WILLIAMS CEDAR DEFEATS SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN IMPORTANT CIVIL RIGHTS CASE
On June 23, 2011, James McIntyre was pulled over in his truck by a uniformed Philadelphia police officer, on the pretense that the truck had been involved in a hit-and-run accident. Unbeknownst to McIntyre, the stop, and its false justification, had been orchestrated by members of the Philadelphia Police Department assigned to its Narcotics Field Unit. In McIntyre’s account, the NFU officers misappropriated cash he was carrying in the truck, and planted a small amount of illegal drugs there. They used this false evidence and the threat of criminal prosecution to pressure McIntyre to provide information regarding another individual whom they suspected of being a drug dealer. McIntyre contends that, when he expressed his ignorance of any wrongdoing by the suspected individual, the officers falsely arrested him and charged him with drug–related felonies.
McIntyre pleaded not guilty, but spent several months in jail, awaiting trial. He was released in December, 2012, after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office informed the courts that it would no longer accept as reliable any evidence produced by the NFU officers, due to a pattern of misconduct. The same officers who arrested McIntyre were eventually charged with federal crimes related to their misconduct in connection with drug investigations. They were acquitted in federal court, but hundreds of civil cases, including McIntyre’s, in which he is represented by Williams Cedar lawyers Gerald Williams and Christopher Markos and their co-counsel Mark Frost, followed. In the case, McIntyre vs. City of Philadelphia, et al., CV No. 13-2773, McIntyre seeks damages for the violation of his civil rights, alleging that the officers engaged in false arrest and malicious prosecution, resulting in his false imprisonment. He also alleges that the City of Philadelphia is liable for enabling the officers’ violation of his rights through a longstanding “custom” of permitting their misconduct, despite the City’s knowledge of multiple instances of their unconstitutional behavior.
The McIntyre case was selected to serve as a “bellwether,” to be tried first among the hundreds of cases placed in suspense by the Court. After the close of discovery in the case, all defendants moved for summary judgment, asking Judge Paul Diamond of the Eastern District for the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia to throw the case out. On February 7, 2020, Judge Diamond issued a 34-page opinion, generally denying defendants’ motions. The Court found that plaintiff had produced evidence that, if believed by the jury, would establish his claims for false arrest, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and a conspiracy among the NFU officers to deprive him of his civil rights. The Court denied the officers’ claim to “qualified immunity,” pointing out that the essence of McIntyre’s claim is that defendants framed an innocent man for an improper purpose – conduct well established as unconstitutional.
Importantly, the Court also denied the City’s motion for summary judgment, holding that plaintiff had produced evidence sufficient to show that municipal supervisors, including the police Internal Affairs Bureau, had tacitly endorsed misconduct of NFU officers, turning a blind eye to facts that should have alerted them to its existence.
As a result of the Court’s decision, the likely next step in the litigation will be the Court’s scheduling a trial date.
The Philadelphia civil rights lawyers of Williams Cedar have a long history of representing victims deprived of their constitutional rights, including cases of false arrest, malicious prosecution, wrongful conviction and excessive use of force. If you have been affected by such misconduct by police officers or other officials, you can consult with an experienced civil rights attorney by contacting Williams Cedar.