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Paoli v. Stetser

United States District Court, D. Delaware

July 11, 2014

TROOPER STETSER, et al., Defendants.


CHRISTOPHER J. BURKE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Christina Paoli ("Plaintiff") filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") against Defendants Trooper Ashley Stetser, Corporal Kimberly Layfield, Trooper Joshua Rowley, Corporal Troy Ralston, Corporal Carlisle, Trooper James O'Neil, Corporal Matthew Warrington, Sergeant John Barnett, Sergeant Michael Whaley (retired), Lieutenant Kenneth Hardy (retired), Captain Glen Dixon (collectively, the "Individual Defendants") and Delaware State Police ("DSP") - Troop 7 ("Troop 7").[1] Presently pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Motion"). (D.I. 52) For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that the Motion be GRANTED-IN-PART and DENIED-IN-PART. Specifically, the Court recommends that Defendants' Motion be GRANTED as to all claims except for the Section 1983 illegal search and seizure claim asserted against Defendant Rowley.


A. Factual Background

Plaintiff's twenty-two page Complaint presents her claims in a lengthy, narrative fashion, which lacks an easily discernible chronology and is generally difficult to navigate. Nevertheless, in order to properly review the issues raised by Defendants' Motion, it is necessary to first attempt to understand Plaintiff's claims and the underlying factual background relating to those claims that is properly before the Court in the record. The Court sets this out below, utilizing the statements in Plaintiff's Complaint and the facts listed in other filings of record, including sworn affidavits submitted by several of the Individual Defendants.[2]

The Court will organize the facts based on Plaintiff's allegations against each Individual Defendant. In doing so, it will refer to the Individual Defendants in the order that they are addressed in Defendants' briefing. (Unfortunately, this means that the events listed below will not always proceed in a chronological fashion.).

1. Defendant Layfield

Defendant Layfield is a Corporal in the Delaware State Police ("DSP"), having been employed as a Trooper and Corporal with DSP Troop 7 in Lewes, Delaware since 1996. (D.I. 54 at A24, at ¶ 1) On March 24, 2007, Defendant Layfield contacted an individual named Paul Scott ("Scott") who had requested police assistance (the "March 24, 2007 incident"). ( Id. at ¶ 2) Scott was renting a room from Plaintiff in a residence located in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. ( Id. ; D.I. 42 at 5) Scott informed Defendant Layfield that Plaintiff had evicted him and would not allow him to retrieve his property. (D.I. 54 at A24, at ¶ 2) Defendant Layfield accompanied Scott to the residence. ( Id. ) Although there was a "No Trespassing" sign posted on the front door stating that "Troop 7 police [were not permitted] inside unless [Plaintiff] or [a man named] [Walter] Stucki ["Stucki"] [was present][, ]" and neither Plaintiff nor Stucki were present, Defendant Layfield entered the residence with Scott and remained there while Scott gathered his belongings.[3] (D.I. 42 at 5; D.I. 43 at 1; D.I. 54 at A24, at ¶ 2)

Plaintiff alleges that Scott stole certain unidentified items while he was inside of the residence with Defendant Layfield. (D.I. 1 at 3; D.I. 42 at 5) Plaintiff called the police to report the alleged theft, and claims that Layfield refused to take a report on the basis that it was a civil matter. (D.I. 1 at 3; D.I. 42 at 5)

Approximately thirty minutes later, Scott and his mother went to Troop 7 and informed Defendant Layfield that Plaintiff had called Scott on his cell phone and left a "disturbing" voicemail message. (D.I. 54 at A24, at ¶ 3) In the voicemail message, Plaintiff stated that she was going to have "[Scott] and [his] mom's ass arrested[, ]" demanded that Scott return her call in fifteen minutes or she would have him arrested, called Scott a"f___ing thief and stated that she did not "care if the f___ing cops were with [Scott] or not[.]" ( Id. ) Based on this complaint, Defendant Layfield obtained an arrest warrant for Plaintiff's arrest on the charge of harassment, a violation of Del. Code tit. 11, § 1311. ( Id. at ¶ 3 & ex. 1) Defendant Layfield asserts that she had no further contact with Plaintiff and was not involved in Plaintiff's arrest on the harassment warrant. ( Id. at ¶ 3)

