Raffety v. Prince George's Cty., Civ. A. No. M-75-768.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
Citation423 F. Supp. 1045
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. M-75-768.
PartiesMargie Lemon RAFFETY and Robert Raymond Raffety, Plaintiffs, v. PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY et al., Defendants.
Decision Date01 November 1976



Jayson Amster, Upper Marlboro, Md., and Harvey M. Katz, Washington, D. C., for plaintiffs.

James C. Chapin, Ellis J. Koch, and Robert N. Boyer, Upper Marlboro, Md., for Kelly, Rhoads, Briguglio, Connor, Fitzpatrick, Vasco, Wiseman, and Malberg.

Edward P. Camus, Riverdale, Md., for Prince George's County, Hatfield, and Tucker.


JAMES R. MILLER, Jr., District Judge.

This suit arises out of a tragic incident on January 21, 1975, in which the plaintiffs' residence in Prince George's County caught fire and their three children were killed. The plaintiffs allege that an investigation of them in connection with this fire by various agents of Prince George's County1 was malicious and racially motivated. The plaintiffs are husband and wife; Mrs. Raffety is black and her husband is white. According to the amended complaint, the central characters in this investigation were two County police officers, David Hatfield and R. Tony Tucker. The plaintiffs allege that shortly after the fire, Mrs. Raffety was brought to a police barracks in Maryland and "confronted by defendants Hatfield and Tucker, who detained her against her will for a period in excess of 14 hours during which time they repeatedly accused her of murdering her own children, repeatedly made her believe that she would suffer immediate bodily harm, repeatedly harassed and intimidated her, and repeatedly made her suffer extreme emotional distress and physical pain and discomfort." The amended complaint states that upon hearing that his wife had been taken to the police barracks, Mr. Raffety went to the barracks to obtain her release. Thereupon, allegedly, he also was confronted by Officers Hatfield and Tucker and was "detained against his will for a period in excess of ten hours" during which time he was subjected to treatment similar to that inflicted upon his wife. The plaintiffs further allege that they were denied access to counsel during these detentions.

Officers James Fitzpatrick, Robert Vasco, and James Wiseman are "supervisory police officers" of the County. The amended complaint states that the investigation continued after these detentions and that the "plaintiffs were and continue to be the target of a malicious campaign conducted by defendants Hatfield, Tucker, Fitzpatrick, Vasco, and Wiseman, such campaign having been designed by said defendants to discredit the plaintiffs, damage their reputation, invade the privacy and sanctity of their lives, and cause them embarrassment, humiliation, and severe mental and physical distress." The amended complaint also states that during this campaign, oral and written statements were made to the effect that plaintiffs are persons of low moral character who are capable of and did in fact murder their own children and that these defendants "made totally unjustified and wrongful inquiry into ... their private lives." The plaintiffs allege that this entire investigation was inspired by malice and racial prejudice rather than by probable cause to believe that the plaintiffs were the cause of their children's deaths.

The County, Winfield Kelly, John W. Rhoads, George Connor, Frank Briguglio, and David J. Malberg are also defendants in this suit. Mr. Kelley is the chief executive officer of the County, and Mr. Rhoads is the chief executive officer of the police department. Mr. Connor is the officer in charge of police training for the County. Messrs. Briguglio and Malberg are associated with the County's fire department; Mr. Briguglio is the chief executive officer of that department and Mr. Malberg is employed by it as a fire investigator.

The plaintiffs allege that their injuries were caused by the establishment by the individual defendants and the County of policies, guidelines, and patterns of conduct in law enforcement activities which are designed to deny members of the black race, and persons who associate with them, equal protection of the law. With respect to the individual defendants only, the plaintiffs more specifically allege that included among these policies, guidelines, and patterns of conduct are "the hiring and selection as police officers of individuals biased against members of the black race and biased against persons who associate with members of the black race; the hiring as police officers of individuals with brutal dispositions and with tendencies to violate the constitutional rights of others; the training of employees with law enforcement responsibilities in investigatory methods that are violative of constitutional rights and likely to injure citizens; the refusal to discipline or remove from office law enforcement personnel whose biases, brutal dispositions and recklessness violate constitutional rights and do injury to others; the conduct of criminal arson investigations in a reckless manner so as to cause directly violations of constitutional rights and great harm to others; the conduct of police investigations in a manner deliberately designed to bring harm to individuals without reasonable cause and to violate the constitutional rights of citizens."

