332 F.3d 30 (1st Cir. 2003), 02-2549, Valente v. Wallace

Docket Nº:02-2549
Citation:332 F.3d 30
Party Name:Valente v. Wallace
Case Date:June 16, 2003
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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332 F.3d 30 (1st Cir. 2003)

Barbara VALENTE and A. Richard Valente, Plaintiffs, Appellants,


William J. WALLACE, John Doe, and Town of Andover, Defendants, Appellees.

ADECCO, Defendant.

No. 02-2549.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

June 16, 2003

Heard April 11, 2003.

Thomas F. Healy with whom Thomas E. Sartini, III and Healy & Healy, P.C. were on brief, for appellants.

Regina M. Ryan with whom Douglas I. Louison and Merrick, Louison & Costello were on brief, for appellees William J. Wallace and Town of Andover.

Before BOUDIN, Chief Judge, TORRUELLA and LIPEZ, Circuit Judges.

BOUDIN, Chief Judge.

The issue on this appeal is whether in January 2000, the police in Andover, Massachusetts, had probable cause to arrest

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Barbara Valente for planting anonymous bomb threats in her place of work.

In August 1997, Valente began work as an on-site manager for ADECCO Employment Services ("ADECCO"), then known as TAD, at a Hewlett-Packard ("HP") plant in Andover, Massachusetts. The HP plant was a large one, comprising seven buildings and employing over 2,500 people. Between August 1997 and January 1999, seven anonymous bomb threats and fourteen anonymous notes expressing spite or workplace dissatisfaction appeared at the plant. By way of example, one bomb threat read:

There is a bomb planted in building 2. To get you and to get Sheila and to get anyone who keeps us here on a dangerous day. It will go off when I leave at two! Goodbye to you.

Several of the notes were found by Valente--one purportedly signed with her first name--and twenty-one of the twenty-four notes were in the building in which she worked. After the first bomb threat in November 1997, the Andover police began an investigation. The detective then heading the case identified a suspect (not Valente) by handwriting, and HP retained a handwriting analysis firm with adequate credentials: McCann and Associates. McCann deemed the samples inconclusive and the investigation lapsed.

In September 1998, Valente began three months of maternity leave to care for her newly adopted child. During this time, two more notes were discovered and in January 1999, the investigation resumed under the charge of Detective William Wallace. More handwriting samples were obtained, this time from nine employees including Valente. McCann determined that for the fourteen notes as to which it could draw conclusions, only Valente could not be ruled out as a suspect; but McCann also said that she could not be "conclusively" identified based on the samples available.

More samples of Valente's handwriting were secured and in November 1999, McCann concluded that it was "more probable than not" that Valente was the author of three bomb notes, including two found when she was on leave, and eleven of the other notes. Wallace met with McCann representatives who, with slides or similar means, displayed the similarities on which they relied and repeated their conclusion. Wallace also determined that Valente could have visited the HP building in question during her leave, although he had no proof that she had done so.

On January 5, 2000, at Wallace's request Valente came to...

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