Pugliano v. Staziak

Decision Date30 June 1964
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 64-78.
Citation231 F. Supp. 347
PartiesPietro Mario PUGLIANO, Plaintiff, v. Paul STAZIAK, Peter Pollice, Leonard Monti, Enoc N. Johnson, Thomas Welsh, Vincent Tambura, Rita Henderson, and Marion Sarnic, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Pietro Mario Pugliano, pro se.

David W. Craig, City Sol., Pittsburgh, Pa., for defendants, Paul Staziak, Peter Pollice, Leonard Monti and Enoc N. Johnson.

Rothman, Gordon & Foreman, Pittsburgh, Pa., for defendant, Marion Sarnic.

Lipsitz & Nassau, Pittsburgh, Pa., for defendant, Rita Henderson.

Louis Abromson, Daniel T. Zamos, Pittsburgh, Pa., for defendant, Vincent Tambura.

Richard C. Witt, Pittsburgh, Pa., for defendant, Thomas Welsh.

MARSH, District Judge.

On January 29, 1964, this member of the court granted plaintiff's petition for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915, and directed the filing of his complaint. The complaint alleges that defendants, Staziak, Pollice and Monti, acting under color of law in their capacities as police officers of the City of Pittsburgh, formed a conspiracy with defendant, Sarnic (a private individual), to deprive Pugliano of his constitutional rights when the said police officers "deliberty sic induced Mr. Sarnic to give false evidence against the plaintiff causing him to be falsely indicted and convicted, even though evidence, which was in the possession of the police officers at that time, revealed plaintiff was in no way involved in any crimes." The other defendants are Enoc N. Johnson, a police magistrate of the City of Pittsburgh, who presided over preliminary hearings on criminal charges against Pugliano, Sarnic, and one Geraldine Blair, and then bound that trio over for Grand Jury action; Rita Henderson, a private individual, who testified at one of those preliminary hearings and purportedly induced Geraldine Blair to give a false statement implicating Pugliano in certain crimes; Thomas Welsh, the prosecuting attorney at the criminal trial of Pugliano, Sarnic, and Blair; and Vincent Tamburo,1 a member of the Legal Aid Society and defense counsel for Pugliano at the criminal trial. These latter defendants are alleged to have become members of the conspiracy formed by the police officers and Sarnic by virtue of certain alleged acts and omissions incident to the preliminary hearings (committed by defendants Johnson and Henderson) and to the criminal trial itself (committed by defendants Welsh and Tamburo). The complaint seeks to recover damages from the defendants pursuant to §§ 1983-1986, 42 U.S.C.,2 and asserts jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1343.

The defendant, Welsh, has moved to dismiss, asserting, inter alia, that the complaint "fails to state a cause of action against this defendant" i. e., fails to state a claim against Welsh upon which relief can be granted. The other defendants answered the complaint and thereafter filed motions for summary judgment, supported by affidavits. We are of the opinion that the motion to dismiss and the motions for summary judgment should be granted.

Failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

In an action for damages under the Civil Rights Act, the plaintiff must allege highly specific facts. United States ex rel. Hoge v. Bolsinger, 211 F. Supp. 199 (W.D.Pa.1962), aff'd 311 F. 2d 215 (3d Cir. 1962), cert. denied 372 U.S. 931, 83 S.Ct. 878, 9 L.Ed.2d 735; Roberts v. Barbosa, 227 F.Supp. 20 (S.D. Cal.1964); cf. Winkler v. Pringle, 214 F.Supp. 125 (W.D.Pa.1963), aff'd 324 F. 2d 613 (3d Cir. 1963), cert. denied, 84 S.Ct. 1169. It is not enough to state bare conclusory allegations without support in facts alleged. United States ex rel. Hoge v. Bolsinger, supra; Winkler v. Pringle, supra; Powell v. Workmen's Compensation Bd. of State of New York, 327 F.2d 131 (2d Cir. 1964); Crawford v. Lydick, 179 F.Supp. 211 (W.D.Mich.1959), aff'd 280 F.2d 426 (6th Cir. 1960); Dunn v. Gazzola, 216 F.2d 709 (1st Cir. 1954); Ortega v. Ragen, 216 F.2d 561 (7th Cir. 1954); Yglesias v. Gulfstream Park Racing Ass'n, 201 F.2d 817 (5th Cir. 1953); McGuire v. Todd, 198 F.2d 60 (5th Cir. 1952); Copley v. Sweet, 133 F. Supp. 502, 507-508 (W.D.Mich.1955), aff'd 234 F.2d 660 (6th Cir. 1956), cert. denied 352 U.S. 887, 77 S.Ct. 138; Campbell v. Glenwood Hills Hospital, Inc., 224 F.Supp. 27 (D.Minn.1963); Williamson v. Waugh, 160 F.Supp. 72 (S.D.W.Va. 1958).