With respect to Messrs. Briguglio and Malberg, the following is alleged:

"The foregoing actions of defendants Hatfield, Tucker, Fitzpatrick, Vasco and Wiseman were caused in part by the action of defendants Briguglio and Malberg in advising the County police that the fire in question was caused by arson. The aforesaid action was wrongful, reckless and totally without justification. In taking such action, defendants Briguglio and Malberg knew that such action would directly cause great injury to plaintiffs. Such action of defendants Briguglio and Malberg was part of a continuing pattern of conduct of said defendant which directly and repeately (sic) violates the constitutional rights of citizens."

The suit is brought pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment and to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 with jurisdiction alleged under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343. The plaintiffs pray compensatory and punitive damages against the defendants in the amount of $250,000 along with "such other and further relief as may be just and proper" for the "violation of rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, false imprisonment, assault, invasion of privacy, slander, libel, negligence and willful infliction of mental distress." The case is now before the court on defendants' motions to dismiss the amended complaint.

I. Defendants Tucker and Hatfield

Officers Tucker and Hatfield have moved to dismiss the amended complaint because it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. They contend that "the alleged improper interrogation did not constitute a denial of any constitutional rights of the plaintiffs" and cite numerous cases which hold that the failure to advise one of Miranda rights does not create a cause of action under the Civil Rights Acts. See, e. g., Allen v. Eicher, 295 F.Supp. 1184 (D.Md. 1969) and Thornton v. Buchmann, 392 F.2d 870 (7th Cir. 1968).

These defendants also cite Ambrek v. Clark, 287 F.Supp. 208 (E.D.Pa.1968) and Duncan v. Nelson, 466 F.2d 939 (7th Cir. 1972). In Ambrek, the court indicated that a cause of action could be maintained under the Civil Rights Acts where a confession obtained from the plaintiff in violation of the precepts of Miranda was subsequently used against the plaintiff in a criminal proceeding. In Duncan, the court found that a civil rights action was maintainable upon the allegation that an involuntary confession was elicited from the plaintiff by police using tactics which violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. These defendants then argue that "since no confessions were obtained and used against the Plaintiffs there has been no deprivation of any rights, privilege, or immunity provided by the Constitution or the Laws of the United States."

This argument misconstrues the nature of plaintiffs' suit. It assumes that it is based solely upon the failure to provide Miranda warnings and the attempted elicitation from the plaintiffs of an involuntary confession. However, the gravamen of plaintiffs' amended complaint is their contention that the detention, interrogation, and subsequent investigation of them by Officers Tucker and Hatfield was racially motivated and not based upon probable cause. These allegations constitute a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs' amended complaint does not even mention Miranda warnings.2

Officers Tucker and Hatfield also argue that the "alleged defamation of the plaintiffs fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted in that a defamed person has not been deprived of any right, privilege, or immunity secured to him by the Constitution and Laws of the United States." However, these defendants fail to consider the doctrine of pendent jurisdiction which a federal court has the power to exercise when the state and federal claims "derive from a common nucleus of operative fact." United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725, 86 S.Ct. 1130, 1138, 16 L.Ed.2d 218 (1966). "If, considered without regard to their federal or state character, a plaintiff's claims are such that he would ordinarily be expected to try them all in one judicial proceeding, then, assuming substantiality of the federal issues, there is power in federal courts to hear the whole." Id. (Emphasis in original). The court believes that the state claims alleged against Officers Tucker and Hatfield meet the Gibbs test. Although this power to hear the state claims need not be exercised in every case, considerations of judicial economy, convenience, and fairness to the parties, along with an absence of factors calling for hesitation, compel the court to exercise its...

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