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CERRONE v. CAHILL

January 28, 2000

THOMAS C. CERRONE, PLAINTIFF,
V.
MICHAEL F. CAHILL, FRANCIS A. DEFRANCESCO, SALVATORE S. VALVO, THOMAS M. FRESENIUS, SCOTT L. BROWN, RICHARD G. MORSE, DEBORAH L. KOMAR, JONATHAN Z. FRIEDMAN AND GERALD W. CONNOLLY, INDIVIDUALLY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McAVOY, Chief Judge.

MEMORANDUM — DECISION & ORDER

I. Background

A. Facts

This action arises from Defendants' investigation of an alleged cover-up by Plaintiff, among others, of a hit and run accident that occurred on April 3, 1993 when an automobile operated by an individual later identified as Rory Knapp struck an automobile operated by Maureen Hunt. Rory Knapp fled the scene of the accident.

New York State Trooper Robert Gregory, of the Peeskill barracks, responded to the accident scene first. Plaintiff Thomas Cerrone ("Cerrone"), a New York State Police Sergeant and commander of the Peeskill Barracks in Troop K, also responded to the scene.*fn1 A witness, Ms. Sharon Hunt-Ryder, informed Cerrone that she had witnessed the accident, observed a car leaving the scene, and followed that car. After obtaining a general description of the vehicle from the witness Cerrone left the scene and commenced an unsuccessful search for it.*fn2 According to Defendants, their subsequent investigation revealed that the car involved in the accident was parked in the area Cerrone claims to have searched. One witness stated that the car was "hidden" behind the Annsville Texaco Station. See Nov. 10, 1994 Statement of Dawn Brissett, p. 2, annexed to Brown Dec. at Ex. F.

Trooper Gregory prepared an accident report (the "Report") that was reviewed and signed by Cerrone.*fn3 Defendants allege that the Report contained details of a facially insufficient investigation and allegedly false information. Trooper Gregory testified that the information in the Report was true and complete. See Gregory Dep. p. 44, annexed to Collins Aff. as Ex. C.

On or about September 27, 1993, Defendants received a letter signed by "Ed Scott" alleging that Rory Knapp, the brother of State Trooper Timothy Knapp, left the scene of an accident on April 3, 1993. The letter further stated that the facts of the accident were covered up by Timothy Knapp and other members of the state police at the Peeskill station. Defendants followed up on the letter and identified one person named Ed Scott who denied writing the letter. Defendants never identified the source of the letter.

The investigation revealed that Rory Knapp likely was the driver of the car in the April 3, 1993 hit and run accident; that he drove to a gas station after the accident; that he called the police department from the station and spoke to Zone Sergeant Welsh; and that there likely was some sort of cover-up of the accident involving at least Zone Sergeant Welsh and Timothy Knapp.

On January 17, 1995, the investigative team met to discuss a possible criminal case arising out of the alleged cover-up. Defendants decided to stop Cerrone on his way home from work, question him in connection with the April 3 accident, and determine if he would cooperate with the investigation.

Prior to stopping Cerrone, Lieutenant John Edward Grant, a Bureau of Criminal Investigation Agent, constructed a psychological profile of Cerrone to assist in the planned interview. See Grant Dep. at 21, annexed to Collins Aff. as Ex. L. Grant also arranged for rooms at a hotel, where the questioning was to be done, to "convey to [Cerrone] in a nonverbal manner that there had been an intense investigation with respect to [him]." Id. at 41-42.

Using an unmarked police car, Defendants stopped Cerrone on January 19, 1995. Defendants asked Cerrone if he was carrying a weapon, allegedly placed him in the felony position, placed him in the back of an unmarked police car (where he was guarded), transported him to a hotel room, read him his Miranda rights, informed him that he was the target of a criminal investigation, and questioned him for approximately six hours. Cerrone was told he could leave after he agreed to take a polygraph examination, which he took the next day.

B. Procedural History

Cerrone brought this action on February 23, 1995. On May 26, 1995, Defendants Cahill, DeFrancesco, Valvo, Fresenius, Brown, Morse, and Komar moved to stay the proceedings and dismiss portions of the Complaint. On August 17, 1995, the Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss the claims for monetary damages against Defendants in their official capacities and denied the motion to stay the proceedings. See Order, Dkt. No. 21. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on February 7, 1997 and on May 14, 1997, Defendants Friedman and Connolly moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim, or alternatively, on the grounds of absolute or qualified immunity. The Court heard oral argument on this motion June 10, 1997 and denied the motion in its entirety. See Order, Dkt. No. 62.

Presently before the Court is Defendants Brown and Fresenius's motion for summary judgment pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 56 seeking to dismiss the Amended Complaint against them in its entirety. On January 10, 2000, the Court heard oral argument on this motion.*fn4

II. Discussion

A. Standard for Summary Judgment

The standard for summary judgment is well-settled and need not be restated here. This Court has set forth the appropriate standard to be applied in numerous published decisions, see, e.g., Roman v. Cornell Univ., 53 F. Supp.2d 223, 232-33 (N.D.N ...


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