UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
JAMES E. BOOTHBY,
GLENN C. DRAKE, II and JACOB ROTHERMEL
On appeal from the United States District Court
For the Middle District of Pennsylvania
District Judge: Honorable John E. Jones III
Submitted Under Third Circuit L.A.R. 34.1(a)
July 14, 2011
BEFORE: SLOVITER, FUENTES, and FISHER, Circuit Judges
(Opinion Filed: August 4, 2011)
FUENTES, Circuit Judge.
James Boothby appeals from an order granting summary judgment to
Pennsylvania State Troopers Glenn C. Drake, II and Jacob Rothermel (collectively
"defendants") in an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that alleges false arrest or
imprisonment and malicious prosecution, in violation of plaintiffâ€Ÿs Fourth Amendment
rights. For the reasons set forth below, we will affirm.
We write solely for the parties and therefore discuss only the facts necessary to
explain our decision. Boothby began working for Potter County Human Services ("the
County") in 1987. In 2008, he was suspended by the County because he faced a non-
work-related animal cruelty charge.1 Boothby was concerned about the possibility of
termination, so in July of 2008, he requested, and the County permitted, his early
retirement.2 Had he not faced disciplinary action, Boothby would not have retired.
On September 5, 2008, Boothby was scheduled to go to the County building to
retrieve his belongings and return property. Prior to his arrival, however, employees at
the County building observed what appeared to be a pipe bomb in Boothbyâ€Ÿs cubicle.
The Pennsylvania State Police were contacted, and the building was evacuated.
Pennsylvania State Trooper Rothermel arrived at the building, where County
employees described the device inside as a bomb. Rothermel entered the building and
proceeded to a filing cabinet in Boothbyâ€Ÿs cubicle, where he observed two pieces of black
metal taped together with a nine-volt battery and wires. Rothermel noticed that the
window next to the cabinet was open. Rothermel removed the device from the building
and placed it in a field for inspection. Later, the bomb squad evaluated the device and
On July 15, 2008, Boothby was cited for "cruelty to animals" by the Coudersport Boro
Boothbyâ€Ÿs retirement was made official on August 13, 2008.[End Page 2]
observed fresh cut marks on the metal and new tape. The bomb squad then blew the
device up, confirming that it was free of any explosive material.
When Boothby arrived at the County building, Rothermel placed him in custody.
Boothby was advised of his Miranda rights, and he agreed to speak with Trooper Drake
about the device. Boothby told Drake that he had constructed the bomb device 4 or 5
years earlier as a "prop" for a work-place safety training exercise and that he had given a
presentation on it. Boothby said that some of his former co-workers would confirm this.
Boothby also said that the device had been on his filing cabinet under paperwork for the
past 4 or 5 years.
During the investigation, the Pennsylvania State Police interviewed every
employee working at Potter County Human Services. Not one employee had ever seen
the pipe bomb device before September 5, 2008, and none recalled Boothby giving a
presentation. The interviewed employees stated that it was not Boothby, but rather a
different employee, who made the bomb-like devices for the safety drills, and that the
devices made for the drills were not intended to look realistic. The Troopers also
interviewed the first employee to arrive at the building that day, and she reported that
when she arrived, the front door had been unlocked. Additionally, some of Boothbyâ€Ÿs
former co-workers indicated that he was upset about having to retire early.
Based on this information, the defendants prepared an affidavit of probable cause
to support charges against Boothby of violating 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 3302, prohibiting causing
or risking a catastrophe, and 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 5503, prohibiting disorderly conduct. In the
affidavit, the defendants specifically noted that Boothbyâ€Ÿs statements that others would
[End Page 3]
confirm he made the device as a safety prop and that he gave a presentation regarding the
device were not corroborated. Boothby was arrested and arraigned. He made bail and
was released the following day. At a preliminary hearing on October 6, 2008, the
magisterial district judge found a lack of probable cause and all charges were dismissed.
On July 20, 2009, Boothby filed suit against the defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging false arrest or imprisonment and malicious prosecution, in violation of his Fourth
On November 9, 2010, the District Court granted summary judgment to the
defendants, finding on the crucial issue of probable cause that there was no material issue
of fact that the defendants had ample probable cause to arrest and charge Boothby. This
timely appeal followed.3
We exercise plenary review of a grant of summary judgment. Summary judgment
is appropriate where "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact" and thus "the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A
dispute of material fact is a genuine issue when there is evidence sufficient to support a
reasonable jury returning a verdict in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242
, 247-48 (1986). We view the record in the light most favorable
to Boothby â€" the non-moving party. Id.
The District Court had subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343.
We have appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. See W.V. Realty, Inc. v. N. Ins.
Co., 334 F.3d 306
, 311 (3d Cir. 2003).[End Page 4]
The District Court properly determined that the false arrest or imprisonment and
malicious prosecution claims turn on whether the defendants had probable cause in
arresting and charging Boothby.4 To prove false arrest or imprisonment, the plaintiff
must establish that probable cause was lacking during the arrest and related detention.
Gorman v. Twp. of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628
, 634-36 (3d Cir. 1995). To prove malicious
prosecution, the plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) the defendants initiated a criminal
proceeding; (2) the criminal proceeding ended in the plaintiffâ€Ÿs favor; (3) the defendants
initiated the proceeding without probable cause; (4) the defendants acted maliciously for
a purpose other than bringing the plaintiff to justice; and (5) the plaintiff suffered
deprivation of liberty consistent with the concept of seizure as a consequence of a legal
proceeding. Johnson v. Knorr, 477 F.3d 75
, 82 (3d Cir. 2007).
