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Davis v. Rinehart

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 22, 2014

Timothy L. Davis, Plaintiff,
v.
Patrolman Michael Rinehart, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

GREGORY M. SLEET, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

The plaintiff, Timothy L. Davis ("Davis"), filed a Complaint (D.I. 2) against the defendant, Patrolman Michael Rinehart ("Rinehart"), and other members of the Wilmington Police Department ("WPD"). Rinehart is the only remaining defendant as all other defendants and claims against them have since been dismissed from the proceedings by order of the court, dated June 3, 2010. (D.I. 7.) In his Complaint, Davis alleges violations of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985(2), 1985(3), 1986, and 18 U.S.C. § 247, in addition other theories of recovery. Davis appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 1.) Davis seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (D.I. 2, ¶ 167.) Presently before the court are the parties' cross motions for summary judgment, filed on March 1, 2013, following the completion of discovery. (D.I. 36; D.I. 39.) For the reasons stated below, the court will grant Rinehart's motion for summary judgment and will deny Davis' motion.

II. BACKGROUND

On March 26, 2009, at approximately 1:00 a.m., Rinehart, a police officer, observed Davis exit between two buildings in the 1300 block of Broom Street in Wilmington, Delaware. (D.I. 38 at A-1.) Rinehart noticed Davis was wearing a back pack and a hood pulled over his head and facial area. ( Id. ) Based on an increase in thefts of personal property from vehicles in the area, Rinehart decided to stop Davis and to request his identification. (Id. at A-2.) Davis pulled up next to Davis and asked, "Can I speak to you for a second?" ( Id. ) Davis removed the ear phones he was wearing and responded, "yeah sure." ( Id. ) Rinehart advised Davis of the thefts from vehicles that had recently occurred in the surrounding area and inquired as to whether Davis lived in the immediate area.[1] ( Id. ) Davis stated that he lived at the YMCA and that he was out for a walk. ( Id. ) Rinehart asked Davis if he had any identification, .and Davis produced his Delaware driver's license.[2] ( Id. )

Rinehart asked Davis if he could check him for any "firearms, bombs, grenades or knives." ( Id. ) Davis responded, "Yeah, I actually do have a gun right here, " as he pointed to his left side. ( Id. ) Rinehart then requested that Davis place his hands on the hood of the police vehicle as he removed a handgun from the left side of Davis' waist band.[3] (Id. at A-3.) Rinehart decided to detain Davis for further investigation and conducted a check of Davis' person, which revealed possession of a small flashlight, black wool gloves and a Gerber multi-tool.[4] ( Id. ) Rinehart believed that those items were commonly used in the commission of burglaries and vehicle thefts. ( Id. ) Rinehart transported Davis to the central police station of the Wilmington Police Department. ( Id. )

Rinehart applied for a search warrant for Davis' residence to look for evidence of Davis' commission of the crime of carrying a concealed deadly weapon and to attempt to locate a valid permit for carrying a concealed weapon. (Id. at A-5.) Justice of the Peace Court 20 issued the requested search warrant on March 26, 2009, at approximately 6:45 p.m. ( Id. ) The evening of March 26, 2009, Rinehart, along with two other WPD officers, executed the search warrant at the Central YMCA in Wilmington, Delaware. ( Id. ) The Officers did not find any permit to carry a concealed weapon or any of the other items listed in the search warrant. ( Id. ) Rinehart asserts that Davis' apartment was in a very messy condition before the search was performed and that the search did not cause damage or destruction.[5] ( Id. )

The State of Delaware subsequently prosecuted Davis for the crimes of carrying a concealed deadly weapon, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, possession of burglar's tools, possession of a weapon in a safe school and recreation zone, and loitering. (Id. at A-6.) A preliminary hearing took place on April 7, 2009, in the Delaware Court of Common Pleas. ( Id. ) Davis was represented by counsel, and Rinehart testified under oath on behalf of the State at the preliminary hearing and was cross-examined by Davis' counsel. ( Id. ) On April 9, 2009, Davis pled guilty to carrying a concealed deadly weapon in exchange for a nolle prosequi on the remaining charges. (Id. at A-66, A-69-71.) Davis was sentenced to one year in jail. (Id. at A-71.)

In his Motion for Summary Judgment, Davis asserts a host of claims against Rinehart including defamation, fraud, negligence, racial discrimination, malicious prosecution, and false arrest. (D.I. 39 at 2.) Davis alleges that statements made by Rinehart, during his testimony at Davis' preliminary hearing, were knowingly false. (Id. at 5, 22.) Davis also asserts that he was in legal possession of the firearm he was carrying. (Id. at 21-22.) Davis similarly takes issue with the search warrant procured by Rinehart to search his residence, asserting that "a search warrant is defamatory by nature" and that "the purpose of a search warrant is to search for something illegal not the legal items listed in the warrant application or the actual warrant." (Id. at 4, 9.) Davis asserts that the "search warrant was issued for the sole purpose of defendant's desire to do wrong empowered by color of law." (Id. at 4.)

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Because Davis proceeds pro se, his pleadings are liberally construed and his Complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." See also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party bears the burden of proving that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585 n.10 (1986). A fact is material if it "could affect the outcome" of the proceeding. Lamont v. New Jersey, 637 F.3d 177, 181 (3d Cir. 2011). There is a genuine issue "if the evidence is sufficient to permit a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party." Id. When determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the district court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw inferences in that party's favor. Wishkin v. Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007). If the moving party is able to demonstrate an absence of disputed material facts, the nonmoving party must then "come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citing FED. R. Civ. P. 56(e)).

Importantly, the mere existence of some evidence in support of the nonmoving party will not prove sufficient for denial of a summary judgment motion. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). Rather, the nonmoving party must present enough evidence to enable a jury to reasonably find for it on that issue. Id. Specifically, the party opposing summary judgment "must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions' to show the existence of a genuine issue." Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325). Thus, a nonmoving party asserting that a material fact is in dispute must support this assertion by: "(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, ... admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or (B) showing that the materials cited [by the opposing party] do not establish the absence... of a genuine ...


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