City attorneys seek to transfer Phila. police abuse case to federal court

By Jon Campisi | Mar 9, 2012

Attorneys for the City of Philadelphia have filed a Notice of Removal with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania seeking to have a lawsuit filed by a man who alleges his civil rights were violated during a police encounter transferred from state court to federal court.

Philadelphia Divisional Deputy City Solicitor Matthew Kevin Hubbard filed the removal notice March 8 on behalf of the city and Police Officers Raymond Heim, Oronde Watson, Jr. and Mark Williams.

The plaintiff in the case, Johnny Ferrell, who is currently in federal custody in an unknown location, first filed his civil complaint against the defendants in mid-February.

The lawsuit, which was originally filed in Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court by attorney Rania Major-Trunfio, alleges that Ferrell was sitting on the front steps of a friend’s house on the 2800 block of North Taney Street back on Oct. 20, 2009, when the defendant officers, on undercover patrol, arrested Ferrell for unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

The suit states that Ferrell began to run after he first noticed the unmarked car pull up to the house, but that he immediately stopped upon hearing that the occupants of the vehicle were police officers.

The suit claims that despite the fact that Ferrell was willing to go peacefully, and did not show signs of resisting arrest, the officers repeatedly kicked and punched Ferrell, as well as hit him with objects such as their batons and flashlights.

“Defendant Police Officers intentionally, deliberately and maliciously used unjustified and excessive physical force on the plaintiff …,” the lawsuit states.

The complaint states that as a result of the alleged beating, Ferrell sustained contusions on his face and head, a gash and scar on the side of his head, headaches, a chipped tooth, jaw pain, wrist sprain and emotional distress and mental anguish.

The lawsuit contains state law claims of assault and battery, as well as federal civil rights claims. Specifically, Ferrell claims he had his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights violated.

In the removal notice, Deputy City Solicitor Hubbard wrote that federal court is the proper forum to hear the case because the complaint alleges federal constitutional violations and because the amount of damages sought is beyond state court jurisdiction.


The federal case ID number is 2:12-cv-01216-JHS.

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