Trooper Who Went Too Far Can't Contest Firing
(CN) - A former state trooper does not have a civil rights case after he was fired for showing his genitals to and forcing himself upon a female coworker, a federal judge ruled.
After police communications officer Stacy Gelvin accused Alan Deffibaugh and two other Pennsylvania state troopers of sexual harassment in April 2006, the men were transferred to another barracks.
Internal Affairs Cpl. John Stchur conducted the investigation into her claims. Gelvin said in an interview that Deffibaugh often grabbed her breast, and that, during an overnight shift, he threw something on her lap, groped her genitals, and later grabbed her backside as she reached into the backseat of the patrol car to get her bag.
She accused Deffibaugh of both exposing his genitals to Gelvin at the barracks, driving by or parking outside her home, and once showing up and forcefully trying to kiss her.
The trooper turned up at an athletic event Gelvin attended, and, during Stchur's investigation, Deffibaugh approached her at Wal-Mart and tried to persuade her not to reveal any incidents more than two years old because internal affairs could not investigate them.
Deffibaugh ultimately admitted to confronting Gelvin with nude pictures of herself, which he said he found in an envelope in his patrol car.
Cellphone records also show that Deffibaugh sent Gelvin sexual comments, Stchur said.
Dwight Harvey, then Fulton County District Attorney, recommended charging Deffibaugh with indecent exposure and assault, stalking, harassment, and intimidation of witnesses in September 2006.
Though Deffibaugh said Gelvin had committed perjury by testifying in 2005 that she had not seen any inappropriate acts at the barracks or felt sexually harassed, Harvey tossed this aside, since the questions involved a narrow timeframe and people involved in an unrelated case.
Deffibaugh was suspended without pay after Stchur filed charges in March 2007.
Although all charges except for intimidation of witnesses were bound over for trial, the new district attorney, Travis Kendall, issued a nolle prose on all charges against Deffibaugh on July 15, 2008, and the state police reinstated him five days later.
The trooper was fired two years later, however, after he admitted to the allegations.
Deffibaugh then sued the state police; Harvey; and several officers, including Gelvin and Stchur, asserting violations of the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments.
The defendants filed three motions for summary judgment, which U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel granted Thursday, holding that Gelvin's claims established probable cause.
"Harvey investigated plaintiff's charges of perjury and determined that the charges were unfounded," Stengel wrote. "Plaintiff also asserts that all of the defendants knew that defendant Gelvin was a liar, but to the contrary, the defendants found her credible based on the fact that her allegations against [the other troopers] were true.
"The affidavit shows that the defendants had probable cause to charge the plaintiff with all eleven counts. The facts laid out in the affidavit establish each element of the crimes charged. Thus, an officer with this knowledge would reasonably believe that a crime has been committed. The defendants' actions were all the more reasonable considering that they filed charges only after seeking legal advice from defendant Harvey. Further, a magisterial district judge found probable cause based on defendant Stchur's affidavit."
The judge threw out Deffibaugh's due process claim for the five-day delay in rehiring him and his claim that the defendants "selectively and vindictively prosecuted" him.
"This conclusory language is entirely insufficient to state a plausible reverse discrimination claim and does not even permit a hypothetical analysis," Stengel wrote. "Plaintiff again fails to allege vital supporting facts, such as the basis for the alleged discrimination."