Pennsylvania Record

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Mother loses lawsuit over sexual assault of daughter; She'd sued those who allowed attacker to be released

Federal Court

By Charmaine Little | Oct 10, 2019

U.s. district judge anita brody
Judge Anita B. Brody of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA - A federal judge in Pennsylvania dismissed claims that stem from a young girl's kidnapping and sexual assault, and declined to exercise jurisdiction on other related claims.

Judge Anita B. Brody of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled on the case on Sept. 24.

“As tragic as the facts of this case are, I must ultimately dismiss the section 1983 claim and decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims,” said the court.

Vyneeka Hopkins, mother of victim C.A., sued the accused abductor, Jamir Hill, and mental health workers Nicole Yesser and Rocco Manfredi, who suggested Hill’s release from the South Mountain Secure Treatment Unit, as well as Manfredi’s employer, Bonsall, Manfredi & Associates (BMA). Hopkins sued Hill for state-law tort claims for assault and battery. 

The plaintiff named Yesser, Manfredi and BMA in state-law negligence claims and the 42 U.S.C. section 1983 for alleged violation of C.A.’s substantive due-process right to bodily integrity. Manfredi and BMA filed one motion to dismiss while Yesser filed another. The court granted both.

For the substantive due-process claim, the court agreed with the Manfredi defendants that Hopkins didn’t prove that there was a connection between the state and C.A. that made it predictable that C.A. would be a victim. 

While Hopkins said C.A. should have been seen as a foreseeable victim as her and Hill’s families were in frequent contact with each other, the court said the argument “lacks discernible limits or membership criteria” and “does not face a ‘special danger’ separate from that faced by the general public,” according to the opinion.

The court also refused to exercise jurisdiction for the state-law tort claims against Yesser and the Manfredi defendants.

“Under 28 U.S.C. section 1367(c)(3), a district court has discretion to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state-law claims if it has dismissed all claims over which it had original jurisdiction,” the court said.

Hill’s time at South Mountain began in 2014. While there, he “was known to have violent and uncontrollable tendencies, as well as deviant sexual outbursts,” according to the opinion. Yesser was his counselor while Manfredi was his psychiatrist while in the center. 

Both Yesser and Manfredi recommended Hill's release, despite allegedly knowing that Hill had targeted young members of his family and friends in the past for violent sexual attacks. Yesser and Manfredi were also aware that Hill lived close to C.A.’s family, and that Hill and C.A.’s family spoke often.

Hill was accused of kidnapping, raping and abandoning C.A. just three weeks after his release. 

“C.A. survived but suffered severe and permanent physical and psychological harm,” said the court. 

Hill was found guilty for burglary, kidnapping, rape and attempted murder.

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