The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leval, District Judge.
Defendants, The City of New York ("the City") and Police
Officer Jose Hernandez, move for partial summary judgment
dismissing plaintiff's claims against Hernandez for civil rights
violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 1985, and dismissing
plaintiff's state law claims against both defendants for
malicious prosecution and wrongful arrest and imprisonment.
This action arises out of the arrest by defendant Hernandez of
plaintiff, Michael Rinaldi, on July 16, 1987. Rinaldi was charged
with reckless endangerment, assault, and disorderly conduct. The
charges against him were later dropped. Rinaldi brought suit
against Hernandez and the City alleging wrongful arrest and
imprisonment, malicious prosecution, violation of his civil
rights, assault and battery, and negligent and intentional
infliction of emotional distress. Hernandez counterclaimed for
assault and battery.
The facts leading up to Rinaldi's arrest are disputed.
Plaintiff, a competitive body builder and model, alleges that he
north on the Henry Hudson Parkway, and was approaching the toll
booth at the north end of the Parkway, when Hernandez pulled his
motorcycle directly in front of plaintiff's truck, nearly causing
a collision. Plaintiff beeped his horn. Hernandez got off his
bike, approached the truck, and asked, "What's your problem?"
Rinaldi responded that he did not have a problem, but had beeped
to let Hernandez know that the officer had nearly caused an
accident. Hernandez allegedly responded, "I can do anything I
want. I'm a cop." Rinaldi said he would proceed and "pay the toll
now," and started to put his truck in reverse to back away from
Hernandez' motorcycle. Hernandez put his hand on his gun and told
Rinaldi to pull over after paying the toll. Rinaldi did so.
Hernandez asked for Rinaldi's license and registration and, after
checking them for roughly 15 minutes, returned with two tickets
for Rinaldi, one for tailgating and the other for unauthorized
use of the horn. Hernandez explained that the tickets were "for
you being a tough guy with your big arms, and for beeping at me."
Rinaldi said he had done nothing wrong, and asked what his arms
had to do with anything. A verbal altercation ensured, with
Hernandez calling Rinaldi a "tough guy," Rinaldi calling
Hernandez a "spic," and Hernandez responding, "your mother."
Eventually, Rinaldi started his truck and continued north,
traveling approximately 55 m.p.h. Rinaldi Deposition at 5-14.
Soon afterwards, Rinaldi noticed Hernandez following him on his
motorcycle. Hernandez pulled up on the right side of the truck,
then in front, and then to the left. He then allegedly pulled his
gun out of his holster and pointed it at Rinaldi, with "a big
smile on his face." Believing that Hernandez was mentally
unbalanced and fearful that the officer intended to shoot him or
his truck, Rinaldi grabbed some pennies and threw them out the
truck window at Hernandez, and "sped down the highway to get
away." At the Saw Mill River toll booth, Rinaldi slowed down.
Hernandez approached the truck and ordered Rinaldi out. Rinaldi
refused, saying "there is something wrong with you. I don't know
. . . what you have against me." Rinaldi moved the truck a little
closer to the toll booth. At this point, Hernandez allegedly
pulled his gun, held it to Rinaldi's head, and cocked the hammer.
Rinaldi pushed the gun away and got out. Hernandez ordered
Rinaldi onto the ground. Rinaldi told him he would go along to
jail "but you are not going to handcuff me," because he was
afraid to be completely at Hernandez' mercy. Hernandez aimed the
gun at Rinaldi again and said, "I'm going to put a bullet in you.
I want to put a bullet in you. I'd love to put a bullet in you."
Rinaldi got down on the floor. Hernandez handcuffed him,
allegedly so tightly that it lacerated the skin on Rinaldi's
wrists. By this time, approximately eight other police officers
had gathered. Hernandez and the other officers allegedly then
starting pushing the handcuffed Rinaldi from one policeman to
another, swearing at him, and taunting him by calling him "tough
guy" and "Hercules, Rambo, Muscles," and saying, "What are you
going to do now, you're handcuffed" and "Come on and fight me
[now]." Eventually, Hernandez took Rinaldi to a waiting police
car and put him in the back seat. Hernandez then hit Rinaldi in
the face with the back of his hand, making Rinaldi's nose bleed.
Rinaldi was driven to the precinct by other officers. Rinaldi
Deposition at 14-21; see also Rinaldi Affidavit at ¶¶ 7-8
(testimony at Comptroller's hearing, April 22, 1988).
Hernandez disputes plaintiff's version of these events. He
contends that Rinaldi first came to his attention near the Henry
Hudson Toll Plaza by tailgating directly behind Hernandez'
motorcycle and continuously sounding his horn. Hernandez
approached Rinaldi to see if Rinaldi was requesting police
assistance. When told that Rinaldi was simply in a hurry to
continue on his way, Hernandez directed Rinaldi to pull over and
then issued him two traffic summons. Rinaldi yelled profanities
and became disorderly. When Hernandez returned to his motorcycle,
which was parked directly behind Rinaldi's truck, Rinaldi put the
truck in reverse and accelerated, almost hitting Hernandez.
