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COAKLEY v. JAFFE
April 23, 1999
CARRIE COAKLEY AND DONALD C. MACPHERSON, PLAINTIFFS,
MICHAEL JAFFE, DANIEL I. NEVELOFF, DANIEL DRISCOLL, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SUFFOLK COUNTY ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY AND INDIVIDUALLY, DOE 1 IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SUFFOLK COUNTY ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY AND INDIVIDUALLY, STEVEN W. HELLER AND DOE 2, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rakoff, District Judge.
Defendants pending motions to dismiss are hereby granted in
part and denied in part.
For purposes of these motions, the following allegations, drawn
from the plaintiff's Amended Complaint, are assumed to be true.
See Sheppard v. Beerman, 94 F.3d 823, 827 (2d Cir. 1996). On or
about August 15, 1994, plaintiff Coakley and the 53 West Tiana
Road Corporation ("Tiana Road Corp.") leased a home in
Southampton from Mahmood and Joanna Karimi ("the Karimis") for a
period to run from May to September of 1995. See Amended
Complaint ¶ 17. Subsequently, Coakley and Tiana Road Corp. sublet
the Karimis' home to defendant Michael Jaffe, who, together with
defendant Daniel I. Neveloff, then sold "summer shares" in the
property in violation of a Southampton zoning ordinance. See
id. ¶¶ 20-21, 27-33. In response, the Karimis brought suit in
state court and obtained a judgment terminating the original
lease to Coakley and Tiana Road Corp. See id. ¶¶ 35-39, 43-44.
This had the further effect of terminating Jaffe's sublease and
causing his eviction. See id. ¶ 43-44. Jaffe responded in turn
by filing a separate suit in state court making claims of fraud,
breach of contract, and the like against the plaintiffs here
(Coakley and MacPherson), Tiana Road Corp., the Karimis, and
other parties including one Danny Pustovit. See id. ¶¶ 45-47.
Jaffe retained defendant Steven W. Heller, Esq. to represent him
in the action, while the plaintiffs and Pustovit hired an
attorney named Irwin Popkin, Esq. See id. at ¶¶ 47, 49.
Thereafter, according to the Amended Complaint, Jaffe, Heller
and Neveloff conspired to gain an unfair advantage in Jaffe's
civil suit by obtaining an unwarranted criminal indictment of the
plaintiffs. See id. ¶ 59. To this end, Jaffe, Heller, and
Neveloff disseminated misleading information to the Suffolk
County District Attorney's Office, and eventually obtained the
connivance of defendant Daniel Driscoll, an Assistant District
Attorney, who was assigned to investigate the case. See, e.g.,
id. ¶¶ 59, 69, 97, 118-22. Driscoll not only conducted a flawed
investigation, see id. ¶ 66, but purportedly impeded the
plaintiffs' ability to defend themselves by contacting Pustovit,
a co-defendant in Jaffe's civil case against the plaintiffs,
persuading him to obtain a lawyer other than Popkin (who until
that time represented both Pustovit and the plaintiffs), and
threatening to prosecute Pustovit if he did not cooperate with
the criminal investigation. See id. ¶ 62-63.
As a result of the conspirators' efforts, plaintiffs were
indicted in August 1996 on charges of fraud and grand larceny.
See id. ¶ 67. Following their voluntary surrender, see id. ¶
68, they were released on their own recognizance, subject to the
requirement of thereafter appearing in court, which they did on
several occasions. See id. ¶ 71.
The conspiracy purportedly achieved its further object of
advancing Jaffe's civil suit when Jaffe won partial summary
judgment by emphasizing to the judge that plaintiffs had been
indicted, thereby creating the misimpression that "there was some
criminal wrongdoing afoot." Id. ¶¶ 81-82. Additionally,
plaintiff MacPherson allegedly suffered further harm when certain
gun permits were revoked as a result of his arrest and
prosecution. See id. ¶ 73.
On April 7, 1998 (a year after the criminal charges were
dismissed), the plaintiffs filed this suit. On defendants'
motion, plaintiffs' original Complaint was dismissed without
prejudice on July 23, 1998. On August 12, 1998, plaintiffs filed
an Amended Complaint alleging federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
1985(2), 1985(3), and 1986, and pendent state law claims
for false arrest, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, breach
of contract, violations of the New York State Constitution, and
negligence. Defendants duly moved to dismiss.
Upon review of the parties' extensive written submissions and
oral arguments, the Court, for the following reasons, dismisses
all of the plaintiffs' claims against all defendants*fn1
except: (1) plaintiffs' federal claim against defendants Jaffe,
Heller and Neveloff for false arrest under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2)
plaintiff's state law claim against Jaffe, Heller and Neveloff
for abuse of process; and (3) plaintiffs' state law claim against
Jaffe for breach of contract.*fn2
Taking the claims in the order they appear in the Amended
Complaint (except for Counts VI and VII, which are appropriately
considered together with Count I), Count I of the Amended
Complaint purports to state federal claims for both false arrest
and malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, while Count
VI purports to state a false arrest claim under New York State
law and Count VII purports to state a claim for malicious
prosecution under state law. With respect to the malicious
prosecution claims, both of those claims, under federal and state
law respectively, must be dismissed because the plaintiffs cannot
prove, among other things, that the criminal proceedings against
them were terminated in their favor, an essential element of such
a claim. See Cook v. Sheldon, 41 F.3d 73, 79 (2d Cir. 1994).
Specifically, the criminal charges against the plaintiffs were
dismissed in the interests of justice pursuant to New York
Criminal Procedure Law § 210.40. As a general rule, such a
dismissal cannot constitute a favorable termination, see Hygh v.
Jacobs, 961 F.2d 359, 368 (2d Cir. 1992); MacLeay v. Arden Hill
Hospital, 164 A.D.2d 228, 563 N.Y.S.2d 333, 334-35 (3d Dep't
1990), cf. Ryan v. New York Tel. Co., 62 N.Y.2d 494, 504-505,
478 N.Y.S.2d 823, 467 N.E.2d 487 (1984), unless the circumstances
surrounding the dismissal are indicative of innocence, see
Hankins v. Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., 208 A.D.2d 111,
622 N.Y.S.2d 678, 680-81 (1st Dep't 1995). Here, the transcript of
the dismissal proceedings in Suffolk County Court makes
unequivocally clear that the dismissal was the result of a plea
bargain and thereby forecloses the possibility that the
termination was favorable.*fn3 See Murphy
v. Lynn, 118 F.3d 938, 949 (2d Cir. 1997) (a dismissal is
not favorable if it is "the result of a compromise to which the
accused agreed"), citing Halberstadt v. New York Life Insurance
Co., 194 N.Y. 1, 11, 86 N.E. 801 (N.Y. 1909).
The pertinent portion of the transcript reads as follows:
THE COURT: It's my understanding that the indictments
are to be dismissed against the individual[s]; is
MR. McVANN [the lawyer representing both the
plaintiffs and Tiana Road Corp.]: That's correct.
MR. ZANGRI [the prosecutor]: Yes, your Honor.
THE COURT: Are they officers of [Tiana ...