Kedra v. City of Philadelphia

Decision Date29 June 1978
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 77-4046.
Citation454 F. Supp. 652
PartiesDolores M. KEDRA, in her own right, Richard J. Rozanski and Elizabeth Rozanski, Husband and Wife, Patricia Kedra, Kenneth Kedra, Teresa Kedra, Michael Kedra, a minor, by his parent and natural guardian Dolores M. Kedra, Robert Kedra, a minor, by his parent and natural guardian Dolores M. Kedra, and James Kedra, a minor, by his parent and natural guardian Dolores M. Kedra v. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, Joseph F. O'NEILL, Police Commissioner of the City of Philadelphia, Joseph Golden, Chief Inspector, Homicide Division of the Police Department of the City of Philadelphia, Captain Donald Patterson, Lieutenant Lesley Simmins, Lieutenant Augustus Miller, Sergeant John Tiers, Detective Richard Strohm, Detective James Richardson, Detective George Cassidy, Detective Michael Gannon, Officer James Brady, Officer Robert Pitney, Officer Jessie Vassor, Officer John J. D'Amico, Officer (first name unknown) Tuffo, and other unidentified members of the Philadelphia Police Department.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania

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Jack E. Feinberg, Ronald A. Blumfeld, Philadelphia, Pa., for plaintiffs.

Gerald T. Clark, Asst. City Sol., Philadelphia, Pa., for defendants.

OPINION

LUONGO, District Judge.

This civil rights action arises out of an alleged series of brutal acts committed by Philadelphia policemen against the plaintiffs. The events set forth in the complaint span one and one-half years, from December 1975 to February or March 1977. The defendants have moved to dismiss. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b).

I. The Factual Allegations

Plaintiffs are Dolores M. Kedra; her children, Elizabeth, Patricia, Teresa, Kenneth, Joseph,1 Michael, Robert, and James; and Elizabeth's husband, Richard J. Rozanski. Michael, Robert, and James Kedra are minors, and their mother sues on their behalf as parent and natural guardian.

Defendants are the City of Philadelphia; Police Commissioner Joseph J. O'Neill; officials of the Police Department's Homicide DivisionDivision Chief Donald Patterson, Chief Inspector Joseph Golden, Lieutenant Leslie Simmins, and Sergeant John Tiers; Homicide Detectives Richard Strohm, James Richardson, George Cassidy, and Michael Gannon; Police Lieutenant Augustus C. Miller; Police Officers James Brady, Robert Pitney, Jessie Vassor, and John J. D'Amico; an officer surnamed Tuffo; and other unidentified members of the Police Department. It is alleged that "at all times material to plaintiffs' cause of action the City of Philadelphia employed all of the individual defendants." It is further alleged that each of the individual defendants, "separately and in concert," acted under color of Pennsylvania law and, "pursuant to their authority as agents, servants, and employees of defendant City of Philadelphia, intentionally and deliberately engaged in the unlawful conduct described . . .." They are sued "individually and in their official capacity" and "jointly and severally."

The series of events set forth in the complaint2 dates from December 22, 1975. On that evening, Richard Rozanski and Joseph and Michael Kedra were arrested at gun point without probable cause by defendants Vassor and D'Amico and taken to Philadelphia Police Headquarters (the Roundhouse). At the Roundhouse, they were separated and questioned for seventeen hours by defendants Strohm, Richardson, Cassidy, and Gannon. They were not informed of their constitutional rights and were refused requests for counsel. The complaint states —

"During the course of the interrogation, plaintiffs Richard Rozanski, Michael Kedra and Joseph Kedra were handcuffed, struck about the head, face, stomach, abdomen, arms and legs with fists and physical objects, were harassed and threatened with further physical violence by defendants Strohm, Richardson, Cassidy and Gannon; during the course of this interrogation, plaintiff Richard Rozanski's legs were held apart by two of the defendant detectives while he was kicked in the testicles, groin, buttocks and legs by defendant Strohm."

Rozanski, and Michael and Joseph Kedra each sustained serious injuries as a result of the beatings.

Meanwhile, defendant Richardson forcibly took Elizabeth Rozanski from her mother's house to the Roundhouse, where she was detained and questioned for seventeen hours by defendants Strohm, Gannon, Richardson, and Simmins. She was not advised of her rights. She was shown her husband, who had been beaten badly, and "was threatened with arrest in an attempt to coerce a false statement from her." A warrantless search of her bedroom was conducted by defendant Strohm "and others" without her consent and without probable cause.

