United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
RODNEY HANDY, JR.
LEELONI PALMIERO, et al.
R. Sánchez, C.J.
23, 2015, Plaintiff Rodney Handy, Jr. was shot outside the
Pasa La Hookah nightclub in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Handy
alleges that, rather than search for the real shooter,
Defendants, Detective John Palmiero and Sergeant Ubirajara
Baldomero of the Philadelphia Police Department (the
Department), targeted him as a suspect in retaliation for a
prior lawsuit he filed against the Department. The campaign
against Handy allegedly reached its zenith when Defendants
searched Handy's home, purportedly in violation of his
Fourth Amendment rights, and smeared him in the Philadelphia
Daily News, purportedly in violation of state law. Before the
Court are Defendants' motion for summary judgment
(Document 23) and Handy's motions to strike
Defendants' Answer to his Amended Complaint (Document 24)
and Defendants' opposition to Handy's motions to
strike (Document 25). The Court will grant summary judgment
in Defendants' favor because they are entitled to
qualified immunity, and the Court lacks supplemental
jurisdiction to consider Handy's state claims. Moreover,
in light of the Court's decision on the merits, the Court
will dismiss Handy's motions to strike as moot.
events at issue took place in late May, 2015. At around 6:25
a.m. on the morning of May 23, 2015, Plaintiff Rodney Handy,
Jr. was discovered by police hiding in his white Toyota
Avalon near the Pasa La Hookah nightclub in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, see Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. I at 44:2,
119:13-15, with blood on his face and streaked down the side
of the vehicle, id. Ex. C at 1. Handy told officers
that he had been shot in his left foot but claimed not to
have seen who shot him and refused to provide any additional
information. Id.; see also Id. Ex. A at 1
(describing Handy as “uncooperative”);
id. Ex. B at 1 (same). Handy was then transported to
the Frankford Torresdale Hospital for treatment. Id.
Ex. C at 1. About an hour and a half later, Palmiero, a
detective for the Department, logged six .40 caliber fired
cartridge casings from the scene of Handy's shooting as
evidence. Id. Ex. E at 1.
approximately 8:30 a.m. on the morning of May 23, Palmiero
interviewed Handy at the hospital. During the interview,
Handy claimed that he “did not remember” where he
was when he was shot and disclaimed any knowledge of the
identity of his assailant. Id. Ex. G at 1. Handy
also told Palmiero that he legally owned a .40 caliber
firearm, which he kept locked in his house Id. at 2.
When Palmiero asked Handy whether he had any weapons inside
the white Avalon, Handy stated, “not that I know
p.m., Magisterial District Judge Kevin Devlin signed a search
warrant prepared by Palmiero for Handy's Toyota Avalon,
which identified the evidence to be searched and seized as
“proof of ownership, firearms, ballistic evidence, and
any other item that may be of evidence value or assist with
the investigation.” Id. Ex. J at 1. The
warrant was accompanied by a typed affidavit of probable
cause. Id. Ex. F at 1. In pertinent part, the
affidavit claimed that probable cause existed to search
[Due] to the fact that the complainant was uncooperative with
Police during this investigation, his injuries are consistent
with being involved in a physical fight, the gunshot wound he
sustained is consistent with a self[-]inflicted wound along
with the fact that the caliber of the gun the complainant
owns matches the same caliber of [fired cartridge casings]
recovered from the scene.
Id. Handwritten on the affidavit is a notation:
“Approved ADA Harrell 5/23/15 12:24 p.m.”
Id. The warrant was served at 2:30 p.m., and two
cell phones and a photo identification were recovered.
Id. Ex. J at 1.
following day, on May 24, 2015, Palmiero sought a warrant to
search Handy's home. See Id. Ex. K. The warrant
indicates that it was approved by ADA Harrell at 10:32 a.m.
that morning, and signed by a Magistrate Judge Bedford at
approximately 11:00 a.m. Id. With respect to
probable cause, the warrant directs the issuing authority to
“see continuation for facts and
circumstances.” A search was executed pursuant to the
warrant by a team of officers,  which included both Palmiero and
Sergeant Baldomero, not long thereafter, and several items
were recovered. Id. (noting the recovery of a
“40 cal walter handgun, ” “2 loaded
magazines, ” “1 box ammunition, ” “2
bullet proof vests, ” and a “gun purchase
26, 2015, the Philadelphia Daily News published an article
recounting the events described above. The article also
indicated that “[p]olice . . . retrieved two plastic
jars containing a ‘green weedy substance' that were
left behind in the emergency room.” Id. Ex. L
at 1. According to the article, “[t]he jars were left
inside the room where Handy was treated.” Id.
Handy was cleared of any wrongdoing. On May 22, 2017, he
filed this action in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
Defendants filed a notice of removal in this Court on July
12, 2017. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint,
which the Court granted on October 17, 2017. See
Order, Oct. 17, 2017, ECF No. 11. On November 16, 2017, Handy
filed the Amended Complaint, which Defendants, again, moved
to dismiss. The Court granted that motion in part, allowing
only Handy's Fourth Amendment, defamation, slander, and
libel claims to proceed. See Order, Sept. 28, 2018,
ECF No. 18.
2, 2019, Defendants contemporaneously answered Handy's
Amended Complaint and moved for summary judgment.
See Answer, July 2, 2019, ECF No. 22; Mot. for Summ.
J., July 2, 2019, ECF No. 23. On July 16, 2019, Handy moved
to strike Defendants' Answer, given that it was filed
well-beyond the timeline established by Rule 12(a)(4)(A) and
no leave had been sought pursuant to Rule 6(b). See
Mot. to Strike Answer, July 16, 2019, ECF No. 24. On August
9, 2019, Handy filed a second motion to strike, this time
pertaining to Defendants' opposition to his motion to
strike their Answer. See Mot. to Strike Opp'n to
Mot. to Strike Answer, Aug. 9, 2019, ECF No. 37. All three
motions are now before the Court for disposition.
noted above, only a handful of Handy's claims have
advanced beyond the pleading stage: his Fourth Amendment
claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and his state common
law claims for defamation, slander, and libel. The Court will
grant summary judgment in Defendants' favor because they
are entitled to qualified immunity, and, the Court will
decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the
defamation, slander, and libel claims and dismiss them for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
motion for summary judgment shall be granted “if the
movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is
“material” if it “might affect the outcome
of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A
“genuine” dispute is one where “the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the [non-moving] party.” Id.
“[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the
initial responsibility of informing the district court of the
basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the
[record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). To defeat summary judgment,
“the non-moving party must present more ...