Plaintiff represented herself during trial on the harassment charge and was ultimately found not guilty. (D.I. 1 at 3, 9; D.I. 42 at 5; D.I. 47 at 53) During the trial, an individual named Bonnie Homburger ("Homburger") testified that she heard Defendant Layfield tell Plaintiff that Plaintiff's arrest was "payback for Paoli filing a complaint against Police Officer [Bruce] Ritter" or "payback for getting [Police Officer] Ritter suspended without pay, taking food from his family's table and suing the police." (D.I. 1 at 3, 9; D.I. 60 at ¶ 3(a))[4] Defendant Layfield did not receive any sanction or reprimand as a result of Homburger's testimony. (D.I. 60 at ¶ 3(a))

A little over three months after the March 24, 2007 incident, on July 2, 2007, Plaintiff filed a civil rights action in this Court against the City of Lewes, Delaware, the Lewes Police Department, and Bruce Ritter. (D.I. 54 at A86-A88) Plaintiff's Complaint alleged that Officer Ritter was disciplined and suspended at some point between July 2006 and June 2007 for violating Plaintiff's rights. ( Id. at ¶¶ 11-12; see also D.I. 1 at 3) The parties to the lawsuit reached a settlement on or about October 7, 2009. (D.I. 1 at 3; see also D.I. 47 at 85)

2. Defendant Carlisle[5]

Plaintiff asserts that she was harassed and threatened by a tenant, Latisha Breakhouse ("Breakhouse"). (D.I. 1 at 17-18) On January 1, 2009, Plaintiff spoke to a Corporal Archer and a dispatcher at two separate times regarding threats and verbal abuse made by Breakhouse and Breakhouse's boyfriend, but no charges were filed. ( Id. at 18) Again on January 5, 2009, when Plaintiff requested police assistance regarding threats by Breakhouse, Troop 7 allegedly refused to help Plaintiff or investigate further (the "January 5, 2009 incident"). ( Id. at 17-18) Prior to this date, Plaintiff asserts that Troop 7 compiled police reports regarding Breakhouse's harassment of Plaintiff; she alleges that Defendant Carlisle took such a report at some unidentified date "prior" to December 24, 2008. ( Id. at 18)

3. Defendant Stetser

Defendant Stetser has been employed by the DSP since 2010, and is currently a Trooper First Class. (D.I. 54 at A42, at ¶ 1) On March 5, 2011, Plaintiff was charged with three counts of harassment, a violation of Del. Code tit. 11, § 1311, in connection with a dispute between Plaintiff and three males: Drew Imperial ("Imperial"), Cameron Freeman ("Freeman"), and Benjamin Outten ("Outten") and collectively, the "male subjects"). (D.I. 1 at 2, 12, 18; D.I. 54 at A57) On that date, Defendant Stetser was assigned to patrol at Troop 7, with Defendant Ralston supervising her. (D.I. 54 at A42, at ¶ 2; see also D.I. 1 at 2, 4) Defendant Stetser was dispatched to investigate a terroristic threatening complaint at the Summerlyn Condominiums ("Summerlyn Condos"), located on Summerlyn Drive in Lewes, Delaware. (D.I. 54 at A42, at ¶ 3; id. at A47) It is not clear from the record who called in the complaint, although Plaintiff appears to allege that she and two others - Michael Abernathy ("Abernathy") and Lois Colletti ("Colletti") - all made separate calls to complain about the male subjects. (D.I. 1 at 18)

According to Defendant Stetser's "Initial Crime Report" ("Crime Report"), the male subjects alleged that they had resided in Summerlyn Condos Unit 303 ("Unit 303"), which they sub-rented from Plaintiff, for the past several months. (D.I. 54 at A48; see also id. at A42, at ¶ 3) They informed Defendant Stetser that they had paid their share of the rent for the month of March, and were now attempting to rent the property directly from the owner, Loretta Ventura ("Ventura"). ( Id. at A48)

