Philly man's claims of unlawful property seizure by police officers will proceed

By Nicholas Malfitano | Jan 19, 2016

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania  

PHILADELPHIA – A federal judge ruled a Philadelphia man who charged police officers with unlawful seizure of property will have those claims proceed.

Judge Gene E.K. Pratter decided Wednesday that Norris Williams’s lawsuit filed against Officer Robert Wilsbach of the Abington Police Department, Officer Womer of the Philadelphia Police Department and Officer Campbell, Detectives C.T. Lydon, Michael Pecko, and William Sminkey of the Upper Darby Police Department would proceed in part and be dismissed in part.

Williams’ allegations of unlawful seizure will move forward and his other claims of violation of his due process rights or for malicious prosecution, false arrest and false imprisonment will not.

Williams alleges on Jan. 26, 2012, Sminkey, Detective Pecko, Officer Napolitan, and Officer Womer arrested his brother Gary Williams at Gary’s own home. While at the residence, officers found and confiscated a sawed-off shotgun, a blue canvas bank bag and keys to a 2009 Jaguar. The police investigated the registration for the Jaguar and learned that Gary and Norris Williams co-owned the vehicle.

A subsequent investigation led police to Norris Williams’ home, where they allegedly took $21 and jewelry and seized the 2009 Jaguar. The police picked up Williams for questioning in Upper Darby nearly six months later, accused him of participating in a “flim flam” scheme and booked him. Williams alleges portions of documents were withheld from him and his legal counsel during this time period.

“Mr. Williams’s complaint contains no factual allegations concerning Detective Lydon or Officer Campbell,” Pratter said. “Because Mr. Williams has not alleged any involvement of either of these officers in any of the events chronicled in his Complaint, the claims against them must be dismissed.”

Pratter added Williams’ due process claim against the defendants would also fail, because Williams did not allege being deprived of any remedy to the situation afterwards.

“Pennsylvania courts provide an adequate post-deprivation remedy, and he has not alleged that this remedy was somehow unavailable to him,” Pratter said.

Pratter further pointed out a lack of foundation in Williams’ claims for malicious prosecution, false arrest and false imprisonment.

“Mr. Williams does not allege any facts that would suggest that the police lacked probable cause to arrest him. Indeed, in this case, there was an affidavit of probable cause (which Mr. Williams attached to the complaint) and a warrant issued for Mr. Williams’s arrest,” Pratter said. “Williams has failed to plead facts suggesting that the warrant was fraudulently obtained or that probable cause was otherwise lacking, and his Fourth Amendment claims relating to his arrest must be dismissed.”

With respect to the unlawful seizure of property claim, Pratter said that allegation would proceed at this point in time. Pratter then provided Willliams leave to amend his complaint and summarized her final ruling.

“Because Mr. Williams fails to state claims against any of the Defendants for violation of his due process rights or for malicious prosecution, false arrest, or false imprisonment, including against those defendants who have not moved for dismissal, the Court will dismiss those claims,” Pratter said. 

“However, Mr. Williams has stated a claim for a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights to the extent he claims that the police stole money and jewelry from his home when attempting to execute an arrest warrant and unlawfully seized a car in which he had a possessory interest. Therefore, such claims will be permitted to go ahead,” Pratter concluded.

The plaintiff represented himself in this matter.

The defendants are represented by Robert P. DiDomenicis of Holsten & Associates in Media, Christopher Paul Boyle of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin in King of Prussia and Rebecca Prosper of the City of Philadelphia’s Law Department.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:13-cv-02057

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

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