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MICALIZZI v. CIAMARRA

May 29, 2002

PAUL MICALIZZI, PLAINTIFF,
V.
WILLIAM CIAMARRA, INDIVIDUALLY, LOUIS SUAREZ, INDIVIDUALLY, PAUL STABILE, INDIVIDUALLY, "JOHN DOE", AND THE VILLAGE OF TUCKAHOE, N.Y., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McMAHON, District Judge.

        MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

The motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part as to Officer Ciamarra, granted in part and denied in part as to Detective Suarez, granted in part and denied in part as to the Village of Tuckahoe, and granted as to Officers Stabile and DiRienzo ("John Doe").

STATEMENT OF FACTS

Plaintiff, Paul Micalizzi, is a police officer who has been employed by the Village of Mamaroneck for the past four years. Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 43. After completing a midnight to 8:00 A.M. shift on Monday, September 18, 2000, plaintiff went home. He was dressed in a plain white t-shirt, loose-fitting blue mesh nylon shorts that ended approximately one inch above the knees, a Miami Dolphins baseball cap and a pair of sandals. Id. at ¶ 44. After plaintiff went home, he accompanied his brother, Donald Micalizzi, to the Maxwell Institute, located on Yonkers Avenue in the Village of Tuckahoe. Donald Micalizzi is learning disabled and needed assistance getting to the Institute; plaintiff had accompanied his brother several times before. Id. at ¶ 45.

Plaintiff and his brother traveled in a 1988 Chevrolet Caprice with tinted windows, light blue in color with some bondo material which had been used to fill dents and damages. Id. The siblings arrived on Yonkers Avenue, a commercial area which included a bar, the Maxwell Institute, a dance studio, a dentist's office, a restaurant and en electric business, at approximately 8:55 A.M. Id. at ¶ 46. After Donald parked the vehicle and went inside the Maxwell Institute, plaintiff remained inside the vehicle. Id. Plaintiff slept for approximately one half hour in the vehicle. Id. at 47.

Moments after plaintiff awoke, at approximately 9:40 A.M., a woman who he later learned was Kathleen O'Donnell, passed the Chevrolet while walking her dog. Id. at ¶ 48; Def. 56.1 Stmt. at ¶ 6.

Ms. O'Donnell stopped Officer Ciamarra, who was passing the scene on routine patrol. The parties dispute what Ms. O'Donnell said to Officer Ciamarra.

Plaintiff claims that Ms. O'Donnell informed Officer Ciamarra that she saw a man sitting in a strange vehicle and wanted him to check into the situation. Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 49; Nicaj Aff., Ex. 13 (O'Donnell Dep. at 9-11). In her deposition, Ms. O'Donnell testified as follows:

Q. What did you tell the police officer?

A. I said, this is strange, this situation looks strange to me.
Q. When you said this, did you indicate anything in any way about the car?
A. I said, I don't remember exactly, all I know, it's a strange situation. . . . You know, I didn't accuse anybody of anything. I said, it looks like a strange situation, maybe you should check it out.

O'Donnell Dep. at 9-10.

Officer Ciamarra has a different recollection of the situation. Defendants contends that Ms. O'Donnell ran up to Officer Ciamarra and stated "There's a man sitting in that car, and he's naked." Miranda Decl., Ex. L (Ciamarra Dep. at 18).

Ms. O'Donnell left the scene after making her statement to Officer Ciamarra. Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 8. Officer Ciamarra radioed for backup. Although what Ms. O'Donnell stated to Officer Ciamarra is in dispute, it is clear that when he radioed for backup, Officer Ciamarra stated that he was investigating a report of a possibly naked man. The other three police officer defendants heard Officer Ciamarra's radio transmission, and all of the contemporaneously-generated evidence is consistent with Ciamarra's contention that he was looking into a complaint about a possibly naked man. DiRienzo Event Report, Decl. Ex. E ("he was investigating a possible complainant of a person exposing himself"); Stabile Dep. at 33, Aff. Ex. 16 ("I heard P.O. Ciamarra request assistance for a very possible naked man"); Suarez Dep. at 9, Aff. Ex. 15 ("Officer Ciamarra [radioed that] it was reported that a man was naked in the area.") Detective Suarez and Officer Stabile responded to the scene. 56.1 ¶ 15, 16.

Plaintiff claims that he saw Ms. O'Donnell speak to Officer Ciamarra. Plaintiff, who recognized that his vehicle was odd-looking and had tinted windows, believed that the woman might be reporting a concern about him sitting in the vehicle. Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 53. As he was about to exit the Caprice with his identification, Officer Ciamarra approached the vehicle and ordered him to raise his hands. Id. at ¶ 54.

At this time, an unmarked vehicle arrived at the scene. This vehicle was operated by Detective Suarez. Defendant Stabile also arrived at the scene in a marked vehicle. Id. at ¶ 56. Neither of these officers participated in the interrogation of the plaintiff.

While Ciamarra was still at plaintiffs car, plaintiff identified himself as a police officer and showed Ciamarra his badge. Id. at ¶ 57. Officer Ciamarra then ordered plaintiff out of the vehicle, ordered him to place his hands on the front of the hood and demanded to see further identification verifying that plaintiff was a police officer. Id. at ¶ 58. Plaintiff produced further identification, and Officer Ciamarra continued to search and question plaintiff. Id. at 59.