The dispute between Plaintiff and the male subjects began the evening before, on March 4, 2011, when Freeman alleged that Plaintiff broke into Unit 303 ("the March 4, 2011 incident"). ( Id. ) According to the Crime Report, Plaintiff acknowledged that she had broken into the residence to retrieve medication after the male subjects had locked her out. ( Id. ) While there, she asserted that Freeman and Outten began making offensive statements to her, such as "[y]ou're a cripple." ( Id. at A49; see also id. at A42, at ¶ 4) Defendant Stetser also noted in the Crime Report that Plaintiff "made it appear as though [Drew Imperial] was present for these altercations for the majority of the night." ( Id. at A49) Plaintiff contacted Colletti at some point that evening; Colletti later arrived at Unit 303 and began to take notes, at Plaintiff's instruction, as to the types of statements that Freeman and Outten were making to Plaintiff. ( Id. at A49-A50) Freeman and Outten eventually left Unit 303 and went to a bar; they were singing and yelling when they returned home approximately one half hour later. ( Id. )

Plaintiff alleges that, at some point during the above-referenced events on March 4, 2011, she and Colletti contacted Troop 7 and reported that Outten had made certain terroristic threats against her. (D.I. 1 at 18) She asserts that she was simply instructed to call 911 in the future if Outten made additional terroristic threats. ( Id. )

When Defendant Stetser responded to Unit 303 on March 5, 2011, her Crime Report indicates that she made contact with Abernathy; Abernathy reported that he had been helping Plaintiff move her belongings to another unit of Summerlyn Condos when Outten made derogatory statements to him and told him to leave the unit. (D.I. 54 at A47-A48) According to the Crime Report, Abernathy stated that he feared that Outten would damage his vehicle, which prompted him to call the police. ( Id. at A48) Defendant Stetser wrote in the Crime Report that as she was speaking with Abernathy, Plaintiff continually interrupted the conversation, asserting that Plaintiff had sub-rented the unit to the male subjects, who were only supposed to remain there until "she left the hospital." ( Id. )

After speaking with Freeman and Imperial, Ventura, Plaintiff and Abernathy, Defendant Stetser contacted Plaintiff and advised her that neither Plaintiff nor the male subjects were going to be told to leave the residence. ( Id. ) Defendant Stetser thereafter escorted Plaintiff and Colletti into the unit and while there, observed Freeman and Imperial being very cooperative and attempting to avoid a further altercation by remaining inside their bedrooms. ( Id. at A48-A49) However, Defendant Stetser wrote that Plaintiff then made several remarks loud enough for Freeman and Imperial to hear, including comments such as, "I'm going to say this loud enough so they can hear it." ( Id. at A49; see also id. at A42, at ¶ 5) At certain points in time, according to Defendant Stetser, both Freeman and Imperial "left their rooms and engaged words with [Plaintiff] based on statements she had just made about them and [Outten]." ( Id. at A49) Defendant Stetser wrote that Plaintiff "refused to cooperate with [her] and to refrain from making statements against all three [male subjects] on several occasions." ( Id. ) She wrote that Freeman and Imperial seemed uneasy about the prospect of Plaintiff remaining in the residence that evening, nervous that Plaintiff would continue to make statements towards them that would alarm them or cause them to respond. ( Id. )

Defendant Stetser also interviewed Colletti regarding the events of the previous evening. Defendant Stetser noted that during the entire interview, although she had advised Plaintiff that she wanted to speak only with Colletti, Plaintiff repeatedly attempted to interject. ( Id. at A50) Colletti informed Defendant Stetser that before the interview, Plaintiff instructed Colletti to write a statement regarding the March 4, 2011 incident. ( Id. ) Defendant Stetser wrote in her Crime Report that "[t]his is even further proof that [Plaintiff] has complete control over [Colletti]" and Colletti "basically does whatever [Plaintiff] tells her to." ( Id. )[6]

Defendant Stetser thereafter examined Colletti's written notes. When she did so, she noticed that Colletti referred to herself in the third person; this led Defendant Stetser to suspect that Plaintiff had actually written the notes herself. ( Id. ) Accordingly, Defendant Stetser asked Colletti to write a sentence contained in the notes on a separate piece of paper. ( Id. ; see also D.I. 1 at 13) The handwriting "matched perfectly [to the handwriting on the notes]." (D.I. 54 at A50; see also D.I. 1 at 13) Though Defendant Stetser thus concluded that Colletti did in fact write the notes herself, Defendant Stetser nevertheless documented in the Crime Report her belief that Plaintiff had been telling Colletti what to write on the evening of March 4, 2011, which had caused Colletti to write the notes in the third person. (D.I. 54 at A50) Ultimately, Defendant Stetser documented her observation that Plaintiff appeared to have "complete control over [Colletti], causing her to become an unreliable witness." ( Id. )

