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Matthews v. Mancuso

Superior Court of Delaware

September 19, 2017

MIGNON N. MATTHEWS, Plaintiff,
v.
DETECTIVE JOHN MANCUSO and DETECTIVE BRIAN LUCAS, Defendants.

          Date Submitted: July 11, 2017

         On Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

          Jordan J. Perry, Esquire, Assistant County Attorney, New Castle, Delaware, Attorney for Defendants.

          Mignon Matthews, Pro Se Defendant.

          ORDER

          CALVIN L. SCOTT, JR. JUDGE.

         On this 19th day of September, 2017, and upon Defendant Detective John Mancuso and Detective Brian Lucas' (collectively "Defendants" or "Detectives") Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court finds as follows:

         1. On April 11, 2014, the New Castle County Department of Community Services (the "Department") issued its Notice of Final Decision to Plaintiff, terminating her participation in the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Section 8 Tenant-Based Assistance Housing Choice Voucher Program ("Section 8 Voucher"). The Department terminated Plaintiff's Section 8 Voucher in October of 2013 due to alleged criminal activity on the premises.

         2. Plaintiff filed a Complaint with this Court on October 29, 2014. Plaintiff claims that Defendants knowingly made false statements at the Department hearings, and these false statements caused the Department to terminate Plaintiff's Section 8 Voucher. Plaintiff claims that she suffers mental and physical anguish due to the loss of her home, and she seeks $150, 000.00 of compensatory damages.

         3. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss on February 3, 2015 based on Delaware's Tort Claims Act. On June 5, 2015, the Court granted New Castle County Police Department's ("NCCPD") Motion to Dismiss, and dismissed Plaintiff's claims against the Detectives for emotional and mental anguish. However, the Court denied the Detective's Motion on the defamation and physical anguish claims.

         4. Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on June 30, 2017, arguing that Plaintiff fails to establish a prima facie claim for defamation. Defendants state that Plaintiff was granted a Section 8 Voucher on January 9, 2008, and the Voucher applied to her rental at 113 Pilgrim Road, Simmonds Gardens, New Castle, Delaware 19720 (the "Unit") on April 1, 2012.

         5. As background information, Defendants presented evidence demonstrating that to remain in "good standing" with the New Castle County Section 8 Voucher Program, the participant must sign and follow the New Castle County Housing Authority Section 8 Family Obligations and Responsibilities. Defendants state that participants of this program are responsible for the actions of friends and guests pursuant to the Family Obligations and Responsibilities rules, and the Housing Authority may terminate participation in this program for "drug-related criminal activity associated with the housing unit." Defendants state that Plaintiff signed the Family Obligations and Responsibilities form on January 7, 2013 and again on January 1, 2014.

         6. Subsequently, Adrian Smith ("Mr. Smith") sold heroin to a NCCPD confidential informant during the week of October 21, 2013. According to Defendants, an officer witnessed this exchange, as well as Smith exiting and returning to Plaintiff's Unit. Again, Mr. Smith sold heroin to an undercover officer during the same week.

         7. On January 17, 2014, Defendants, Detectives Lucas and Mancuso, recovered small blue wax paper bags with a red stamp on them, and mail addressed to Plaintiff at 113 Pilgrim Road, during a trash pick-up. Subsequently, one of the red bags tested positive for heroin.

         8. NCCPD executed a search warrant at 113 Pilgrim Road on February 2, 2014. Defendants contend that Detective Lucas advised Plaintiff that NCCPD was present to execute a drug search warrant, and neither detective contacted the New Castle County Housing Authority, nor did the Housing Authority contact the Detectives. According to Detective Lucas' affidavit, Plaintiff told Detective Lucas that Mr. Smith was her boyfriend ...


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