It is well-established that the Fourth Amendment "prohibits a police officer from
arresting a citizen except upon probable cause." Orsatti v. N.J. State Police, 71 F.3d 480
482 (3d Cir. 1995) (citing Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156
(1972)). Probable cause "requires more than mere suspicion[.]" Orsatti, 71 F.3d at 482.
However, it does not "require the same type of specific evidence of each element of the
offense as would be needed to support a conviction." Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143
149 (1972). Rather, "probable cause to arrest exists when the facts and circumstances
within the arresting officerâ€Ÿs knowledge are sufficient in themselves to warrant a
reasonable person to believe that an offense has been or is being committed by the person
Accordingly, our analysis of false arrest or imprisonment and malicious prosecution
also turns on whether probable cause existed at the time Boothby was arrested.[End Page 5]
to be arrested." Orsatti, 71 F.3d at 483; see also Wilson v. Russo, 212 F.3d 781
, 789 (3d
Cir. 2000). The issue of whether there is probable cause is generally a question for the
jury; however, "a district court may conclude â€žthat probable cause did exist as a matter of
law if the evidence, viewed most favorably to plaintiff, reasonably would not support a
contrary factual findingâ€Ÿ and may enter summary judgment accordingly." Estate of Smith
v. Marasco, 318 F.3d 497
, 514 (3d Cir. 2003) (quoting Sherwood v. Mulvihill, 133 F.3d 396
, 401 (3d Cir. 1997)).
On appeal, Boothby first argues that because there was no actual explosive device,
there could be no probable cause to initiate criminal proceedings under 18 Pa. C.S.A. §
3302. The statute provides in pertinent part:
(a)Causing catastrophe: A person who causes a
catastrophe by explosion, fire, flood, avalanche,
collapse of buildingâ€¦or by any other means of
causing potentially widespread injury or
damageâ€¦commits a felony of the first degree
ifâ€¦intentionallyâ€¦or a felony of the second
(b)Risking catastrophe: A person is guilty of a
felony of the third degree if he â€¦creates a risk
of catastrophe in the employment of fire,
explosives or other dangerous means listed in
subsection (a) of this section.
Clarifying the statute, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that "the means by which the
catastrophe is risked â€¦need not be specifically enumeratedâ€¦nor must it be per se
dangerous in the absence of other factors. On the contrary, it is only required that the
â€žmeansâ€Ÿ in any given case have the potential to cause a catastrophe." Commonwealth v.
[End Page 6]
Karetny, 880 A.2d 505, 517 (Pa. 2005). There is no question that a fake bomb,
constructed to look real, and initially believed to be real, constitutes a means to risk
causing a catastrophe. The mass evacuation of a government building, as occurred here,
most certainly has the potential to cause a catastrophe. In this light, the District Court did
Boothby next argues that the defendants did not have probable cause to arrest and
charge him because he had no access to the building after the building administration
changed the entry codes upon his retirement. This argument, however, lacks merit,
because the record establishes that Boothby had potentially two methods of access to the
building, the unlocked door and the open window, of which the defendants had been
Boothbyâ€Ÿs next assertion on appeal is that there was no probable cause to arrest
and charge him because Trooper Rothermel failed to appear for a subsequent preliminary
hearing. This is wholly without merit. As previously stated, probable cause analysis
turns on the objective facts available to the officers on the day of the arrest. Therefore,
the District Court correctly held that Rothermelâ€Ÿs absence from a future hearing has no
bearing on a probable cause analysis that is properly focused on the date of arrest.
Finally, Boothby argues that there was a lack of probable cause because "everyone
knew it was not a bomb." Boothby bolsters this argument by stating that Rothermel went
into the building and retrieved the device, prior to the arrival of the bomb squad, because
he knew it was fake and not dangerous. The record, however, does not support
Boothbyâ€Ÿs claim. The Pennsylvania State Police responded to an emergency report of a
[End Page 7]
bomb inside the County building. Upon arrival, Rothermel was informed by County
employees that there was a bomb inside. None of the employees said that they believed
the device was not real.5 Rothermel then observed what appeared to be an actual bomb.
The device was not confirmed to be "fake" until after the bomb squad detonated it.
Therefore, Boothbyâ€Ÿs claim that everyone knew the device was not an actual bomb is
contrary to the record and does not alter the probable cause analysis.
In sum, the District Courtâ€Ÿs probable cause analysis appropriately focused on the
information the defendants had available to them on September 5, 2008. See Marasco,
318 F.3d at 514. The defendants responded to the report of a bomb inside a government
building. A suspicious device was located and removed from the cubicle of a former
employee who had recently been forced to accept an early retirement. Interviews with
County employees did not substantiate that the device was known to be a safety prop. In
fact, no one reported ever seeing the device prior to that morning. The buildingâ€Ÿs front
door had reportedly been unlocked that day, and a window next to the device was open.
Based on this record, the District Court was correct in finding that no genuine issue of
material fact existed concerning whether the defendants had probable cause to arrest and
For the foregoing reasons, we will affirm the judgment of the District Court. 5
Boothby cites preliminary hearing testimony and subsequent newspaper interviews with some of his former co-workers to support his assertion that no one believed the device
was a bomb. However, on the date of the incident, none of Boothbyâ€Ÿs co-workers told
the defendants that they knew the device was not a real bomb.[End Page 8]