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Mickell v. Geroulo

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 10, 2019

JOHNNIE MICKELL, Plaintiff,
v.
JUDGE VITO P. GEROULO, et al., Defendants.

          CAPUTO, J.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOSEPH F. SAPORITO, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This federal civil rights action was commenced on August 6, 2018, when the pro se plaintiff, Johnnie Mickell, filed the complaint with the Clerk of Court. (Doc. 1.) Mickell has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this action.

         I. Background

         On August 6, 2018, Mickell filed his hand-written complaint in this action. (Doc. 1.) The complaint asserts a claim for damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the following defendants: (a) Hon. Vito P. Geroulo, a judge with the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas; (b) Hon. Margaret B. Moyle, a judge with the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas; (c) Kathy Kacier, an employee with the Clerk's Office for the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas; (d) Brian Williams, a probation officer with the Lackawanna County Adult Probation / Parole Office; (e) Shane P. Scanlon, Jr., the former District Attorney for Lackawanna County; (f) Daniel B. Lipson, a public defender who had been appointed to represent Mickell; (g) Timothy Betti, Warden of Lackawanna County Prison; (h) David Langan, Deputy Warden of Lackawanna County Prison; and (i) Lori Davis, a counselor at Lackawanna County Prison.

         Although it is somewhat difficult to follow, the complaint appears to allege that Mickell was falsely imprisoned on multiple occasions in connection with a June 4, 2015, citation for driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance (“DUI”). See Commonwealth v. Mickell, Docket No. CP-35-CR-0002414-2015 (Lackawanna Cty. (Pa.) C.C.P.);[1] see also Commonwealth v. Mickell, Docket No. MJ-45106-CR-0000555-2015 (Lackawanna Cty. (Pa.) Magis. Dist. Ct.). Mickell alleges that an unidentified Scranton police officer issued him a DUI citation on June 4, 2015. While he was still awaiting receipt of a summons for that offense, a Scranton police officer[2] arrested and charged Mickell with two counts of public drunkenness. Mickell remained incarcerated in pretrial detention at Lackawanna County Prison until November 19, 2015, when he alleges that a state magisterial district judge, Hon. Sean P. McGraw, heard and disposed of his June 4, 2015, DUI citation, finding him guilty and sentencing him to serve up to six months in jail, to participate in a drug treatment program, to wear a SCRAM bracelet for 90 days, [3] to have his driver's license suspended for 18 months, and to pay a $375 fine.

         On February 18, 2016, Mickell commenced an earlier federal civil rights action by filing a complaint alleging that he had been illegally incarcerated for 64 days for two counts of public drunkenness. See generally Mickell v. Police Dept. of Scranton, Civil Action No. 3:16-cv-00291, 2017 WL 4532160 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 10, 2017) (recommending dismissal for failure to state a claim based on the favorable termination rule enunciated in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994)), report and recommendation adopted by 2017 WL 4516748 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 10, 2017); see also Mickell v. Weaver, 748 Fed.Appx. 485 (3d Cir. 2019) (per curiam) (affirming denial of motion for reconsideration in the same case).[4]

         The complaint alleges that, on March 9, 2016, Judge Geroulo and other unspecified defendants conspired to issue a bench warrant for Mickell's arrest for failure to appear for a second sentencing hearing in his DUI case, notwithstanding the (alleged) fact that he previously had been sentenced on November 19, 2018, and his six-month sentence had already expired. The complaint alleges that this bench warrant and the “resentencing” were undertaken in retaliation against Mickell for filing his previous federal civil rights action in February 2016. The complaint further alleges that, on March 11, 2016, Judge Geroulo conspired with Scanlon (the prosecutor) and Lipson (Mickell's court-appointed public defender) to compel Mickell to accept a plea agreement under which he would plead guilty to the DUI charge and a second charge of reckless endangerment not previously charged.

         The complaint alleges that, on July 18, 2016, Judge Geroulo issued another bench warrant for Mickell's failure to appear for a June 8, 2016 sentencing hearing. On August 11, 2016, Mickell was allegedly sentenced to time-served and up to six months of probation for the DUI charge, plus a consecutive sentence of another three months of probation for the reckless endangerment charge. The complaint further alleges that Judge Geroulo, in conspiracy with Scanlon and Lipson, imposed a fine of $750 and suspended Mickell's driver's license for 12 months.

         The complaint alleges that, on or about March 7, 2017, Judge Moyle conspired with the other defendants to once again revoke Mickell's probation and reimpose it for an additional term of three months (through June 7, 2017), despite the alleged illegality of Judge Geroulo's sentence in the first instance.

         The complaint alleges that, on June 8, 2017, Kacier and other, unspecified defendants conspired to falsely imprison Mickell for another calendar day based on an allegedly falsified bench warrant detainer, refusing to permit him to be released until he agreed to a payment plan for an outstanding balance owed of $8, 000 in fines and court costs.

         The complaint also appears to seek to hold Davis and Williams liable because they allegedly knew that Mickell was falsely imprisoned but failed to act. The complaint does not contain allegations of any conduct whatsoever by defendants Betti and Langan.

         Based on publicly available state court records, [5] we have ascertained the following additional facts pertinent to our disposition of the pending motions-

         On September 29, 2015, a criminal complaint was filed, charging Mickell with the misdemeanor of driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, along with the summary offenses of causing accidental damage to an unattended vehicle or property and driving on a suspended license with a blood alcohol content (“BAC”) of .02% or greater. Commonwealth v. Mickell, Docket No. MJ-45106-CR-0000555-2015 (Lackawanna Cty. Magis. Dist. Ct.). The criminal complaint was based on an incident report filed with the Scranton City Police, and it alleged an offense date of June 4, 2015. Id. On November 12, 2015, a preliminary arraignment was held before a state magisterial district judge, Hon. Sean P. ...


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