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STEINER v. CITY OF NEW YORK

March 14, 1996

HARRY STEINER, Plaintiff, against CITY OF NEW YORK, PATRICK SMYTH, et al., Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: GLEESON

 JOHN GLEESON, United States District Judge:

 Plaintiff Harry Steiner alleges that he was twice falsely arrested and maliciously prosecuted, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law. Steiner named eleven individual New York City police officers and the City of New York ("the City") as defendants in this action. The claims against the City have been bifurcated. The individual defendants (referred to herein as "the defendants") and plaintiffs have all moved for summary judgment. The plaintiff's motion was denied on December 1, 1995. For the reasons set forth below, the defendants' motion is granted.

 FACTS

 A. The February 9, 1989, Arrest

 On the evening of February 9, 1989, Officers Kevin Katta and Patrick Smyth were on patrol in a marked radio car in the 62nd precinct in Brooklyn, New York. They received a call to respond to a dispute involving a man with a gun at 2035 83rd Street, Brooklyn, New York, and responded immediately. Upon arriving at the scene, Katta and Smyth were met by Joseph Schiavone. Schiavone said that he had just been involved in an altercation with Steiner, who had pointed a silver revolver at Schiavone and threatened to kill him. Schiavone also said that his neighbor, Ruth Augen, witnessed the incident. Katta and Smyth then spoke with Augen, who told them that Steiner had run at Schiavone on the street, pointed a gun at him, and said something to him. *fn1"

 Katta and Smyth went to Steiner's home, banged on the door, and identified themselves as police officers. It is unclear how many officers approached Steiner's door, whether the officers threatened to break down the door, and whether Steiner voluntarily consented to a search of his home. Steiner opened the door, the officers searched his home and found several weapons, including a silver revolver, and subsequently arrested Steiner, charging him with reckless endangerment, criminal possession of a weapon, and menacing.

 B. The March 21, 1989, Arrest

 On March 21, 1989, at approximately 2:00 P.M., Sergeant Dennis Magoolaghan and Officer Richard Eizentier, in response to a radio call, arrived at Steiner's house. Magoolaghan interviewed Steiner, Schiavone, and several neighbors who confirmed that there had been a vicious fight between Steiner (who was helped by his brother, Fred Steiner) and Schiavone. Steiner *fn2" showed Magoolaghan the broken windshield on his car and told Magoolaghan that Schiavone had broken it with a baseball bat. He also informed Magoolaghan that Schiavone had violated an Order of Protection that Steiner had filed with the 62nd precinct.

 For his part, Schiavone showed Magoolaghan an Order of Protection that he had obtained against Steiner. Magoolaghan heard conflicting stories recounting what had transpired from the various people he interviewed. One such person, whom Magoolaghan determined was credible, said that the fight began when Steiner tried to run over Schiavone with his car.

 Magoolaghan left the scene without making an arrest. The Steiners were taken to the hospital and Magoolaghan and Eizentier returned to the station house. Later that day, Schiavone appeared at the 62nd precinct and filed a complaint against Steiner, alleging that Steiner had assaulted him and violated an Order of Protection, which Schiavone produced for Officer Kevin Blanche at the 62nd precinct. Officer Blanche observed bite marks on Schiavone's body and confirmed that the Order was valid. After conferring with his captain at the precinct, Magoolaghan determined that Schiavone's story was better supported by the neighbors' accounts than Steiner's, and therefore it was proper to arrest Steiner for violating the Order of Protection. Steiner was arrested at the hospital for assault in the second degree and criminal contempt in the second degree.

 C. The Dismissal Of The Charges Against Steiner

 On May 10, 1990, both prosecutions of Steiner were dismissed in the interests of justice. *fn3" On that day, Schiavone verbally attacked, spat on, and hit Steiner in the courthouse. Based in large part on that conduct, the prosecutor determined that Schiavone was not a credible witness.

 In dismissing the case, the court addressed both Steiner and Schiavone directly, and admonished them to end this modern-day Hatfields-and-McCoys feud:

 
Now, I think, based on everything that I have heard, so far, there is one long history here between the two people. . . . Who started it[,] I am not in the position to say, but for as long, and I am certainly not prescribing ultimate blame for this long, unfortunate history, but I can say this; for as long as the two of you gentlemen live in proximity to each other, there will be occasions when, even of you will follow my admonition to stay away from each other, that you may come in contact with each other in the neighborhood, on the street, local businesses, even a neighbor's house, it is better for each of you and your families to just keep your peace and keep your distance. Stay away from each other, whatever it is, who sees the other first, walk the other way. Stay away. Keep your peace and keep your distance. You are both adults. Mr. Steiner, you have never had any involvement with the law. I can see it's your first. Mr. Schiavone, you had an unfortunate involvement as a kid a very long time ago, so as an adult you haven't had any problems[.] You are both adults. I gather from what you folks -- what the lawyers have said, both family-men, both gainfully employed. You are not criminals. You don't belong here in criminal court.

 (Steiner Affidavit, Ex. N at 49-50.)

 D. The Commencement Of This Action

 On May 9, 1990, the day before the charges against Steiner were dismissed, Steiner commenced this action, naming as defendants the City of New York, the New York City Police Department, "Various (as of yet unidentified) Police Officers," the Kings County District Attorney, and "Various (as of yet unidentified) Assistant District ...


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