Rinaldi then fled
in his truck at a speed exceeding 70 m.p.h. Hernandez followed
with his emergency lights and siren activated, and shouted to
plaintiff to pull over. Rather than pulling over, Rinaldi hurled
debris from his car at Hernandez and accelerated further. Rinaldi
continued to drive recklessly, making unsafe lane changes and
tailgating other cars. When Hernandez caught up with Rinaldi at
the Saw Mill Parkway Toll Plaza, he immediately approached
Rinaldi and informed him he was under arrest. Rinaldi accelerated
his truck away from Hernandez. Hernandez approached Rinaldi
again, and Rinaldi again accelerated away from him. When
Hernandez approached Rinaldi for the third time, Rinaldi veered
his truck into Hernandez, striking and knocking him to the
ground. Hernandez rose and told Rinaldi to get out of the truck.
Rinaldi said he would not and cursed. Hernandez then attempted to
pull Rinaldi out of the truck, but Rinaldi resisted. Hernandez
managed to pull Rinaldi out, but Rinaldi then assumed a fighting
stance and told Hernandez he would not permit handcuffs to be put
on him. Rinaldi attempted to get back into the truck. At this
point, Hernandez pulled his service revolver, and told Rinaldi he
was under arrest. This time Rinaldi complied, and Hernandez
cuffed him and handed him over to other officers for transport to
the precinct. At the precinct, Hernandez read Rinaldi his Miranda
warnings. Hernandez then left the precinct to seek medical
attention. Hernandez Affidavit at 2-7. The felony complaint
against Rinaldi was sworn to by an officer other than Hernandez
because Hernandez was at the hospital. According to defendants,
the charges against Rinaldi were ultimately dropped because
Hernandez failed to substitute a personal affidavit within the
required time. Defendants Memorandum of Law at 22-23.
Defendants now move for summary judgment dismissing Rinaldi's §
1983 and § 1985 claims against Hernandez, on the grounds of
qualified immunity. Defendants also move for summary judgment on
Rinaldi's state claims for malicious prosecution and wrongful
arrest and imprisonment, on the grounds that probable cause
existed for Rinaldi's arrest.*fn1
On a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must
demonstrate that "there is no genuine issue as to any material
fact and that the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as
a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. § 56(c); see Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2509-10, 91
L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of
demonstrating that there is no material issue of fact standing in
the way of judgment, or in other words, that there is an "absence
of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2554, 91
L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). If this showing is made, the non-moving party
"must set forth arguments or facts to indicate that a genuine
issue — not merely one that is colorable — of material fact is
present." Gibson v. American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.,
892 F.2d 1128, 1132 (2d Cir. 1989).
A. Qualified Immunity from § 1983 Liability
The standard for qualified immunity from § 1983 liability is
the objective reasonableness of the official action challenged in
light of clearly established law. See Anderson v. Creighton,
483 U.S. 635, 107 S.Ct. 3034, 97 L.Ed.2d 523 (1987); Harlow v.
Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982).
In the context of a claim of unlawful arrest, the shield of
immunity will be lost only when a reasonable police officer would
not have believed that probable cause existed for the arrest — in
other words, when the facts supporting a finding of probable
cause are so weak as to "render official belief in its existence
unreasonable." Krause v. Bennett, 887 F.2d 362, 368 (2d Cir.
1989) (quoting Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 344-45, 106
S.Ct. 1092, 1097-98, 89 L.Ed.2d 271 (1985)). See also Robison v.
Via, 821 F.2d 913, 921 (2d Cir. 1987). The fact that charges
against an arrestee are eventually dropped, or that he is
acquitted after trial, has "no bearing on the determination of
whether probable cause existed to arrest him." Krause, 887 F.2d
at 370. Rather, probable cause for the arrest depends on whether
the official has "knowledge or reasonably trustworthy information
sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution in the
belief that an offense has been committed by the person to be
arrested." Calamia v. City of New York, 879 F.2d 1025, 1032 (2d
Thus, in Krause v. Bennett, 887 F.2d 362 (1989), the Second
Circuit recently found an officer to have qualified immunity from
a § 1983 claim regardless of evidence that the officer might have
acted maliciously or in retaliation for prior lawful acts of the
arrestee. The court reasoned that, whatever the subjective
motivations of the officer in arresting Krause for possession of
a stolen stop sign, the evidence indicated that the sign was
indeed in Krause's possession, and therefore that an "officer of
reasonable competence" would have found probable cause for the
arrest. Id. at 371. The court noted that Krause might have a
valid grievance against the officer under state law if he could
show that the arrest was subjectively unreasonable — but that
the officer was nonetheless immune from § 1983 liability because
the arrest was objectively reasonable. Id. at 372.
Defendants contend that this case is like Krause v. Bennett
because, even under plaintiff's version of the facts, probable
cause existed to justify a reasonable officer in arresting
Rinaldi for numerous traffic violations and other criminal acts.
Defendants point out that Rinaldi admits to cursing Hernandez in
public, to speeding in an attempt to avoid arrest, and to
throwing coins at Hernandez from a moving vehicle. Rinaldi also
admits that he refused to get out of his truck when Hernandez
requested him to do so, and refused to be handcuffed until
Hernandez drew his gun. Defendants argue that these admissions
demonstrate that it was objectively reasonable for Hernandez ...