Defendant Stetser next obliged Plaintiff's request that Defendant Stetser dust for fingerprints in Plaintiff's bedroom. ( Id. at A51) There was a sticky note posted outside of the bedroom instructing everyone to stay out; Plaintiff explained it was there because the male subjects were not supposed to be inside of Plaintiff's bedroom at any point. ( Id. ) Defendant Stetser was unable to locate any latent fingerprints. ( Id. ) During this process, Defendant Stetser spilled black powder on Plaintiff's comforter and rug. (D.I. 1 at 13; D.I. 54 at A51) Defendant Stetser contends that this was an accident, but Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Stetser spilled the powder purposefully. (D.I. 1 at 13; D.I. 54 at A43, at ¶ 5; id. at A51-A52)

Defendant Stetser alleges that throughout her investigation, although she did what she thought was "right and necessary at the time[, ]" Plaintiff repeatedly threatened her, asserting that Plaintiff intended to contact attorneys or Defendant Stetser's supervisors to complain about her conduct. (D.I. 54 at A51) At the conclusion of her investigation, Defendant Stetser and Defendant Ralston spoke with a Sergeant Windsor, who advised Defendant Stetser to seek a judge's input on an arrest warrant for Plaintiff. ( Id. ) A judge at Justice of the Peace Court 3 advised Defendant Stetser that she had enough probable cause to charge Plaintiff with three counts of harassment - one against each of the male subjects. ( Id. at A51, A57) Accordingly, Defendant Stetser obtained a warrant on those charges against Plaintiff, and returned to the Summerlyn Condos with Defendant Ralston and Sergeant Windsor in an attempt to apprehend Plaintiff. ( Id. at A51)

Defendant Stetser ultimately arrested Plaintiff at her residence on March 5, 2011, after Plaintiff attempted to hide in her bedroom. ( Id. at A43, at ¶ 6) Defendant Stetser stated in the Crime Report that Plaintiff was given plenty of time to gather her belongings and locate her medication before being removed from the residence. ( Id. at A52) Plaintiff appears to dispute this, alleging that her medication was withheld for almost two hours. (D.I. 1 at 13)

Plaintiff was eventually taken to Troop 7 where she was arraigned via video on March 6, 2011. ( Id. at A53; see also id. at A60, at ¶ 3) A judge placed a "no contact" order on Plaintiff, prohibiting her from any contact with the male subjects, but giving her permission to reside in Unit 305, a unit located nearby to Unit 303 (where the male subjects were living). ( Id. at A53; see also id. at A60, at ¶ 3)

Plaintiff had to go directly to the hospital after being released from Troop 7 (though she provides no further details about this hospital visit). (D.I. 1 at 13-14) All of the charges against her were ultimately dropped. ( Id. at 2)

4. Defendant Ralston

Defendant Ralston is a Corporal in the DSP who has been employed as a Trooper and Corporal for the past six years. (D.I. 54 at A74, at ¶ 1) On December 24, 2008, Defendant Ralston filed a police report in response to Plaintiff's complaint that Breakhouse had repeatedly threatened her. (D.I. 1 at 18) Defendant Ralston did not arrest Breakhouse for the incident, and wrote "unfounded" in the status section of his report. ( Id. at 4)

Defendant Ralston was also the Field Training Officer for Troop 7 assigned to supervise Defendant Stetser on March 5, 2011. As such, he was present during Stetser's investigation of the March 5, 2011 incident discussed above. ( Id. at 4; D.I. 54, at A42, at ¶ 2; id. at A74, at ¶ 2)

5. Defendant Rowley

Defendant Rowley has been employed as a Trooper in the DSP for over two years, and is assigned to Troop 7. (D.I. 54 at A34, at ¶ 1) Defendant Rowley was involved in arresting Plaintiff on two occasions, on March 7, 2011 and July 21, 2011. ( Id. at ¶¶ 2-3)