Either Officer Ciamarra or Detective Suarez then instructed Officer Stabile to locate Ms. O'Donnell, whose name and address was unknown. Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 60. Detective Suarez also contacted Desk Officer Vito DiRienzo at the Tuckahoe Police Department and asked that DiRienzo contact the Mamaroneck Police Department. Id. ¶ 61. Detective Suarez claims that he did this in order to verify that plaintiff was really a police officer at Mamaroneck. Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 29. DiRienzo did call the Mamaroneck police department. He spoke to someone there and communicated that someone had accused plaintiff of exposure. Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 62; DiRienzo Dep. at 24. Detective Sergeant Holland from Mamaroneck — who either spoke with DiRienzo or was told about DiRienzo's statement — asked that the Detective handling the case in Tuckahoe call him as soon as possible. Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 62.

Meanwhile, Officer Stabile had located Ms. O'Donnell a few blocks away. He asked her to get into his marked police vehicle, and drove her by plaintiff, who was standing near his car. Ms O'Donnell verified that plaintiff was the occupant of the vehicle she identified earlier and Officer Stabile radioed this information back to Detective Suarez and Officer Ciamarra. Id. at ¶ 66.

It is undisputed that Detective Suarez did search plaintiffs vehicle for a weapon or camera equipment. Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 22. Instead of those items, Suarez located a marble notebook containing poems or love notes in child-like handwriting and a list of grade level and room assignments for teachers at a local elementary school. Id. ¶ 23 — 26. Papers in the notebook indicated that it belonged to someone named Don. Id. ¶ 26. One of the handwritten notes in the notebook that caught Detective Suarez' attention was as follows:

THE MINEITE I TACH YOU I GET NOUCKED OFF MY FEET. THE SMOUTHN'S OF YOUR SKIN, AND THE SMELF OF YOUR HAIR THE LOOK IN YOUR EYE'S. LOVE IT IS ALL THEREIN ONE BEAUTIFUL WOMEN. LOVE IF THE SUN REVUSE TO SANE I WOULD STILL LOVE YOU TO THE END OF TIME. CAN'T YOU SEE I HAVE MADE UP MY MANDE I WENT TO MAKE YOU MINE.

Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 24. Following the search of the car and the handcuffing (or the handcuffing and the search of the car), Officer Ciamarra and Detective Suarez decided to take plaintiff into custody. Plaintiff was placed in the back of Officer Ciamarra's police car at approximately 10:00 A.M. and arrived at the Tuckahoe Police Department a few minutes later. Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 73. When plaintiff arrived at the police headquarters, Desk Officer DiRienzo read him his Miranda rights. Id. at ¶ 75. Plaintiff was then taken to the detention area where he was handcuffed to a metal bracket attached to the wall. Id. While there, he claims that he cried, started to hyperventilate and had difficulty breathing. Id.

When Detective Suarez arrived at headquarters, he called Detective Sergeant Holland at Mamaroneck, as he been requested to do. Id. at ¶ 76. Plaintiff claims that Suarez informed Holland that a woman reported seeing plaintiff naked in a vehicle and that plaintiff had been arrested for exposing himself to the woman. Id. Detective Sergeant Holland confirms this. Holland Dep. at 9-10. Defendants claim that Suarez advised Holland only that the plaintiff had been brought in for further investigation following a civilian complaint that he was naked in his car. Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 30.

After this conversation, Holland informed the Chief of Police in Mamaroneck of the substance of his conversation with Suarez, and Holland, along with a Detective Bart DiNardo, went to Tuckahoe police headquarters to investigate. Id. They arrived at the station at around 10:30 A.M., Def. 56.1 Stmt. at ¶ 33. When they got there, they spoke with Officer Ciamarra, who told them that "he was on patrol and got a report from a woman that [there] was a car parked on Yonkers Avenue and there was a man in there that was naked." Holland Dep. at 18.

I noted a blue car parked with a white male, with a baseball cap on, sitting ir the car front seat. As I approached the blue car I noted that the man was looking in my direction. I looked ir the driver's car window and noticed his upper thigh area and lower portion of his hip to be without clothing. His back was turned to me as I walked by I thought it was strange to see a man sitting in the car that way. I looked back and saw the man looking out the back window in my direction, he was looking over his right shoulder. I saw a police car coming down Yonkers Ave., I approached the police officer and asked him to look into the situation. I then continued to walk up Yonkers Ave. with my dog.

Tuckahoe Police Department Complaint Report, case no. 00-00199, Nicaj Aff. Ex. 7. Shortly after Ms. O'Donnell signed this statement, and it became clear that she had never seen plaintiff exposing his genitals, Officer Ciamarra claims that he removed the handcuffs from plaintiff, but did not release plaintiff. Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 35. Plaintiff contends that he remained handcuffed for at least two hours, until the last 20 minutes of his confinement. Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 79.

After he allegedly removed plaintiffs handcuffs, Officer Ciamarra claims that he conferred with the an Assistant District Attorney from the Sex Crimes Unit of the Westchester County District Attorney's Office regarding the arrest of plaintiff. Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 36. Sometime between 12:00 P.M. and 1:00 P.M., plaintiff was released. Defendants retained possession of the notebook found in the vehicle, and informed plaintiff that criminal charges could still be brought against him. Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 79-80. Although there was an investigation by the Mamaroneck Police Department regarding this incident, no disciplinary charges were filed against plaintiff by Mamaroneck. Id. at ¶ 82.

This action was filed in January 2001. Affm. Ex. 20. At some point during discovery, Vito DiRienzo was identified as "John Doe." The claims against the four officers and the Village of Tuckahoe are as follows:

1. § 1983 claim against Officer Ciamarra, Detective Suarez, and Officer Stabile for violation of the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure.
2. ยง 1983 claim against Officer Ciamarra, Detective Suarez, and Officer DiRienzo (a.k.a. "John Doe") for violation of the ...

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