MALICIOUS PROSECUTION-FALSE ARREST

April 30th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Criminal

Alleyne v. Pirrone, 2018 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 90 (March 9, 2018) Brobson, J. Detective George Pirrone (Detective Pirrone), Detective James Pitts (Detective Pitts), and Lieutenant Philip Riehl (Lieutenant Riehl) (collectively, Appellants) of the Philadelphia Police Department appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County (trial court). Following a trial, a jury found all three defendants liable to Kareem Alleyne (Alleyne) for malicious prosecution and found Detective Pirrone and Lieutenant Riehl liable to Alleyne for false arrest. Appellants appeal from the trial court’s denial of their motion for judgment notwithstanding the jury’s verdict. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse. On April 20, 2016, the jury returned a verdict favorable to Alleyne and awarded him damages in the amount of $1,030,250. The jury found all three Appellants—Detective Pitts, Detective Pirrone, and Lieutenant 25 Riehl—liable for malicious prosecution. The jury determined that only Detective Pirrone and Lieutenant Riehl were liable for false arrest. Alleyne very effectively defended against the criminal charges he faced by highlighting serious holes and inconsistencies in the Police Department’s investigation. While the improprieties by Appellants significantly hindered the criminal case against Alleyne, they did not rise to the level of preventing any reasonable person from believing Alleyne had committed a crime.

As we noted in Schell v. Guth, 88 A.3d 1053 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2014), the law does not require that every 16 Finally, because we reverse the trial court’s order on the basis that ADA Selber had probable cause to charge and prosecute Alleyne, we need not address the remaining arguments presented by Appellants pertaining to immunity under the Tort Claims Act. 36 flawed investigation or failure to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt be vindicated by a subsequent lawsuit: We understand that [the plaintiff] believes that he was unjustly charged . . . He likely shares that feeling with many others ultimately acquitted of criminal charges in a court of law. His acquittal, however, does not necessarily mean that [the law enforcement defendants] should be held civilly liable for their roles in the criminal and internal administrative cases against [him]. Schell, 88 A.3d at 1070. Civil liability does not flow automatically from a weak criminal case. Here, there was sufficient undisputed evidence upon which Officer Ghee and ADA Selber could have reasonably believed that Alleyne committed a crime. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s order and remand the matter with instructions that the trial court enter judgment in favor of Appellants.

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