By Dustin Slaughter
31 year-old John Booker’s federal civil rights lawsuit against city officials – including Mayor Michael Nutter, two convicted Philadelphia police officers, and a number of other unnamed plaintiffs – will proceed, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. Eastern District Court Judge Lawrence F. Stengel issued his 10-page decision on September 24, after the city’s law department pushed to have Booker’s complaint thrown out.
Booker, who is representing himself in the suit, seeks damages for Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations. The complaint alleges that he was pulled over in connection to an armed robbery while driving his then-girlfriend’s rental car in 2010. It also states that the car was illegally searched and that Booker was then wrongfully arrested by former officers Sean C. Alivera and Christopher J. Luciano.
The complaint describes in detail what allegedly transpired during the stop: after being pulled over by an officer, who is not named in the complaint, Booker was searched for weapons. Despite no weapons found on his person, he was held there until the robbery victim was driven to the scene with two other officers; the victim allegedly identified Booker as the assailant. Alivera arrived shortly thereafter, and according to Booker, said: “Someone is trying to frame him.”
At that point, Alivera began interrogating Booker without delivering a Miranda warning. The officer allegedly began searching underneath the hood of Booker’s car and soon found a gun allegedly hidden in the car’s air filter. Another officer – unnamed but included in the complaint – then shouted: “There’s probably more shit in the trunk, I’ll check it.”
All of this was done without a warrant. Booker was later arrested, processed, and put on trial for a list of offenses including illegal possession of a firearm, theft, simple assault, and a small amount of marijuana with no intent to distribute. The case was essentially dismissed by Common Pleas Court Judge Earl W. Trent in November 2011.
The two disgraced officers were later convicted and sentenced in June 2011 to 10 to 15 years after pleading guilty to robbery, conspiracy, kidnapping, official oppression, and drug possession with intent to deliver, the Inquirer reported.
It is not clear if the 2010 incident was in any way related to the criminal activities conducted by Alivera and Luciano. Booker’s former attorney, Brad Victor Shuttleworth, declined comment to The Declaration on any aspect of the case, citing attorney-client confidentiality.