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KERR v. NEW YORK

November 2, 1995

MICHAEL KERR, Plaintiff, against NEW YORK STATE TROOPER MIGUEL A. VALLE, Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: PARKER

 BARRINGTON D. PARKER, JR. U.S.D.J.

 FACTS

 This action for the violation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is before this court on Defendant's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff, Michael Kerr ("Kerr"), alleges that Defendant, New York State Trooper Miguel Valle ("Valle"), used excessive and unreasonable force while arresting Kerr for a traffic violation. Kerr is seeking monetary relief.

 The undisputed facts follow. While driving a motorcycle on May 4, 1991, Kerr was pulled over by Trooper Valle for speeding. A license check revealed that Kerr's license was suspended and Valle arrested and handcuffed Kerr. Kerr was placed in Valle's patrol car and driven to the State Police Troop-K barracks at Hawthorne for processing. He was charged with engaging in an unauthorized speed contest, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and resisting arrest before being released on bail. The resisting arrest charge was later dismissed and Kerr pled guilty to speeding and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Kerr filed this action on October 2, 1992. A State Police internal investigation found the charges unsubstantiated.

 The remainder of the facts are disputed. First, Kerr claims that when informed he was being arrested, his wallet slipped out of his hand when he raised his arms in disbelief that he was being arrested for speeding. At his deposition, Kerr testified that he obeyed Valle's request to put his hands behind his back, and that he fully cooperated with Valle. Valle claims, however, that when he informed Kerr that he was under arrest, Kerr reacted with hostility, shouted "f it," threw his wallet into the road, pulled his arm away from Valle and stepped backwards.

 Third, Kerr claims that as he was being placed into the front passenger seat of the patrol car, Valle tried to knock his head on the roof of the car, but he instinctively ducked his head down to avoid injury. Valle denies that he attempted to knock Kerr's head on the car and claims, rather, that Kerr tried to head-butt him.

 Fourth, Kerr claims that Valle threw him face down onto the front seat of the patrol car and knelt on his back. He states that, while holding his hair and collar in his left hand, Valle tilted Kerr's face sideways and began to repeatedly punch him in the face and head. He further claims that Valle shouted irrationally while punching him between ten and twenty times. Valle, however, denies that he knelt on Kerr's back and testified at his deposition that he never punched Kerr in the face. Valle claims that he laid on Kerr's back because Kerr was shouting obscenities and trying to head-butt and kick him. Duncan claims that he saw Valle kneel on top of Kerr, hold him down and repeatedly punch him between four and ten times.

 Fifth, Kerr avers that he slid out of the car and ran to the road screaming for help. He states he got back into the car with Valle because he felt safer after being seen by passing motorists. Valle, however, claims that Kerr never ran from the car. Duncan testified at his deposition that he witnessed Kerr run to the road screaming for help.

 Finally, Kerr claims that upon returning to the car, Valle pulled his nose and slapped his face a few times. He asserts that Valle told him that he beat him "because people need to be afraid of the police." Valle asserts that after lying on Kerr's back, he pulled Kerr up and seat-belted him into the front passenger seat. He admits pushing Kerr's face with an open hand after securing him in the front passenger seat, but denies making any remark about people fearing police.

 Troopers on duty at the Troop K-barracks on May 4, 1991 when Kerr was brought in, submitted memos dated late January 1993 to the State Police internal investigator stating that they do not recall seeing injuries to Kerr or hearing him complain of pain or mistreatment while he was detained at the barracks. Trooper Glen Williams ("Williams") submitted a memo stating that, while off duty, he stopped his car on the Sprain Brook Parkway alongside Valle's car and observed Kerr handcuffed in Valle's vehicle. Williams did not notice any injuries to Kerr nor Kerr complaining.

 Valle now moves for summary judgement on the grounds that he is protected from liability by qualified immunity and there are no ...


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