The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer, United States District Court Judge.
Plaintiff, Joseph S. Goncalves, appearing pro se, commenced this action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The complaint asserts a claim under the
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution against Investigator
Reynolds*fn1, arising out of defendant's preparation and prosecution of
a felony complaint against plaintiff in November 1997. Defendant has
moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, or in the alternative, for summary judgment
under Rule 56. Plaintiff has cross-moved for summary judgment on the
issue of liability.
The underlying facts are largely undisputed. Plaintiff, who is
currently an inmate in the Collins Correctional Facility in Collins, New
York, was at all times relevant to this action detained at the Yates
County (New York) Jail ("the Jail"). Plaintiff's detention followed his
arrest on October 28, 1997 by officers of the Yates County Sheriff's
Department ("the Sheriff's Department"), for certain felony drug and
weapons offenses, as well as several violations of the Vehicle and
Traffic Law. On that same date, Judge Danny M. Hibbard of the Penn Yan
Village Court ordered plaintiff to be held without bail, based on
plaintiff having two previous felony convictions. Defendant's Ex. D.
On November 9, 1997, plaintiff was involved in a fight with Robert
Yonge, an inmate at the Jail. Yonge suffered a fractured nose in the fight.
As a result of this altercation, officers of the Sheriff's Department
undertook an investigation of what had occurred. They took statements
from plaintiff, Yonge, and another inmate, Derrick Hankins, who had
witnessed the fight. The officers also took photographs of Yonge and of
the scene where the fight took place.
Following plaintiff's arraignment on November 24, on December 8, 1997,
Judge Hibbard ordered plaintiff to be held for Grand Jury, based on Judge
Hibbard's finding that reasonable cause existed that plaintiff had
committed the offense charged. Defendant's Ex. L.
On January 30, 1998, the assault charge was presented to the Grand
Jury, which subsequently issued a "No Bill" terminating the charge. On
February 6, 1998, Yates County Court Judge W. Patrick Falvey issued a
Sealing Order of No Indictment on the assault charge.
Throughout this time period, plaintiff remained detained at the Jail.
Although plaintiff alleges that he was detained on the assault charge,
and that the pendency of the assault charge "demolish[ed] the plaintiff's
chances of bail on his previous charge[s]" stemming from his October 28
arrest, there is no evidence to suggest that plaintiff would have been
freed on bail had it not been for the assault charge, particularly since
the order directing that he be held without bail was entered prior to the
fight with Yonge.
Plaintiff filed the complaint in this action on November 30, 2000. The
complaint asserts a claim of false arrest, based on plaintiff's
allegation that he acted in self-defense when he struck Yonge. Plaintiff
seeks compensatory and punitive damages totalling five million dollars.
Defendant contends that the complaint must be dismissed on the ground
that Reynolds's actions are protected by absolute prosecutorial
immunity. Plaintiff responds that this doctrine does not shield defendant
from liability because Reynolds is not a district attorney, or even an
attorney at all, but a criminal investigator.
It is well established that "in initiating a prosecution . . ., the
prosecutor is immune from a civil suit for damages under § 1983."
Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430 (1976). The purpose of this
immunity is to avoid having the prosecutor feel "constrained in making
every decision by the consequences in terms of his own potential
liability in a suit for damages." Id. at 424-25. See also Day v.
Morgenthau, 909 F.2d 75, 77 (2d Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 821
(1992); Schloss v. Bouse, 876 F.2d 287, ...