A security guard who was arrested for a robbery he didn’t commit has filed a federal civil rights claim against the City of Pittsburgh and three of its police officers.
Deandre Brown, who was pinned for the Sept. 10, 2013, armed robbery of Dana’s Bakery in Pittsburgh, filed suit in the Western District of Pennsylvania last week alleging he was made to spend 36 days in jail for a crime in which he wasn’t involved.
The plaintiff, who was employed as a security guard at the Homewood Branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, was taken into custody the day after the robbery by officers who surrounded his vehicle, which was parked outside of a friend’s house at the time as a crew of people were preparing to attend Brown’s cousin’s funeral, according to the complaint.
Brown was subsequently charged with both the robbery and illegal possession of a firearm, despite the fact that he had a valid carry license at the time, the record shows.
The plaintiff says he was arrested and charged despite the fact that he had an alibi confirming that he was attending a work-related seminar at the time of the robbery, something that was even caught on surveillance video.
Police, however, disregarded the alibi, as did a local judge, who set Brown’s bond at $105,000 during a Sept. 24, 2013, preliminary hearing, according to the civil action.
The bond was later reduced to $10,000 after the plaintiff’s defense lawyer filed a motion for modification of bail, arguing that the surveillance video showing Brown at the seminar at the time of the robbery should be considered as it “clearly exonerated the Plaintiff of any wrongdoing,” the complaint states.
Brown ended up posting bail on Oct. 16, 2013, after spending 36 days incarcerated. He was released from jail about a week later.
Brown, however, was ordered to wear an ankle monitor to track his movement after being let out of prison, and he was forced to pay for the costs of electronic home monitoring in the form of a down payment and a daily fee.
It wasn’t until Nov. 1 of that year that Allegheny County prosecutors, after finally considering the evidence that Brown had presented to corroborate his alibi, withdrew all criminal charges against the plaintiff.
The suit accuses the defendants, officers Nicholas J. Bobbs, Frank A. Welling and a John or Jane Doe police official, of malicious prosecution in violation of Brown’s constitutional rights.
“Defendants Bobbs, Welling and Doe intentionally disregarded Plaintiff’s alibi and the clearly exculpatory evidence supporting it,” the lawsuit reads. “As a result, Plaintiff endured great hardship and was deprived of his rights as guaranteed to him by the United States Constitution.”
The suit says that the actions of the defendants were undertaken “without any factual basis and were deliberately false and/or undertaken with reckless disregard for the truth in this matter.
“The failure to investigate the crimes charged, beyond one questionable eyewitness identification which proved to be unreliable, as well as ignoring Plaintiff’s alibi, shows a knowing or reckless disregard of the truth in the matter and renders the arrest and prosecution of Plaintiff unlawful,” the complaint states. “The absence of probable cause, the existence of a constitutionally deficient investigation and the Defendants’ reckless disregard for the truth in this matter are sufficient to constitute malice on the part of the Defendants, and each of them.”
The suit contains additional counts of false arrest, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Brown says that as a result of his arrest, he suffered sleeplessness, depression irritability, emotional trauma, damage to reputation, and loss of income and benefits.
He also says he lost his security guard job with the library.
Brown seeks more than $75,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
He is being represented by Pittsburgh attorneys Joel S. Sansone and Massimo A. Terzigni.
The federal case number is 2:14-cv-00506-CB.