On March 7, 2011 (the "March 7, 2011 arrest"), Defendant Rowley was assigned to report to the Summerlyn Condos to assist other officers in arresting Plaintiff for her alleged violation of the "no contact" order issued in connection with the March 5, 2011 incident. ( Id. at ¶ 2) On March 7, Plaintiff fled from her dwelling at Unit 305 prior to the arrival of Troop 7 officers. ( Id. at A66) At some point thereafter, DSP officers set up a perimeter on the property to try to locate Plaintiff. ( Id. at A34, at ¶ 2)

According to Defendant Rowley, approximately 15-20 minutes after Plaintiff fled from the officers, DSP dispatch advised him and other officers at the Summerlyn Condos that Plaintiff was currently talking on a phone line located in the complex's north parking lot. ( Id. ) Plaintiff's account differs - she asserts that this telephone conversation with DSP dispatch lasted for approximately four minutes and occurred approximately 25 minutes prior to her arrest. (D.I. 1 at 5)

Defendant Rowley claims that after getting word that Plaintiff was in the north parking lot, he thereafter observed a motor home in that lot. (D.I. 54 at A34, at ¶ 2) According to Plaintiff, the motor home belonged to her, (D.I. 1 at 2), though there is no indication in the record that Defendant Rowley or the other officers with him knew this at the time.

In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that both the front door and side door of the motor home were locked, that a mattress covered the locked side door and that curtains covered the view from all of the windows. ( Id. ) Accordingly, Plaintiff alleges that it was impossible for an observer to know that Plaintiff was inside. ( Id. ) Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Rowley next "illegally broke into" Plaintiff's locked motor home without permission or a search warrant, and that several witnesses saw this. ( Id. )[7]

Defendant Rowley, however, asserts that a door to the motor home was open and that a mattress was "propped on an angle at the door." (D.I. 54 at A34, at ¶ 2) He states that he could see into the door, and that he observed a walker that he believed belonged to Plaintiff. ( Id. ) Defendant Rowley asserts that he could also hear movement inside of the motor home, but that when fellow DSP officers called out for Plaintiff to exit the motor home, Plaintiff did not respond. ( Id. ) Sergeant Fuscellaro then directed Defendant Rowley to enter the motor home along with other officers to remove Plaintiff and arrest her. ( Id. ) Defendant Rowley entered the motor home and found Plaintiff there. ( Id. ) He states that he did not lay a hand on Plaintiff, and instead that other DSP officers arrested her. ( Id. )

On July 21, 2011, Defendant Rowley again responded to the Summerlyn Condos (the "July 21, 2011 incident"), this time to Unit 111, regarding a theft report made by a Leonard Marchone ("Marchone"). (D.I. 54 at A35, at ¶ 3) Marchone was subleasing property from Plaintiff. ( Id. ) Marchone advised Defendant Rowley that he had borrowed money from Plaintiff, but then moved out of her property and that, after he did so, he did not receive his security deposit back from Plaintiff. ( Id. ) Marchone reported that Plaintiff had been calling him repeatedly and had come to his residence that day, all in an effort to harass him about the borrowed money. ( Id. ; ( Id. at A39) While Marchone was working on the back porch of the property, he alleged that Plaintiff entered his home through an unlocked front door without permission. ( Id. at A35, at ¶ 3) Marchone asserted that Plaintiff then threatened to have him followed if he tried to go to Florida, and stated that "Frank [was] waiting around the comer to beat his ass if he tried to leave the apartment.'" ( Id. ) Plaintiff also allegedly told Marchone "let's see how far you get without a tag on your car.'" ( Id. ) Marchone advised that after Plaintiff left his residence, he later discovered his license plate was missing from his car. ( Id. )

Defendant Rowley asserts that he thereafter unsuccessfully attempted to contact Plaintiff at her home and by telephone. ( Id. ) Without speaking to Plaintiff or any other witness, Defendant Rowley obtained an arrest warrant for Plaintiff on charges of: (1) terroristic threatening, a violation of Del. Code tit. 11, § 621; (2) theft under $1, 500, a violation of Del. Code tit. 11, § 841; (3) harassment, a violation of Del. Code tit. 11, § 1311; and (4) criminal trespass first degree, a violation of Del. Code tit. 11, § 823. ( Id. ; D.I. 1 at 2, 14)

