Pennsylvania Record

Monday, December 9, 2019

Judge asked to toss lawsuit accusing Pittsburgh police of arresting woman for not supporting Trump

Federal Court

By Nicholas Malfitano | Nov 22, 2019

Trump
President Donald Trump

PITTSBURGH – The City of Pittsburgh and five of its police officers are seeking to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a woman who alleged she was unlawfully arrested because she doesn’t support President Trump, and that the same arresting officers allegedly called her a “bleeding heart liberal.”

Darian Balcom initially filed a complaint on May 2 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against the City of Pittsburgh, Officers Gabe Figueroa and John Doe, under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

(An amended version of the complaint filed on Aug. 28 added Officers Leo, Donnolley, Smith and Jorge Zarate as defendants.)

According to the complaint, the plaintiff owns and manages rental properties in Pittsburgh, and was asked in writing by the owner of a neighboring building to feed dogs believed to be abandoned, on Dec. 18, 2017.

The plaintiff alleged when she entered the apartment, she found two cats inside that were not properly cared for – and then took the cats to an empty unit in her apartment building to care for them.

The suit stated five police officers entered the plaintiff’s apartment building without her consent and without a warrant, and accused the plaintiff of illegally entering the apartment and stealing the cats.

Balcom alleged that Figueroa, a Pittsburgh police officer, asked her if she was a supporter of President Donald Trump and when she responded that she was not, she was “sassed” by the officers and arrested.

The suit stated Balcom was taken to the Allegheny County Jail, held overnight and was charged with felony trespassing, theft and burglary, though the charges were later withdrawn.

On Oct. 1, counsel for the defendants filed a motion to dismiss Balcom’s lawsuit, arguing she has no valid Section 1983 civil rights violation claims.

“Any claims against the City of Pittsburgh should be dismissed with prejudice for failure to properly allege a widespread municipal policy or custom that was the moving force behind the alleged Constitutional injuries. Plaintiff failed to state a claim for municipal liability under a failure to train, control or supervise theory. Further, the actions of one officer, claimed by the plaintiff to be evidence of a failure to train, control, or supervise, does not amount to a widespread policy or custom,” the dismissal motion read, in part.

“Plaintiff’s claims against Detective Figueroa and defendant Officers Zarate, Leo, Donnelly, and Smith should be dismissed for failure to state a claim and because the officers, as well as Detective Figueroa, are entitled to qualified immunity. Defendants respectfully request this Court dismiss all claims in plaintiff’s amended complaint.”

The plaintiff is seeking all reasonable sums due, attorney’s fees and court costs.

The plaintiff is represented by Margaret S. Coleman of the Law Offices of Timothy P. O’Brien, in Pittsburgh.

The defendants are represented by Emily McNally, Julie E. Koren, Michael E. Kennedy and Yvonne Schlosberg Hilton of the City of Pittsburgh’s Law Department, in Pittsburgh.

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania case 2:19-cv-00506

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nick.malfitano@therecordinc.com

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