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AGUIRRE v. NEW YORK STATE POLICE
July 5, 2001
WILLIAM AGUIRRE, MICHAEL PETRY, AND DEMARY LOPEZ, ADMINISTRATRIX AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF MIGUEL A. VALLE, JR., DECEASED, PLAINTIFFS,
NEW YORK STATE POLICE, THOMAS A. CONSTANTINE, FORMER SUPERINTENDENT OF POLICE, AND JAMES W. MCMAHON, SUPERINTENDENT OF POLICE, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Batts, District Judge.
William Aguirre, Michael Petry and DeMary Lopez, administratrix
and personal representative of the estate of Miguel A. Valle, Jr.
("Plaintiffs"), bring this action pursuant to Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title
VII") and New York Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 290, et
seq. ("HRL"). Plaintiffs are former New York State Troopers.
Plaintiffs allege that the New York State Police, Thomas
Constantine, former Superintendent of Police and James McMahon,
Superintendent of Police, ("Defendants") discriminated against
them on the basis of their race and ethnicity. All three
Plaintiffs are Hispanic and were dismissed from their positions.
Defendants claim that Plaintiffs were dismissed due to a night of
drunken and violent behavior.
In addition, Plaintiffs Petry and Valle claim violations of
42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants deprived them of their
First Amendment rights. Petry and Valle also allege retaliation,
stating that the Defendants discharged them from their positions
when the Defendants learned that Valle filed a complaint with the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Defendants now
move for summary judgment. For the foregoing reasons, Defendants'
motion is granted in its entirety.
A. Plaintiffs' Background and Work Record
William Aguirre ("Aguirre") was employed with Troop "T" of the
New York State Police in Albany, New York from 1979 to 1992. (Pl.
Aguirre 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1.)*fn1 He was also
a member of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Policeman's
Benevolent Association, both non-minority organizations. (Pl.
Aguirre 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 16.)
During his tenure as a state trooper, Aguirre received two
letters of censure and was disciplined by the New York State
Police. (Pl. Aguirre 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 19; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 19.) On
December 19, 1980, Aguirre received a letter of censure for his
involvement in a preventable troop car accident. (Pl. Aguirre
56.1 Stmt. ¶ 20; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 20.) In addition, on
February 26, 1982, Aguirre received a letter of censure for
failing to identify the owner of an abandoned vehicle, which was
stolen, failing to make a blotter entry, and failing to submit an
impounded vehicle report. (Pl. Aguirre 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 21; Defs.'
56.1 Stmt. ¶ 21.)
Michael Petry ("Petry") was also employed with Troop "T" of the
New York State Police in Albany, New York in December 1992. (Pl.
Petry 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1.) Petry was a member
of the Hispanic Organization of Police and the Guardians, both
minority organizations. (Pl. Petry 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 4; Defs.' 56.1
Stmt. ¶ 4.)
While working as a trooper Petry received several sanctions and
letters of censure. Petry was sanctioned with the loss of two
vacation days by the New York State Police for failing to appear
for night shift duty. (Pl. Petry 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 5; Defs.' 56.1
Stmt. ¶ 5.) Petry also admits he was suspended for three days for
failing to submit an arson report. (Pl. Petry 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 6;
Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 6.) Finally, Petry received two letters of
censure for careless, dubious and negligent police work in the
prosecution of a criminal case and for failing to report to duty
on one occasion. (Pl. Petry 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 8, 11; Defs.' 56.1
Stmt. ¶¶ 8, 11.) Petry was placed on probation for ninety days
for negligent work on the criminal case noted above. (Pl. Petry
56.1 Stmt. ¶ 10; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 10.)
Miguel A. Valle, Jr. ("Valle") was employed by the Division of
State Police assigned to Troop "K" in Poughkeepsie, New York in
December 1992. (Pl. Valle 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 2; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 2.)
Valle was sanctioned on numerous occasions for work-related
offenses. On December 5, 1986, Valle was censured for failing to
report to duty on two occasions, which he admits but adds was due
to illness. (Pl. Valle 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 26.) On February 2, 1989,
Valle was censured for failing to assist a disabled motorist,
which he admits but notes he did what was required. (Id. ¶ 27.)