The complaint gives no hint of the nature of the "false evidence" Sarnic was "induced" to give by the police officers, nor the nature of the "evidence" in the possession of the police officers which purportedly "revealed plaintiff was in no way involved in any crimes." It avers that defendant, Rita Henderson, "entered" the conspiracy when she induced one Geraldine Blair to give to some unspecified person a false statement regarding the plaintiff, without revealing the nature of such alleged false statement or stating facts indicating that Henderson knew of or associated herself with the alleged conspiracy formed by the police officers and Sarnic. It avers that defendant, Johnson, "entered the conspiracy formed by the others, by deliberately submitting to the whims unspecified of Rita Henderson"; that he conducted the plaintiff's preliminary hearings in a manner "in direct conflict with the required procedures of his office"; that he bound plaintiff over for Grand Jury action "on the false statement made by Geraldine Blair" even while concurrently binding Geraldine Blair over for perjury with regard to such statement; that he refused to hold the preliminary hearing in abeyance pending the tardy arrival of plaintiff's counsel;3 and that he "refused to take action against Rita Henderson, when it was learned she induced Geraldine Blair to give the false statement against plaintiff." The complaint alleges that plaintiff was found guilty by a jury on two counts of burglary, seven counts of forgery and uttering of written instruments, and one count of aggravated assault and battery "as a result of the conspiracy formed by the herein named defendants", but states no facts indicating even the remotest causal connection between such convictions and any alleged wrongdoing by the defendants, Henderson or Johnson. As in the case of Rita Henderson, the complaint does not aver that Johnson knew of or associated himself with any conspiracy on the part of Sarnic and the police officers. Nor does the complaint aver that the only evidence presented at the preliminary hearing to justify holding Pugliano for the Grand Jury was the "false statement" given by Geraldine Blair or that such "false statement" or any testimony by Geraldine Blair was presented against plaintiff at the criminal trial. Any suggestion, if such it is meant to be, that the plaintiff suffered damage compensable under § 1983 or § 1985 when defendant Johnson failed to institute criminal proceedings against Rita Henderson for alleged subornation of perjury is patently frivolous.

As to the defendant, Welsh, the complaint avers that at or about the time of the criminal trial, he "did willfully, with malice aforethought, and under the color of law, join the conspiracy formed by the others, and used subversive methods" to gain plaintiff's convictions; that he was in possession of evidence which purportedly revealed plaintiff's innocence and yet prosecuted him; and that he knowingly used perjured evidence to secure plaintiff's convictions. It is not averred what "subversive methods" or "perjured evidence" Welsh is supposed to have employed at the trial, nor what evidence was in his possession that "revealed" plaintiff's innocence. Nor is it alleged that Welsh had any knowledge of a conspiracy formed beforehand by the other defendants.

As to the defendant, Tamburo, the complaint avers that "the records will reveal that Mr. Tambura was a part of the conspiracy which was already formed to falsely convict and deprive plaintiff of his Constitutional Rights."4 This is presumably the conclusion to be drawn from certain other of plaintiff's allegations, to wit:

"On or about May 23, 24, 1962, herein named defendant, Vincent Tambura, an attorney and member of the Legal Aid Society, was appointed by the Court to defend the plaintiff. The records will reveal that plaintiff never saw Mr. Tambura prior to trial to prepare a defense, except ten minutes prior to the selection of the jury. As a result, Mr. Tambura tried to induce the plaintiff to enter a plea of guilty to all charges against him. When plaintiff refused to do so, Mr. Tambura did willfully and with malice aforethought, conduct the plaintiff's defense in such a manner so as to bring about a conviction."

Aside from the fact that the complaint fails to aver the means allegedly employed by Tamburo to bring about plaintiff's convictions, there is no allegation that Tamburo was even remotely aware of any conspiracy afoot among the other defendants. Unless he wronged plaintiff in furtherance of a conspiracy participated in by persons acting under color of state law, this court would not have jurisdiction of any suit against him. It is clear that redress for the invasion by private individuals5 (not acting in conspiracy with state officers) of the civil rights of another must be sought in the state courts absent diversity of citizenship. Williams v. Yellow Cab Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa., 200 F.2d 302 (3d Cir. 1952), cert. denied sub nom. Dargan v. Yellow Cab Co., 346 U.S. 840, 74 S.Ct. 52, 98 L.Ed. 361; Koch v. Zuieback, 194 F. Supp. 651 (S.D.Cal.1961), aff'd 316 F.2d 1 (9th Cir. 1963); Smith v. Jennings, 148 F.Supp. 641 (W.D.Mich.1957). This jurisdictional limitation also affects the plaintiff's claims against defendants, Henderson and Sarnic, in the absence of adequate allegations that those private individuals conspired with the police officers, police magistrate, or prosecuting attorney.

In the circumstances of this case, the unsupported conclusory allegations of the complaint render it fatally deficient, and,...

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