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KRUPPENBACHER v. MAZZEO

September 11, 1990

KRUPPENBACHER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DAVID MAZZEO, ELISE G. MAZZEO, THE CITY OF ALBANY POLICE DEPARTMENT, CHARLES PETERS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AN OFFICER OF THE CITY OF ALBANY POLICE DEPARTMENT, OFFICER GAIDA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AN OFFICER OF THE CITY OF ALBANY POLICE DEPARTMENT, JAMES HALPIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A DETECTIVE OF THE CITY OF ALBANY POLICE DEPARTMENT, JOHN DOE AND RICHARD ROE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS OFFICERS OF THE CITY OF ALBANY POLICE DEPARTMENT WHOSE NAMES ARE UNKNOWN, ALL JOINTLY AND SEVERALLY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Munson, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION & ORDER

All defendants in the present action move for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff claims that he was falsely arrested, falsely imprisoned and maliciously prosecuted. Plaintiff alleges that the actions of the defendants deprived him of his constitutional rights and therefore he is entitled to damages under Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 This court has subject matter jurisdiction under Title 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

BACKGROUND

There is very little dispute regarding the underlying facts of this case. A confrontation between plaintiff Joseph H. Kruppenbacher and defendants David and Elise Mazzeo occurred on January 10, 1985 on the corner of Washington and Lark Streets in Albany, New York. The Mazzeos, driving an automobile, were turning the corner when they honked the car's horn at pedestrian Kruppenbacher as he crossed the intersection. Then, according to the Mazzeos, Kruppenbacher kicked their car. Kruppenbacher admits that his boot came into contact with the car. Deposition of Kruppenbacher at 18. Elise Mazzeo, who was driving, pulled the car over to the curb. David Mazzeo got out to ask Kruppenbacher why he kicked the car. Kruppenbacher refused to answer. Physical contact ensued out of which David Mazzeo emerged with a cut lip. Here, again, plaintiff admits that he "shoved" David Mazzeo and that his hand came into contact with Mazzeo's "upper left shoulder-arm" area. Id. at 23. Mrs. Mazzeo, at the direction of her husband, called the City of Albany Police Department from a nearby public telephone.

Kruppenbacher's driver's license only listed a post office box as his address. He refused to give the officers his street address. Both officers thought that without knowledge of a street address the Mazzeos would be unable to sue Kruppenbacher in small claims court. The officers explained to the Mazzeos that without a street address the Mazzeos would be unable to properly effect service on Kruppenbacher.

After the officers had discussed the various options with the Mazzeos, Kruppenbacher was arrested and taken into custody by Officers Peters and Gaida. He was charged with criminal mischief in the fourth degree and assault in the third degree. Kruppenbacher was taken to the police station where he was photographed and fingerprinted by Detective James Halpin. This identification process took ten minutes and no conversation took place between Halpin and Kruppenbacher. Deposition of Kruppenbacher at 55-56. While in custody and during processing, Kruppenbacher was also charged with criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree because officer Peters found that Kruppenbacher had possession of the nondriver, Department of Motor Vehicles, identification card of Katherine Kastner. Kastner was called by the police department. She reported the card as stolen and signed a crime report.

Kruppenbacher was arraigned on January 10, 1985 before City of Albany police court Judge Thomas W. Keegan. Judge Keegan remanded Kruppenbacher to the Albany County jail. On February 1, 1985 Kruppenbacher was released on $6,000.00 cash bail. The Mazzeos never signed a criminal complaint against Kruppenbacher. Consequently all charges against the plaintiff were dropped on June 6, 1985. Id. at 75-76. Kruppenbacher then filed this Section 1983 action against David Mazzeo, Elise Mazzeo, the City of Albany Police Department, Officer Charles Peters, Officer Paul Gaida, and Detective James Halpin.*fn2

DISCUSSION

Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a trial judge shall grant summary judgment "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The burden rests on the moving party to demonstrate the lack of a genuine issue of fact, Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 1608, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970). "In cases where the non-movant will bear the ultimate burden of proof at trial on an issue, the moving party's burden under Rule 56 is met if he can point to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the non-moving party's claim." Brady v. Town of Colchester, 863 F.2d 205, 210-11 (2d Cir. 1988). When the movant bears the ultimate burden on an issue upon which he is moving for summary judgment, he must initially establish a prima facie showing on that issue. See Beaver Valley Power Co. v. National Engineering & Contracting Co., 883 F.2d 1210, 1217 n. 7 (3d Cir. 1989). If the moving party meets its burden, the plaintiff must then respond with specific facts to support his case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). On the motion for summary judgment, the evidence "must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S.Ct. 993, 994, 8 L.Ed.2d 176 (1962).

Recovery under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is premised upon a showing by the plaintiff, first, that the defendant deprived plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and, second, that the defendant was acting under color of state law at the time such denial was effected. Adickes, 398 U.S. at 150, 90 S.Ct. at 1604; Patterson v. Coughlin, 761 F.2d 886, 890 (2d Cir. 1985).

Plaintiff alleges deprivation of his eighth and fourteenth amendment rights and brings pendent state law tort claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution.*fn3 Plaintiff has no eighth amendment claim because he was not convicted of a criminal offense. Revere v. Massachusetts General Hosp., 463 U.S. 239, 244, 103 S.Ct. 2979, 2983, 77 L.Ed.2d 605 (1983). The court will instead focus on the allegation that defendants' actions violated the plaintiff's right under the fourteenth amendment to be free of deprivations of liberty without due process of law. Under the due process clause, an individual may not be punished prior to an adjudication of guilt in accordance with due process of law. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1872, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979). The standards and procedures for arrest and detention in accordance with due process of law have been derived from the fourth amendment and its common-law antecedents. Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 111, 95 S.Ct. 854, 861, 43 L.Ed.2d 54 (1975). Therefore, the arrest of Kruppenbacher will be found to be in violation of the fourteenth amendment if it was performed without probable cause, as defined in the fourth amendment.*fn4

The fourth amendment protects an individual against unfounded invasions of liberty and privacy and applies to the states by virtue of the fourteenth amendment. See generally Hayes v. Florida, 470 U.S. 811, 105 S.Ct. 1643, 84 L.Ed.2d 705 (1985). Although the Government may permissibly detain a person suspected of committing a crime prior to a formal adjudication of guilt, the existence of probable cause is the standard necessary for arrest without a warrant. See Gerstein, 420 U.S. at 111-114, 95 S.Ct. at 861-63. The fourth amendment requires the states to provide a fair and reasonable determination of probable cause as a condition for any significant pretrial restraint of liberty. Id. at 114, 95 S.Ct. at 863.

Probable cause to arrest exists when the arresting officer has knowledge and reasonably trustworthy information of facts and circumstances in themselves sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution to believe that an offense has been committed by the suspect. Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 91, 85 S.Ct. 223, 225, 13 L.Ed.2d 142 (1964); Calamia v. City of New York, 879 F.2d 1025, 1032 (2d Cir. 1989); People v. Smith, 44 N.Y.2d 613, 622, 407 N.Y.S.2d 462, 467, 378 N.E.2d 1032, 1037 (1978). Stated more concisely, probable cause exists when an officer ...


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