For her part, Plaintiff contends that Marchone's allegations were false. For example, she alleges that Marchone lied in reporting that Plaintiff had called him repeatedly that day.[8] (D.I. 1 at 3) She also denies trespassing into the residence, explaining that Bonnie Helder ("Helder"), the owner of the residence, let her inside. ( Id. ) Plaintiff further denies removing Marchone's license plate from his car, asserting that this would be an impossible task for her, as she had one finger amputated and did not have feeling in her nine other fingers. ( Id. at 2-3) Plaintiff suggests that Marchone's purportedly false allegations were motivated by the fact that Plaintiff had previously reported him for driving under the influence and driving without a license numerous times. ( Id. at 2-3, 14) She states that she and Helder allegedly witnessed Marchone taking several oxycontin pills fifty minutes prior to making his report to Defendant Rowley. ( Id. at 3, 14) Within an hour of making the report, Marchone himself was allegedly arrested for driving without a license and driving under the influence. ( Id. at 3)

Thirty days after they were filed, the charges against Plaintiff were dropped. ( Id. at 3, 14) Marchone was not arrested for filing the allegedly false report. ( Id. at 14)

Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Rowley "slandered [P]laintiff numerous times to several people on different occasions" and "blackballed [P]laintiff to many people, harassed her and treated her in a discriminatory manner." (D.I. 1 at 3, 18) Defendant Rowley, for his part, acknowledges only that he was aware of Plaintiff's habit of subleasing parts of rooms in Summerlyn Condos, which resulted in numerous problems and police involvement, and that on certain occasions he advised people there of Plaintiff's practice in this regard. (D.I. 54 at A36, at ¶ 4)

6. Defendant Warrington

Defendant Warrington is currently employed as a Corporal with the DSP, and has been employed as a DSP Trooper and Corporal for the past twelve years. (D.I. 54 at A60, at ¶ 1) For his entire career, he has been assigned to Troop 7. ( Id. )

As was noted above, on March 6, 2011, a Delaware state court judge arraigned Plaintiff on criminal charges, issued a no contact order prohibiting her from any contact with the three male subjects, and gave Plaintiff permission to reside at Unit 305 (located approximately 100 feet away from the male subjects' residence at Unit 303). ( Id. at A53) Defendants assert that Plaintiff violated that order the next day, March 7, 2011. Based on information relayed to him by investigating officers Corporal Blakeman and Sergeant Fuscellaro, Defendant Warrington prepared an arrest warrant in connection with this incident. ( Id. at A60, at ¶¶ 4-5) Plaintiff was ultimately charged with disorderly conduct, a violation of Del. Code tit. 11, § 1301, and breach of release, violation of a no contact order, a violation of Del. Code tit. 11, § 2113. ( Id. at ¶ 5)

The events relating to these new charges were as follows. On March 7, 2011, Plaintiff sent her friend Colletti to Unit 303 to retrieve certain items. ( Id. at ¶ 4) Imperial asked Colletti what she was doing; Colletti replied that she was removing Plaintiff's property. ( Id. ; ( id. at A66) Imperial then approached the door and heard Plaintiff's voice outside. ( Id. at A60, at ¶ 4; id. at A66) Plaintiff began yelling at Imperial, stating that she was allowed to remove items from the residence pursuant to her lawyer's instructions. ( Id. at A60, at ¶ 4; id. at A66) Plaintiff was standing outside the entry door of Unit 303, and Imperial informed her that she was not supposed to be there. ( Id. at A60, at ¶ 4) Plaintiff fled when the police arrived. ( Id. at A60, at ¶ 4; id. at A66) She was eventually apprehended from inside of her motor home (in the series of events described above in connection with the allegations against Defendant Rowley relating to the March 7, 2011 arrest). ( Id. at A34-A35, at ¶ 2; id. at A66)

Plaintiff alleges that at the time that he prepared the arrest warrant, Defendant Warrington knew that the state judge who issued the no contact order had given Plaintiff permission to reside at Unit 305, even though it was just two doors down from the male subjects' residence. (D.I. 1 at 5) Plaintiff contends that she was standing in front of Unit 305, not Unit 303, at the time of the incident, and that Defendant Warrington and the investigating officers spoke to three witnesses who confirmed this fact. ( Id. )

