United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
se Plaintiff Antonio Peterson was arrested and
prosecuted for the murder of Robert Bundy. He was found not
guilty of that crime in 2016. Peterson contends in this
lawsuit that he was only charged and prosecuted because
Detective James Pitts concealed video evidence placing
Peterson elsewhere at the time of Bundy's death. Pitts
now moves for summary judgment, arguing that there is no
record evidence to support a malicious prosecution claim
under the Fourth Amendment or any purported claim under the
Fourteenth Amendment. Since Peterson failed to respond to the
Motion, the Court treats it as uncontested and enters
judgment for Pitts for the reasons that follow.
claims arise from his prosecution for Bundy's murder in
the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. On January 17,
2015, Pitts submitted an Affidavit of Probable Cause
summarizing the events of the shooting resulting in
Bundy's death on October 26, 2013. See
(Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J., Ex. D, ECF No.
His Affidavit included the testimony of a witness who
positively identified Peterson from a photo array as the man
“with the half mask, whom Robert Bundy escorted to the
door . . . immediately prior to hearing the gunshots and
seeing Robert Bundy shot.” See (id.,
Ex. D). On January 23, 2015, Peterson was arrested and
charged with Bundy's murder. See Com. v. Antonio
Peterson-Lynn, CP-51-CR-0003901-2015. On May 13, 2016, the
jury returned a verdict of not guilty on the murder charge.
filed this lawsuit on April 20, 2018, alleging that he was
falsely accused and charged with Bundy's murder. (Compl.,
ECF No. 2.) He argued that Pitts “maliciously”
concealed video footage confirming Peterson's alibi and
that Pitts convinced the District Attorney to reopen
previously dismissed drug charges against Peterson so he
could “keep [Peterson] in prison until a later date
when [Peterson's] initial alibi was no longer
available.” (Id. at 3.) On May 29, 2019, Pitts
moved for summary judgment, contending that Peterson could
not satisfy the elements of a malicious prosecution claim
under the Fourth Amendment or any claim under the Fourteenth
Amendment. (Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 19.) On June 27, 2019, the
Court ordered Peterson to respond to Pitts's Motion by
July 22 or it would be treated as uncontested. (ECF No. 20.)
Peterson has not responded to the Motion or otherwise
communicated with the Court and there is consequently no
record evidence to support any of Peterson's allegations.
party fails to respond to a motion, the Court may treat the
motion as uncontested. See E.D. Pa. L. R. Civ. P.
7.1(c). However, the Court “may not grant an
uncontested summary judgment motion without an independent
determination that the movant is entitled to judgment under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.” Hitchens v. County of
Montgomery, 98 Fed. App'x. 106, 110 (3d Cir. 2004).
Yet, “[b]y failing to respond . . . ‘the
nonmoving party waives the right to respond to or to
controvert the facts asserted in the summary judgment
motion.'” Reynolds v. Rick's Mushroom
Serv., 246 F.Supp.2d 449, 453 (E.D. Pa. 2003).
judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue of material
fact and if, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party, the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Smathers v. Multi-Tool,
Inc./Multi-Plastics, Inc. Emp. Health & Welfare
Plan, 298 F.3d 191, 194 (3d Cir. 2002); see
also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material
fact exists where “a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A mere
scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party will
not suffice. Id. at 252. There must be evidence by
which a jury could reasonably find for the non-moving party.
the record, a court “must view the facts in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all inferences
in that party's favor.” Prowel v. Wise Bus.
Forms, 579 F.3d 285, 286 (3d Cir. 2009). A court may
not, however, make credibility determinations or weigh the
evidence in considering motions for summary judgment. See
Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150
(2000); see also Goodman v. Pa. Tpk. Comm'n, 293
F.3d 655, 665 (3d Cir. 2002).
prevail on a § 1983 Fourth Amendment malicious
prosecution claim,  Peterson must establish: (1) Pitts
initiated a criminal proceeding, (2) the proceeding ended in
Peterson's favor, (3) Pitts initiated the proceeding
without probable cause, (4) Pitts acted maliciously or for a
purpose other than bringing Peterson to justice and (5)
Peterson suffered a deprivation of liberty consistent with
the concept of seizure as a consequence of the legal
proceeding. Zimmerman v. Corbett, 873 F.3d 414, 418
(3d Cir. 2017) (citation omitted).
is no record evidence that Pitts initiated Peterson's
criminal proceeding. “[P]rosecutors rather than
police officers are generally responsible for initiating
criminal proceedings.” Brockington v. City of
Phila., 354 F.Supp.2d 563, 569 (E.D. Pa. 2005). However,
“officers who conceal and misrepresent material facts
to the district attorney are not insulated from a § 1983
claim for malicious prosecution simply because the
prosecutor, grand jury, trial court, and appellate court all
act independently to facilitate erroneous convictions.”
Halsey v. Pfeiffer, 750 F.3d 273, 297 (3d Cir.
2014). An officer can be liable for malicious prosecution if
he “fails to disclose exculpatory evidence to
prosecutors, makes false or misleading reports to the
prosecutor, omits material information from the reports, or
otherwise interferes with the prosecutor's ability to
exercise independent judgment in deciding whether to
prosecute.” Thomas v. City of Phila., 290
F.Supp.3d 371, 379 (E.D. Pa. 2018) (quoting Finnemen v.
SEPTA, 267 F.Supp.3d 639 (E.D. Pa. 2017)). There is no
record evidence upon which a reasonable jury could rely to
find that Pitts did any of these things. Peterson has not
established, for example, that Pitts's Affidavit was
false or inaccurate. See Taylor v. City of Phila.,
Civ. No. 96-740, 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4295, at *26 (E.D. Pa.
Apr. 2, 1998) (finding that police officer who presented
evidence to grand jury and prepared the affidavit for the
arrest warrant did not initiate the proceeding because the
record did not show that he “misrepresented or
concealed material information in presenting the case to the
prosecutors”). Although the proceeding ended in
Peterson's favor, there is no evidence that Pitts
concealed anything from the prosecutor or in any way
interfered with the prosecution's judgment in deciding to
prosecute Peterson for Bundy's murder. Thus, nothing in
the record suggests Pitts's misconduct in
“influenc[ing] or participat[ing] in the decision to
institute criminal proceedings.” Halsey, 750
F.3d at 297.