Lawsuit accuses Phila. detective of falsely arresting man for theft

By Jon Campisi | Sep 10, 2012

A man who is currently a state prison inmate in central Pennsylvania has filed a pro se complaint against a Philadelphia Police detective over allegations that the plaintiff’s false arrest for theft has caused him financial hardship.

Thomas Matsinger claims in his lawsuit, which was filed on his own behalf last week at state court in Philadelphia, that Detective James Severa erred when the police officer arrested the plaintiff in late July 2009 after receiving a tip about an alleged stolen television.

The suit states that Severa, who received the tip from a friend at the Bensalem Township Police Department just outside of Philadelphia, arrested Matsinger despite being shown proof, in the form of receipts, that a widescreen television that came from a Best Buy store in Northeast Philadelphia was legitimately owned by the plaintiff.

Matsinger was initially charged with various counts of theft, and he subsequently had to post $500 in bail, although the bail was allegedly held up by Severa, causing Matsinger to spend three days in county lockup, according to the complaint.

While Matsinger was in custody, the lawsuit claims, Severa gave away the television set, all the while refusing to dismiss the criminal charges against the plaintiff, the suit states.

After five listed court dates, the complaint says, all of the charges against Matsinger were dismissed.

Despite a judicial order requiring the return of Matsinger’s property, the television never made its way back to the plaintiff, the suit claims, with city officials, police department representatives and the city’s bail commissioners all disregarding the order.

In his pro se complaint, Matsinger accuses the various defendants, which includes the city’s police and bail commissioner’s, as well as Mayor Michael Nutter, of violating his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

The suit also contains counts of malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, failure to comply with a court order, failure to return property owned by the plaintiff and failure to return money owed to the plaintiff.

Matsinger seeks $861.30 for the television that was taken from him, $500 for the bail that was never returned to him despite the case against him being expunged, and $50,000 for pain, suffering and emotional distress.


The case ID number is 120900382. 

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