Defendant Warrington also investigated a complaint by Plaintiff on or about December 31, 2011 (the "December 31, 2011 incident"). Plaintiff was then complaining that Marchone had damaged her vehicle. (D.I. 54 at A61, at ¶ 6) Defendant Warrington interviewed Plaintiff and a witness, Abernathy; Abernathy said he had observed Marchone pour an unknown liquid across the roof of Plaintiff's vehicle. ( Id. at A71) As a result of the investigation, Defendant Warrington obtained an arrest warrant for Marchone on the charge of attempted criminal mischief, a violation of Del. Code tit. 11, § 531. ( Id. at A61, at ¶ 6; id. at A69-A73)

In addition to allegations regarding Defendant Warrington's participation in these two specific incidents, Plaintiff also alleges that he made "untrue, defamatory, unprofessional and slanderous" statements about her on several occasions over the years, including during the investigation of the December 31, 2011 incident. (D.I. 1 at 5) For his part, Defendant Warrington denies making any defamatory statements about Plaintiff during the December 31, 2011 investigation. (D.I. 54 at A61, at ¶ 6) He did advise her that the incident appeared to result from a landlord-tenant dispute. ( Id. )

7. Defendant O'Neil

Defendant O'Neil has been employed as a Trooper in the DSP for the past three years. (D.I. 54 at A32, at ¶ 1) Defendant O'Neil was dispatched by Troop 7 to the Summerlyn Condos on September 16 or 17, 2011 at approximately 6:34 p.m., in response to an offensive touching complaint (the "September 16, 2011 incident").[9] (D.I. 1 at 6; D.I. 54 at A32, at ¶ 2) The incident involved a dispute between Plaintiff and a Nancy Regibal ("Regibal"), who was subleasing a sunroom in Unit 305 from Plaintiff. (D.I. 1 at 6; D.I. 54 at A32, at ¶ 2) Plaintiff alleges that Regibal pushed her, causing serious injury to Plaintiff's right knee. (D.I. 1 at 6) She claims that although Defendant O'Neil spoke with Regibal in regard to the incident, he refused to take any information from Plaintiff or a witness. ( Id. )

For his part, Defendant O'Neil avers that upon his arrival at Unit 305, he first spoke to Regibal to find out what had occurred. Regibal told him that she had recently advised Plaintiff that she would soon be moving out of the sunroom. (D.I. 54 at A32, at ¶ 2) At approximately 4:00 p.m. on September 16, 2011, Plaintiff sent a text message to Regibal stating that she would be bringing someone to the Unit to show the sunroom. ( Id. ) Regibal was asleep at the time of the text message, and was awakened by a loud noise at 4:30 p.m. ( Id. ) Plaintiff was standing in the living room of the Unit at the entrance to the sunroom, and told Regibal to get up and get out so that Plaintiff could show the room. ( Id. ) Regibal responded that she was not going to leave because she was not feeling well. ( Id. ) Defendant O'Neil avers that Regibal stated that Plaintiff then became irate, called Regibal a "f___ing bitch[, ]" and walked toward Regibal aggressively, cornering her. ( Id. ) According to Defendant O'Neil, Regibal stated that she and Plaintiff each pushed each other (Regibal in self-defense), and that no one was injured. ( Id. )

Defendant O'Neil asserts that he also spoke to Plaintiff, by phone, and that Plaintiff stated that nothing happened and that she should be pressing charges against Regibal. ( Id. at A33, at ¶ 2) Plaintiff further stated that Regibal was leaving the Unit and there was no reason for Regibal to be there. ( Id. ) Defendant O'Neil asserts that Plaintiff then became irate, claiming that she should not be talking to any state troopers and that the "State Police" can "f - off." ( Id. ) Defendant O'Neil alleges that Plaintiff then accused him of "being discriminative towards her." ( Id. )

Defendant O'Neil next contacted Regibal again, who stated that she wanted the incident documented but that she would be moving out of the Unit in the near future. ( Id. at ¶ 3) No charges were filed, (D.I. 1 at 10), and Defendant O'Neil had no further involvement in the incident, (D.I. 54 at A32, at ¶ 3).