On that same evening, Dolores Kedra voluntarily went to the Roundhouse "where she was illegally interrogated, coerced into signing a release authorizing the search of her house and forcibly detained" for nine hours by Strohm, Richardson, Cassidy, Gannon, "and other unidentified defendants."

Seven days later, on the morning of December 29, 1975, defendants Brady and Pitney went to the Kedra home, demanding to see Richard Rozanski and "falsely stating that they had papers for his appearance in Court on the following day." All of the plaintiffs except Dolores Kedra, the mother, were at home at the time. The policemen "attempted to drag Rozanski out of the house," but Rozanski and Kenneth Kedra shut and locked the door. Rozanski asked to see a warrant, but Brady and Pitney did not have one. Brady and Pitney then secured the aid of other policemen who, without a warrant or probable cause and "through the use of excessive force," "broke open the door with the butt end of a shotgun and forced their way into the house with shotguns, handguns, blackjacks, and nightsticks in hand." Defendants Brady, Pitney, Miller, Tiers, "and ten to fifteen other defendant members of the Philadelphia Police Department" conducted a thorough search of the house and, while doing so, physically assaulted Patricia, Joseph, Michael, and Kenneth Kedra, inflicting serious injuries. They also attempted to confiscate a camera and note pad being used by Joseph Kedra. It is alleged further that—

"The defendants unlawfully detained plaintiffs within the house by blocking off both the front and rear doors, holding plaintiffs in fear of life and limb by visibly displaying shotguns, handguns and nightsticks, and through threats of violence, coercion and abusive language."

Rozanski and Joseph, Michael, and Kenneth Kedra were taken to the Roundhouse in a police van, and Kenneth was beaten while being led to the van. At the Roundhouse, Michael and Kenneth were "unlawfully detained" for twenty-four hours, and Rozanski "was struck in the face by defendant Strohm" and was denied repeated requests for counsel. "Without just or probable cause," Rozanski was charged with murder, burglary, and receiving stolen goods, and Kenneth and Joseph were charged with assault and battery, harboring a fugitive, and resisting arrest. In defending these charges, they incurred attorney's fees. All three later were acquitted on all counts.

With respect to the December 1975 events, the complaint sets forth the following general allegations:

"17. At all times material to plaintiffs' cause of action, plaintiff Richard Rozanski, through his attorney, offered to voluntarily surrender to the Philadelphia Police; the defendants chose, however, to engage in the course of conduct described in detail above, the purpose and effect of which was to knowingly, intentionally and deliberately deprive plaintiffs of rights secured by the Constitution of the United States.
18. All of the aforementioned acts were committed by defendants intentionally, deliberately and maliciously, pursuant to their authority as agents, servants and employees of the Police Department of the City of Philadelphia.
19. The aforementioned acts were committed with the consent and knowledge and at the direction of defendants Joseph F. O'Neill in his capacity as Police Commissioner of the City of Philadelphia.
20. The aforementioned acts were committed with the knowledge and consent and at the direction of defendant Joseph Golden in his official capacity as Chief Inspector of the Homicide Division of the Police Department of the City of Philadelphia.
21. The aforementioned acts were committed with the knowledge and consent and at the direction of Captain Donald Patterson, Chief of the Homicide Division of the Philadelphia Police Department, Lieutenant Lesley Simmins and Sergeant John Tiers, in their official capacities as supervisory officials of the Philadelphia Police Department.
22. The defendants named in Paragraphs 18, 19, 20 and 21 are and were at all times material to plaintiffs' cause of action in a position to exercise direct supervision of the defendant officers and detectives and did in fact exercise such control and supervision at all times material to plaintiffs' cause of action.
23. All of the aforementioned acts were committed without just or probable cause with regard to each of the plaintiffs."

The complaint alleges further that "defendants have engaged and continue to engage in a systematic pattern of harassment, threats and coercion with the intention of, and having the effect of depriving plaintiffs of . . . rights and privileges . . .." As part of this "pattern," Michael Kedra was arrested in June 1976 and was beaten by defendant Strohm, "who handcuffed plaintiff's hands behind his back, and struck him in the chest and stomach with a nightstick and fist." James Kedra has been "harassed and threatened without cause" by defendants D'Amico, Brady and Pitney, and in February or March 1977 "was grabbed by the shirt" by Tuffo and Pitney "and threatened with physical violence."

The complaint asserts that "as a result of the aforementioned actions, plaintiffs have suffered and continue to suffer severe...

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