For this violation Valle was placed on probation for ninety days,
which he states was unjustified. (Id. ¶ 29.) On February 15,
1983, Valle was censured for possessing and selling a revolver
reported missing from the Rochester Police Department inventory,
to which he admits, but
was found without criminal intent by the New York State Police.
(Id. ¶ 33.) On two occasions, Valle received memoranda for
failure to report to duty, misuse of military leave and failure
to obey lawful orders. (Id. ¶ 34-35.) He was placed on six
months probation regarding the last memorandum. (Id. ¶ 36.) On
September 15, 1989, Valle was censured for failing to appear for
a trial. (Id. ¶ 37.) Finally, on November 2, 1981, Valle was
involved in a troop car accident, which was determined to have
been preventable. (Id. ¶ 38.)
B. December 12, 1992 Incident
On December 12, 1992*fn2, Plaintiffs attended a party with
other members of the New York State Police at a restaurant in
Port Chester, New York. (Pl.s' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 48; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt.
¶ 48.) Plaintiffs left the restaurant at 9:00 p.m. and went to
Sue's Rendezvous, a topless bar in Mount Vernon, New York. (Pl.s'
56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 54-55; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 54-55.) Plaintiffs were
drinking heavily. (Pl. Aguirre 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 52, 56-59, 61; Pl.
Petry 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 53, 61; Defs' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 52-53, 56-59, 61)
At 2:45 a.m. an employee of the bar informed off-duty Mount
Vernon Police Department Detectives Michael LaRotanda
("LaRotanda") and Mario Manganiello ("Manganiello"), who were
also patrons in the bar, that one of the Plaintiffs was carrying
a concealed weapon. (Pl.s' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 64-65; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt.
¶¶ 64-65.) Unaware that Plaintiffs were state troopers, the
Detectives telephoned the local police asking them to
investigate. (Pl.s' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 66; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 66.)
A local Mount Vernon police officer, Matthew Lombardo
("Lombardo"), arrived in uniform. (Pl. Petry 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 68;
Defs.' 56.1 Stmt ¶ 68.) The detectives were in civilian clothes.
(Id.) A "scuffle ensued" between Lombardo, Valle and Petry when
Lombardo requested that Valle accompany him outside of the bar.
(Lopez v. Constantine, 639 N.Y.S.2d 158, 159 (N.Y.A.D. 3rd
Dep't 1995.))*fn3 During the course of the confrontation Valle
struck Lombardo in the face. (Id.) Valle was subsequently
subdued, but while Lombardo straddled Valle's back in an attempt
to handcuff him, Petry grabbed Lombardo by the arm and collar and
pulled him off. (Petry v. Constantine, 210 A.D.2d 866,
621 N.Y.S.2d 131, 131 (N.Y.A.D. 3rd Dep't 1994).) The detectives
intervened and Plaintiffs were escorted outside of the bar.
(Id.) Once outside, Aguirre identified himself as a state
trooper. (Pl. Aguirre 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 83; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 83.)
Petry and Aguirre spoke to Mount Vernon police officers using
foul and profane language. (Petry, 621 N.Y.S.2d at 131; Pl.
Aguirre 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 86; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 86.) Plaintiffs were
then taken to the Mount Vernon Police Headquarters. (Petry, 621
N.Y.S.2d at 131.) While in the squad car, Aguirre cursed and
directed obscenities toward a Mount Vernon Police Officer. (Pl.
Aguirre 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 92; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 92.) While at the
police station, Valle engaged in further aggressive and
antagonistic behavior with Aguirre and Petry, including
"headbutting", punching and wrestling with each other.*fn4
(Lopez v. Constantine,
225 A.D.2d 899, 639 N.Y.S.2d 158, 159 (N.Y.A.D. 3rd Dep't 1996);
Petry, 621 N.Y.S.2d at 131; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 98). Petry and
Valle's wrestling became so severe that Patrolman Godshall and
several Mount Vernon police officers had to separate the two
troopers — during which time Valle kicked a hole in a
supervisor's office wall. (Pl. Petry 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 101; Defs.'
