulars” and showed her his picture.[6] (Id. at ¶ 82.) Patterson then returned to SVU at approximately 3:30 a.m. on November 30 to meet with McGoldrick. (Id. at ¶ 84.) He showed her a photo spread that included a photo of Quintana along with seven other pictures. (Id., Ex B.) Patterson again positively identified Quintana as her attacker. (Id.; Third Am. Compl. ¶ 84.)

         McGoldrick drafted an affidavit of probable cause, which Quintana attached as Exhibit B to his pleading. (See Third Am. Compl., Ex. B.) The affidavit recounts Patterson's statement, indicates that Officers Schmidt and Matrascez stopped Quintana, a male fitting Patterson's description of her assailant, shortly after the attack and finally states that Patterson positively identified Quintana from a photo array conducted by McGoldrick. (Id.) Based on this information, Lieutenant Anthony Mirabella[7] and Sergeant John Morton approved Quintana's arrest for Patterson's attack and a warrant was obtained at approximately 7:50 p.m., although Quintana was already in custody by then. (Id. at ¶¶ 85-87.)

         Quintana was arrested and charged under the alias Christopher Sandle. (See Third Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 83.) He was preliminarily arraigned on December 1, 2010. See Docket, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Christopher Sandle, No. CP-51-CR-0003448-2011 (Phila. Cty. Ct. of Common Pleas Sept. 30, 2014). The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Docket lists nine charges: attempted murder, aggravated assault, attempted rape by forcible compulsion, attempted sexual assault, unlawful restraint/serious bodily injury, possession of instrument of crime, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and false imprisonment. (Id.) The offense date for each offense was November 28, 2010. (Id.) Quintana remained incarcerated on a state court detainer until he was acquitted on all charges related to Patterson's assault on September 30, 2014 and he was finally released on October 8, 2014. (Third Am. Compl. ¶¶ 97, 105, 115-16, 137.)

         Quintana contends, although his docket does not so reflect, that he was charged with the three Kensington Strangler murders. (Id. at ¶¶ 96, 103.) He asserts that the magistrate judge told him that “he was going to be charged with three counts of murder, ” in addition to other charges. (Id. at ¶ 103.) Quintana claims that he was not informed that his charges had been changed from murder to attempted murder until February 23, 2011. (Id. at ¶ 110.) At no point in time was Quintana prosecuted for murder. (Id. at ¶¶ 99, 104.) Further, at Quintana's formal arraignment on March 24, 2011, the attempted murder charge was dismissed for lack of evidence. See Docket, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Christopher Sandle, No. CP-51-CR-0003448-2011 (Phila. Cty. Ct. of Common Pleas Sept. 30, 2014).

         Shortly after Quintana's arrest and arraignment, in January 2011, the Philadelphia Police Department identified through DNA testing Antonio Rodriguez as the Kensington Strangler. (Third Am. Compl. ¶¶ 107, 109.) Rodriguez was arrested, charged and successfully prosecuted for the three murders. (Id. at ¶ 107.)

         B

         Quintana originally filed suit in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas alleging various claims, including false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.) The case was removed to federal court and Defendants filed motions to dismiss. (Id.) After Quintana amended his complaint, Defendants again filed motions to dismiss which the Court granted on July 21, 2017. (ECF Nos. 14, 15.) The Court dismissed Quintana's false arrest and false imprisonment claims with prejudice because they were barred by the applicable statute of limitations but granted Quintana leave to amend various claims, including that for malicious prosecution. (ECF Nos. 14, 15.) Quintana accordingly filed a Second Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 22). Quintana then sought and received leave to file a Third Amended Complaint. (ECF Nos. 30, 36.) Prior to filing the Third Amended Complaint, however, Quintana voluntarily withdrew all claims against the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and its employees. (ECF No. 35.)

         Quintana now asserts claims for conspiracy and malicious prosecution against the City of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and thirteen individual officers and detectives. (ECF No. 37.) Count I attempts to state a malicious prosecution claim under § 1983 and the Fourth Amendment against all defendants; Count II asserts a conspiracy claim under § 1983 and the Fourth Amendment against all defendants; Count III alleges a Monell claim against the City of Philadelphia and Police Commissioner Richard Ross; Count VI is for malicious prosecution under Pennsylvania law against all defendants; and finally, Count VII is for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, also under state law, against all defendants.[8] (Id.)

         Quintana alleges that he was falsely charged and maliciously prosecuted without probable cause for Patterson's attack. (Id. at ¶¶ 79, 91, 94.) He contends that he did not meet Patterson's description of her assailant and that the investigating officers “disregarded” differences between him and the person Patterson described. (Id. at ¶¶ 92, 93, 136.) He asserts that his arrest and prosecution for Patterson's assault was an attempt to cover up his false arrest as the Kensington Strangler and was motivated by his race. (Id. at ¶¶ 91, 134.) Further, he contends that the Defendants ignored “ample evidence” supplied to them by Quintana's defense attorney that exonerated him, but fails to elaborate on any such evidence. (Id. at ¶¶ 123-26.) Defendants also allegedly conspired to “impede the true course of ...


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