IRS employee sues City of Phila., three plainclothes officers for civil rights violations stemming from false arrest

By Jon Campisi | Apr 29, 2014

Members of the Philadelphia Police Department are facing suit from an

IRS employee who says she was unlawfully stopped on her way home from work and falsely arrested over claims she had drugs in her possession.

Jacqueline Little, a Philadelphia resident, filed a federal civil rights complaint on April 25 at the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the City of Philadelphia and three cops identified only by their last names – Devlin, Chaulisant and Matsinger.

The plaintiff claims she was stopped by the plainclothes officers on Jan. 14 of this year while returning home from her job as a contract representative for the Internal Revenue Service.

The officers never informed the plaintiff why she was being pulled over, the lawsuit states, and they pulled the woman from the vehicle and searched inside without her consent or a search warrant.

One of the officers informed Little narcotics were found inside the car, the complaint says, but the plaintiff never saw the alleged drugs.

Little also claims the officers never answered her when she asked why she was being pulled over in the first place.

The plaintiff claims she was handcuffed so tightly that she later admitted herself to the hospital for treatment of wrist and shoulder injuries.

The plaintiff’s vehicle was ultimately transported from the scene of the arrest to police headquarters in downtown Philadelphia, but no drugs or contraband was ever found, according to the complaint.

Little was released after two hours in custody without ever being charged with a crime, and no explanation was ever offered as to why she was pulled over and detained in the first place, the lawsuit states.

Little, the suit says, never broke any laws or committed any acts that would have justified her arrest and detention.

“The foregoing conduct of the defendants, acting under the color of state law, were undertaken in concert and conspiracy and as part of an effort to assault, unlawfully arrest and imprison plaintiff, to deny plaintiff her rights to due process and otherwise deprive plaintiff of her civil and constitutional rights …,” the lawsuit reads.

Little claims that as a result of the incident she has suffered damage to her “personal and business reputation.”

“The actions of defendants were undertaken in a menacing and arbitrary manner, designed to cause plaintiff fear, distress and embarrassment,” the suit reads. “The acts of defendants were committed willfully, wantonly, maliciously, intentionally, outrageously, deliberately and/or by conduct so egregious as to shock the conscience.”

The officers conspired to inflict harm on Little and deprive the woman of her constitutional rights, the complaint says, and they made false statements to police offices in order to conceal their “unlawful and unconstitutional conduct.”

Little says she suffered fear, anxiety, embarrassment, loss of liberty, confinement, physical injuries, severe emotional trauma and the loss of the enjoyment of life.

The city is accused of failing to properly sanction or discipline police officers and public officials who are aware of and conceal and/or aid and abet violations of citizens’ constitutional rights by police officers and others.

“The foregoing acts, omissions, systemic deficiencies and deliberate indifference to the danger or harm to citizens like the plaintiff and the need for more or different training, investigation and discipline are policies and customs of the City of Philadelphia and have caused police officers and public officials, including defendants in this case, to believe that they can violate the rights of citizens, with impunity, including the use of fraud and falsehood and to believe that such conduct would be honestly and properly investigated, all with the foreseeable result that officers are more likely to violate the constitutional rights of citizens,” the complaint states.

Little seeks an unspecified amount of both compensatory and punitive damages, declaratory judgment that the practices and policies complained of are unconstitutional, attorney’s fees and costs.

The plaintiff is being represented by Philadelphia attorney Michael Pileggi.


The federal case number is 2:14-cv-02399-TON. 

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