56.1 Stmt. ¶ 101.) Furthermore, Petry made obscene gestures
towards members of the Mount Vernon Police Department and
threatened them with future retribution when they used the
highways. (Petry, 621 N.Y.S.2d at 131.) Finally, while Aguirre
denies it, an administrative hearing found that at the police
station Aguirre grabbed Sergeant Francine Moen by the arm twice,
made obscene remarks, and called her "honey".*fn5 (Pl. Aguirre
56.1 Stmt. ¶ 118 citing Administrative Determination at 11.)
C. New York State Police Charges and Administrative Hearing
On February 1, 1993, the New York State Police served
Plaintiffs with charges for violating sections 8.41(a)(1),
8.41(a)(2) and 8.44 of the New York State Police Rules and
Regulations. Valle's charges stemmed from striking a uniformed
police officer, engaging in violent, tumultuous and threatening
behavior and using obscene language. (Pl. Valle 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 125;
Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 125.) Petry was charged with violations due
to grabbing and wrestling with uniformed police officers,
engaging in violent, tumultuous and threatening behavior and
using obscene language as well. (Pl. Petry 56.1 Stmt ¶ 126;
Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 126.) Finally, Aguirre was charged with
violations for subjecting Sergeant Francine Moen to physical
contact, engaging in violent, tumultuous and threatening behavior
and using abusive and obscene language. (Pl. Aguirre 56.1 Stmt. ¶
127; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 127.)
On April 20, 1993, New York State Police Superintendent
Constantine designated a Hearing Board to hold an administrative
hearing concerning the charges and specifications served on the
Plaintiffs.*fn6 The Hearing Board held a hearing of the charges
and specifications on May 4, 5 and 7, 1993. (Pl.s' 56.1 Stmts. ¶
129; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 129.) Over three days, the Board heard
nine witnesses, all of whom were subject to cross-examination.
Petry appeared and was represented by counsel. Petry offered
testimony and was cross-examined. Barrantes Aff. Ex. P. (Hearing
minutes). Valle did not appear, due to medical reasons, but was
represented by counsel. Barrantes Aff. Ex. P (May 4, 1993 Minutes
at 8-9). Aguirre appeared representing himself and was permitted
to cross-examine witnesses.
Petry was also found guilty of all three charges. (Pl. Petry
56.1 Stmt. ¶ 137; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 137.) In its deliberations,
the Board considered Petry's argument that he was aiding a
brother trooper he thought was being assaulted. (Pl. Petry 56.1
Stmt. ¶ 139; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 139.) The Board found his
testimony was not credible and further found Petry showed no
remorse for his actions or conduct, which Petry denies. (Pl.
Petry 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 140-141.)
Finally, Valle was also found guilty of all three charges. (Pl.
Valle 56.1 Stmt ¶ 149; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 149.) Based on these
findings the Board recommended the termination of each Plaintiff
from the New York State Police. (Pl.s' 56.1 Stmts. ¶ 150; Defs.'
56.1 Stmt. ¶ 150.) On June 1, 1993, Aguirre, Petry and Valle were
dismissed. (Pl.s' 56.1 Stmts. ¶ 151; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 151.)
D. Article 78 Proceedings
Upon dismissal, Petry and Valle each brought proceedings in the
New York State courts to review their dismissals pursuant to New
York Civil Practice Law and Rules Article 78.*fn7 The Third
Department affirmed both Plaintiffs' dismissals and found
meritless their contentions that the hearing procedure should be
voided and the penalty of dismissal for the offenses was too
severe. (Petry, 621 N.Y.S.2d at 132; Lopez, 639 N.Y.S.2d at
159.) Both courts found ample evidence that Petry and Valle
engaged in misconduct sufficient to bring discredit to the state
police by violating state police rules and regulations,
warranting a dismissal. (Petry, 621 N.Y.S.2d at 132; Lopez,
639 N.Y.S.2d at 159.) Aguirre did not bring an Article 78
Thereafter, Plaintiffs brought three separate actions against
Defendants alleging violations of Title VII, New York Human
Rights Law and § 1983 as noted above.*fn8 The actions were
Prior to this motion, Defendants moved to dismiss the Title VII
actions as to Constantine and McMahon. Valle voluntarily withdrew
his Title VII claims in a letter to the Court, while Petry
consented to withdrawal in his reply brief.*fn9
Defendants now move for summary judgment on the grounds that
Plaintiffs have not established a prima facie case under Title
VII and have failed to put forth evidence demonstrating that the
State Police's non-discriminatory reason for terminating ...