Aside from his role in this incident, Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant O'Neil "slandered and blackballed [P]laintiff to many people, harassed her and treated her in a discriminatory manner." (D.I. 1 at 18)

8. Defendant Whaley

Defendant Whaley was employed in the DSP, including as a Sergeant, from 1988 until his retirement in 2011. (D.I. 54 at A84, at ¶ 1; see also D.I. 1 at 2) Plaintiff alleges that on "several" unidentified dates, she approached Defendant Whaley to seek help regarding improper arrests made by (and generally, regarding the conduct of) his subordinates. (D.I. 1 at 2) According to Plaintiff, Defendant Whaley "did nothing to assist [P]laintiff, and seemingly conspired and condoned their actions[.]" ( Id. ) Plaintiff also asserts that Defendant Whaley "discriminated" against her several times when she sought his help. ( Id. )

For his part, Defendant Whaley recalls only one contact with Plaintiff on an unspecified date. (D.I. 54 at A84, at ¶ 2) While Defendant Whaley was a Desk Sergeant at Troop 5, he took a complaint from Plaintiff that he passed on to another Corporal, who ultimately routed the complaint to Troop 7. ( Id. ) Defendant Whaley was assigned to Troop 7 from 1991-1995 and from 2010-2011, where he worked in the Fatal Investigation Unit and DARE. ( Id. at ¶ 3) Defendant Whaley does not recall any contact or dealings with Plaintiff while assigned to Troop 7. ( Id. )

9. Defendant Barnett

Defendant Barnett has been employed in the DSP since 1993, and is currently a Sergeant at Troop 7. (D.I. 54 at A82, at ¶ 1) Defendant Barnett and Plaintiff have had numerous contacts in Defendant Barnett's capacity as a supervisor, including during frequent telephone calls from Plaintiff to Troop 7 in which she requested that DSP take certain actions. ( Id. at ¶ 2; D.I. 1 at 4)

Plaintiff alleges that on several occasions between 2008 and 2011, Defendant Barnett refused to help Plaintiff when she complained about the improper conduct of his subordinates; she asserts that he harassed her, ordered her to leave Troop 7 and threatened to arrest her when she asked to speak to his supervisor. (D.I. 1 at 4) The one specific example of such conduct that Plaintiff cites to occurred when Plaintiff allegedly requested Defendant Barnett's help after Defendant O'Neil refused to file charges in connection with the September 16, 2011 incident between Plaintiff and Regibal. ( Id. at 6) According to Plaintiff, Defendant Barnett stated that it was a civil matter and he was not getting involved, and hung up the phone when Plaintiff asked to speak to Defendant O'Neil's supervisor. ( Id. ) When Plaintiff later went to Troop 7, she alleges that Defendant Barnett threatened to arrest her and insisted that she leave without speaking to a supervisor. ( Id. )

Defendant Barnett acknowledges that he refused to speak with Plaintiff when she acted in a belligerent and rude manner during certain phone calls. (D.I. 54 at A82, at ¶ 3) He also advised Plaintiff that she could be arrested for placing multiple calls to the 911 center. ( Id. at ¶ 4) In addition, Defendant Barnett admits that he asked Plaintiff to leave Troop 7 on certain occasions, but alleges that he did so because Plaintiff was acting in a disorderly manner, yelling and berating DSP members. ( Id. at ¶ 3) However, Defendant Barnett denies ever advising Plaintiff that she could not speak to any supervisor, and claims that he "did not at any time ever advise her not to file criminal charges if warranted by the particular facts." ( Id. at ¶ 5)

10. Defendant Hardy

Defendant Hardy was employed in the DSP from 1988 until his retirement in 2009. (D.I. 54 at A85, at ¶ 1) As a Sergeant at DSP, Defendant Hardy was assigned to Troop 7 and had several interactions with Plaintiff. ( Id. at ¶ 2)

Plaintiff alleges that in 1998, Defendant Hardy falsely arrested her on a charge of offensive touching at Beebe Heathcare, where she was receiving stitches for injuries she sustained as a victim of domestic violence. (D.I. 1 at 6) Plaintiff was later found not guilty of the charge after a trial. ( Id. )

Plaintiff also asserts that over the next decade until his retirement, Defendant Hardy retaliated against her, hung up the phone on her, harassed her, filed false charges against her, failed to reprimand his subordinates when they mistreated her, and conspired and participated in their harassment of Plaintiff. ( Id. ) Plaintiff claims that Defendant Hardy allowed officers to verbally abuse Plaintiff while she was in the police station waiting for the judge to appear on video. ( Id. ) Furthermore, Plaintiff alleges that on one occasion, an unidentified officer ...

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